On Design: Peter Saville at the Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Is there a single object that inspires your design practice? That was the question examined by Peter Saville in conversation with BBC Arts Editor, Will Gompertz, at the Sir John Soane’s Museum, Holborn, London.
Looking back at our formative years there can be tell-tale clues which explain our individual creative approach. And Saville’s moment arrived twice. Sometime in the early 1970’s, as an undergraduate he opened a book which featured ‘Toaster’, a poster by pop artist Richard Hamilton which referenced Dieter Ram’s visual aesthetic of ‘less is more’. In moments, Peter absorbed its simplicity and space, glided over the text, and acknowledged its reflective surface. Then closed the book, his mind probably quickly occupied by other teenage distractions.
What happens next, we know. FAC 1. Joy Division. Record covers. Or as Peter puts it, ‘the art of the playground’.
Fast forward to 1995, and Peter encounters ‘Toaster’ once again, but this time he has to sit down to process the shock that the poster’s component parts represent his own creative impulses. Apparently the poster was for sale, but despite his connection, Peter could not afford the £2,000 price tag. And from here, Peter’s story expands into mid-career questions. He is antagonised by commercial business. Bored of identity communication. And his very purpose of being a designer is unresolved.
Peter Saville in conversation is always good value. He can talk. And while thinking out loud and reflecting on his working life, the host Will Gompertz posed the question, ‘Are you an artist?’. But even that moniker puzzled and provoked him. No, but he was aware he was becoming his own brand.
Although the event was based around the inspiration of an object, I wondered if perhaps Peter’s antipathy was shaped by the people he knew and Manchester itself. Just think of this contrary roll call: Anthony Wilson, Rob Gretton, Mark E Smith, Linder Sterling, New Order, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols.
Is Peter a Punk? Not the image of safety pins or Jimmy Pursey. But certainly, Bryan Ferry with an engrained instinct to counter the mundane.
I loved the talk. I hope there is a autobiography in the near future, as we can all benefit from Peter’s questions and creativity.
Peter Saville on Richard Hamilton, Tate Shot, 2008.