For the second installment of our Behind The Counter series we met with artist, Peter Evans. When he isn't on the Oliver Spencer shop floor, Peter is creating artworks in his South London studio. We caught up with Peter for him to show us where he works and chat about life at Oliver Spencer and his new Exhbition at our Notting Hill store.
1. Introduce yourself, and describe to us what you do at Oliver Spencer
My name is Peter, I’m an artist and songwriter and I work part-time in the stores on the shop floor. Although I’m mainly based in West London I work across the other stores as well, helping people with their sartorial decisions!
2. You spend a lot of your working time in our Notting Hill store, tell us some more about the area and the store itself.
I’ve always been close by or had some connection to Notting Hill. I used to live in Kensal Rise and worked in Kensington so I’d walk the length of Portobello Road every Friday morning when the market was on. The area has changed a lot in the last few years but there’s still something about it, there’s still a bit of a buzz through the mix of people and the community. It’s a strong community too, and obviously steeped in musical and artistic history. The store itself is an inviting place, I love it there. It’s a nice environment, we get to meet and talk to lots of interesting local customers.
3. We had the pleasure of visiting your studio in Clapham where we got an insight into your practise. Can you describe to us how you go about creating and making and what inspires you to do so?
Things usually start by just observing, noticing and collecting things in everyday life which I find uncanny or bizarre and then finding ways to reinterpret those things or present them back to the audience, hopefully in a way that they might find interesting or allow them to see that thing in a new light. For example, a few years ago I made a book using only quotes about the weather that were taken from found postcards. Presented next to each other they seem strange and monotonous but there’s something poetic about how we talk about the weather. I guess really I just want to present my take on life.
4. A lot of your recent work is based on the ‘found’ and reinterpreting this – what draws you to making in this way?
I like reusing things, giving something a new lease of life. I’ve always been drawn to old ripped billboard posters and a more ‘used’ aesthetic, things that I knew had had a life before. I never really liked anything that looked new or too slick. That’s changing slowly as I’ve got more into using paint but I still try and reuse materials whenever I can. I always feel like the work I make is a lot richer if I haven’t just gone to a shop and bought all the materials, like there’s more of a story there somehow.
5. We’ll be hosting some of your ‘Scratch Card’ work in Notting Hill over the next month or so, tell us about the concept behind it…
A while ago I started taking photographs of scratchcards that had been thrown on the floor, then began collecting them, not really knowing what I was going to do with them. I noticed all the scratch marks were different and had their own unique pattern. I started scanning them and playing around with the levels so I was left with a monochrome image of the scratches. I thought they would make great abstract pieces and I loved where the patterns had originated from. I see them as the markings of somewhere between hope and despair, you can visualize somebody scratching it off, hoping to win big, then realizing they haven’t and throwing the card on the floor. The paintings I’ll be showing at the Notting Hill store have all been made specifically with the store in mind - I’ve used pre-existing colours and sizes and certain other tones that will hopefully compliment the current collection and the space. I’ve tried to re-use materials where I can for the pieces, some of the canvas used were off-cuts and a lot of the wood was rescued from a skip. The store itself is quite an inspiring space - there’s artworks by David Austen whose work I now love and I’ve tried to frame the new pieces so they fit with the aesthetic of the shop.
6. How have you found your relationship with art has shaped the way you dress?
I don’t think what I’m wearing and what I’m making have too much in common, although I guess I might subconsciously take inspiration from certain colour pallets or shades. I do get inspired by other artists and musicians and how they dress, in particular those who have their own style without it looking like an effort. David Hockney is a good example of someone with his own stamp on the way he dresses, he completely has his own identity style-wize without looking like he’s trying. I think if you can manage to stand out unnoticed then you’re on to something.
7. What are your highlights of the current Oliver Spencer collection?
I’m a sucker for anything indigo dyed so the Travel and Hawaiian shirts in indigo are obvious favourites. The Drawstring shorts and Havana shirt in Ebley are standouts for me too, it’s a really lovely fabric with a great texture.
8. Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects in the pipeline…
A friend of mine used to DJ at the Hacienda and has loads of original bits from Factory records, so we’ve teamed up and I’m going to be making a one off piece using all the original stuff he has with the proceeds going to the Teenage Cancer Trust. I’m really excited about it, it means I’ll get to do lots of research on Factory, the Hacienda and all the bands and characters that made it happen. I’m also working on a video for one of my songs using photographs by Greg Girard, an amazing photographer from Canada. He allowed me to use his archive of photos from Vancouver and the far east from the 1970s which have been incredible to work with.