Artist Pete Fowler talks about his new work and collaboration with Beach London at Pick Me Up graphic arts festival.

Artist Pete Fowler talks about his new work and collaboration with Beach London at Pick Me Up graphic arts festival.

Somerset House’s annual graphic arts festival Pick Me Up kicked off this week and Huck favourite Beach London was representing for the third year running. Beach started as a café, gallery and zineshop in 2011 and has been evolving since to include a number of different collaborations and high profile projects.

This year they have curated a selection of standout talent with the ‘Beach Aesthetic’ which is a mixture of skate-influenced illustration and graphics, and character design, with a focus on high-end delivery. This year’s selection included work by Malarkay, Satta Skates and Stevie Gee, Build, James Jarvis, Will Reardon, Jacob Ovgren and UsTwo.

But Pete Fowler’s series of small cross-stitch illustrations really stood out. Beach’s Charlie Hood has been an admirer of Pete’s output since he did the artwork for Super Furry Animals. Last year, their paths finally crossed, leading to an exhibition of Pete’s work at Beach and the pair’s collaboration at Pick Me Up.

Pete’s images have names such as ‘Synth Ship’, ‘Euro Roachies’, ‘Anchor Girl’ and ‘Italo Man’, which help give a sense of his game-boy world of cross-stitch creatures. The union of old-fashioned stitching with new age digital imagery has a cute, home-y appeal; both familiar and unnerving. Seeing pixels morphed into threads brings craft and tech together in a refreshing way. Huck caught up with Pete in the radio room, while he was playing some disco accompanied by lo-res projections of ‘90s exercise videos.

Where did you start off and where are you heading?
I started off watching cartoons and reading comics as a kid, going though art school with those influences. Where I’m heading? I never really know as I follow my instincts, but I’m currently rediscovering painting after a few years of confusion with it. I’ve also been exploring landscape painting ‘au plein air’, which is one of my favourite things to do now that I’ve reached my mid-forties. Having worked with the Super Furry Animals and Gruff Rhys for years has moved the relationship between art and music even closer for me, so it’s now a natural partner to my art.

Did the music you were playing at Pick Me Up have any relationship to your work?
I see everything I do as connected, from music, to artwork, to the clothes I wear. Music is hugely inspiring and influential to me. It’s always a source of joy. Some pieces of music have moved me and affected the artwork I do substantially.

So… What’s the story with cross-stitch?
I saw an old piece of cross stitch in an antiques shop and thought it was similar to pixel work that I’d done several years previously, so, being a curious person I thought I’d give it a go. I was immediately hooked and had an exhibition lined up at Beach, so I decided to sew the whole show. It made me think differently about my work and how it can be applied to different mediums. For Pick Me Up, I wanted to take some elements of my work that suited the medium, so there’s a mixture of themes that I’ve been exploring in my work for some time. Synths, sailors, landscapes, UFOs and owls, mostly.

You were saying now is a great time to be an artist, why is that?
I think it’s partly to do with the internet and people’s awareness of art and artists via the media. Also, for me, being the age I am, there comes a sense of maturity. Well, as mature as I can be, being a big kid!

What was your favourite thing at Pick Me Up?
I’m biased I know, but I loved the Comms Bureau/Pick Me Up radio room. There was great artwork and ideas, plus an awesome crew. There’s so much amazing stuff at Pick Me Up, that it’s a little overwhelming. I’m looking forward to having a good second look around if I can escape my studio.

Pick Me Up runs until Monday May 5, 2014 at Somerset House, London.

Look out for Beach London’s upcoming show Artcade, opening on Thursday May 1, 2014, featuring work by Pete Fowler and others.