23 June to 7 October 2012
Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, is delighted to present an exhibition of the work of Derek Boshier (b. 1937). Recognised as one of the leading British Pop Artists of the 1960s, Boshier’s artistic output has been continuously experimental, ranging from vibrant paintings to minimal sculpture and photography. This exhibition focuses on Boshier’s collaborations with musicians, in particular his designs for David Bowie's 1979 'Lodger' album and the Clash 2nd Songbook, 1979.
Born in Portsmouth in 1937 Derek Boshier first came to prominence with his paintings as a student at the Royal College of Art in London where he studied alongside David Hockney, Allen Jones, R.B. Kitaj, and others. Embracing the iconography of British and American mass culture, his paintings earned him recognition as one of the pioneers of British Pop Art. In 1962, he was featured with Peter Blake, Pauline Boty and Peter Phillips in Ken Russell's BBC documentary 'Pop Goes The Easel'.
Boshier followed his early Pop Art success with an abrupt switch in style, a tendency which has continued throughout his career. An extended stay in India inspired a period of producing abstract canvases in dazzling striped colours and bold forms. Then, during the 1970s, he gave up painting and began experimenting with different media, applying his skills to photographs, films, collages, constructions, books, posters and record covers.
The exhibition features some of Boshier's most famous graphic work for Pop musicians produced at the time including his designs for David Bowie's 1979 Lodger album. The iconic cover, which depicted Bowie ‘falling' in space, was a collaboration between Bowie, Boshier and the photographer Duffy. Boshier had introduced the falling figure into his Pop Art paintings in 1962 and it has remained one of his favourite motifs since. Symbolising ‘Everyman', it was originally borrowed from William Blake's figure of a man falling into hell. As well as the Lodger cover, Bowie has referenced the motif most notably in his film ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth' (1976).
Speaking of the cover, Derek Boshier says: ‘I loved the resolution to the problem of David being photographed falling - shooting him from above, on a specially made table built to match the falling form. The table was designed to be completely obscured by David's body (though you can see the table in the photograph right centre on the inside of the book-style cover). The wash hand basin was laid underneath the table on the floor.'
Boshier also collaborated with Bowie on his subsequent ‘Let's Dance' album. The cover included the projection of a Boshier painting across Bowie's figure in boxing gloves while the inner sleeve had line drawings by Boshier including his characteristic heads and walking figures. The exhibition also includes Boshier's 1980 full-length portrait of Bowie in his New York stage role as The Elephant Man as well as his scale models for the sets for Bowie's 1978 stage shows.
Another famous pop collaboration featured in the show is the Clash 2nd Songbook, 1979. Boshier had been one of Joe Strummer's teachers in his first year at art school at the Central School of Art and Design in London and the two had formed a connection over discussions around current events and the political situation. Afterwards Boshier followed Strummer's career with The Clash but then a chance meeting led to an invitation to design the Songbook.
‘I bumped into him on Oxford Street in London, and jokingly called him "Woody" as I had known him at art school', remembers Boshier. ‘He replied "I'm called Joe now". I said I was only joking and that I was a great fan of the Clash. A week later I had a call from another ex-student, Caroline Coon, who was, at that time, associated with the Clash. She said she and Joe had talked and asked me if I would be interested in doing their 2nd Songbook. This was in 1979 before MTV existed and a songbook was one way that pop groups put out their music and lyrics.'
The exhibition includes Boshier's original series of ink drawings which revitalised pop songbook design, sharing approaches with those produced by Barney Bubbles for Ian Dury & The Blockheads and John Cooper Clark in the same period.