This August, BBC Four leads a week-long celebration of Pop Art, with programmes across BBC Four, Radio and Online – and award-winning London-based comics artist and illustrator John Riordan has provided the promotional comic strip to mark the event.
John, who likes “cats, mustard and Mayans” won an Association of Illustrators award for his project Capital City in 2013, is the co-creator of the psychedelic, musical, soap opera, comic book Hitsville UK comic, available in selected comic shops around the UK. He wrote and drew “William Blake, Taxi Driver” for Time Out London and has produced work for clients including the BBC, The Guardian, Readers Digest and Times Higher Education magazine.
That a comic artist has drawn a Pop Art promotion for the season may seem ironic to many in the comics community, given some pop artists much-criticised appropriation of comics imagery for their work, some not crediting the source. Roy Lichtenstein, in particular, has met with much hostility for that practice, and Comic Laureate Dave Gibbons has been especially damning, promoting his own artwork response in aid of the Hero Initiative.
For BBC Four Goes Pop, the BBC has commissioned three of Britain’s leading pop artists – Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips – to create three new channel idents for BBC Four, to run throughout the season. The trio starred in the seminal 1962 Ken Russell documentary about Pop Art, Pop Goes The Easel, when the movement drew on popular imagery which blurred the boundaries between ‘high’ art and ‘low’ culture.
The BBC’s week-long celebration of Pop Art will look at the influence of the art movement through special programmes on BBC Four, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and BBC 6 Music.
Programmes on BBC Four include a documentary presented by writer and art critic Alastair Sooke, who champions Pop Art as one of the most significant – and influential – art movements of the 20th century (although, as we’ve previously reported, some of the proponents of Pop Art have their critics in the comics community, prompting a much-deserved lambasting by Dave Gibbons and Rian Hughes, among others; Steven Smith seeks to get closer to Andy Warhol, the man and artist, by experiencing a day in the life of the Pop Art superstar; whilst Peter Blake and Derek Boshier provide insight into their working practices in What Do Artists Do All Day?
BBC Arts online (bbc.co.uk/arts) will be the digital home for all Pop Art content, featuring exclusive programme extras and archive content as well as its own bespoke Pop Art collection and links to specially commissioned iWonder guides.
Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor, BBC Four, says: “Pop Art remains one of the striking and dynamic cultural movements of the 20th Century. It is the moment when high art and mass-production collided for the first time; reshaping our visual landscape and launching a whole new generation of art ‘stars’. BBC Four is delighted to go Pop in celebration of their fabulous maverick creativity.”
“More than 50 years after it first irked the critics, Pop Art still suffers from all sorts of misconceptions and prejudices,” argues Alastair Sooke. ” It continues to be written off as superficial, silly and trivial – but in my opinion it is the most important movement of modern art, because it brought Modernism to the masses and provoked serious questions about society. In our age of selfies and social networking, we are all living in a world defined by Pop. For me, it was a privilege to meet so many of the men and women who pioneered this hugely significant global art movement – as well as some of the younger artists who are keeping Pop’s raucous spirit alive.”
‘The Pop Art movement was so ground-breaking and influential it went beyond art into the music, design and film of the time,” enthuses Lauren Laverne. “In my 6 Music show I’ll be looking at the women of Pop Art, icons such as Debbie Harry and Nico, so expect a palate of brilliant tunes, special guests and enlightening discussion as my listeners and I explore this creative powerhouse.”
Season Highlights below