Interview with Pete Fowler

With just two weeks until Art Across The City 2013 is launched on 28th March, Pete Fowler‘s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Octopus is proving to be one of our most popular commissions. Twitter is buzzing with praise for his largest work to date, which covers the facade of a former nightclub opposite Swansea Train Station. Ahead of his RCA Secret Postcards show, we talked to Pete to discuss Dylan Thomas, owls, octopi and upcoming projects.

Pete Fowler Portrait
Artist Pete Fowler in his studio, 2013. Photography by Katja Medic

How did the commission in Swansea come about?

I was asked by Gordon Dalton (Locws International’s Project Manager) to create a design for the location and maybe being a Welshman helped!


How did you approach the local context and site?

I drew from the life and works of Dylan Thomas plus the history of Swansea. I wanted the image to be something that the people of the town could relate to and at the same time let their imagination take flight. I like to leave open areas of interpretation in my work to let people engage with it. Judging from the response it’s done just that. The size was an important point. It’s easy to design something on paper or on screen but when creating something of this scale you have to keep in mind the size and location so that was at the front of my mind when creating this.


Can you talk about the title of the work?

It’s a play on Thomas’ Portrait of the artist as a young dog as I named it Portrait of the artist as a young octopus. I wanted to play with the imagery that Thomas created within his work and keep the sense of playfulness and surreal nature that my work often touches on. I wanted to embrace the work of Thomas but give him, his work and Swansea my own twist.


What do the different characters symbolise?

Well, Mr Thomas is obvious as a main character in there but the other elements are things that I was interested in with regards to Swansea and it’s history. The nautical heritage, valleys in the distance, the shellfish, swans and mythical owls and horse all draw from the area, along with the UFOs as Swansea has had it’s fair share of mysterious sky anomalies!


Can you talk about the choice of colours in the work?

Colour is something I use intuitively in my work and can be influence by so many factors. For a piece this size I really wanted the colours to have an impact but without being too bright so a balance between the two was something I had on my mind. I think the fact that Thomas was a red head certainly pushed me towards those hues!

Pete Fowler, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Octopus, Swansea, 2013


There has been an almost unanimous positive reaction to the work. That must feel great?

I’ve had a really fantastic response from the piece, for me that’s the pay off, certainly with public art as sometimes I think people don’t realise the importance of it as there’s been so many disasters in the past (not in Swansea I might add!). I think it brings something different to Swansea and also I think the location is perfect, just as people leave the station that’s almost the first thing they would see. I’m very proud of this and so happy with the team that helped realise this. A very deep bow and a combined hat doff to all involved.


What are your plans for the future? Any upcoming projects?

I have whole load of projects on the go as I write, an exhibition at Outlaws Yacht Club in Leeds in May, a show of my cross stitch embroidery work at Beach London in August and a show of drawings in a gallery in upstate New York. Aside from that I have my ongoing work with the music group Seahawks that I do with my good friend Jon Tye. We have a remix LP of pour previous LP coming out soon along with a new LP in the spring as well as remixes for other artists and DJ gigs. I’m also very proud to be working with the legendary Tim Burgess on his Tim Peaks coffee shop project that will be popping up at various festivals this year. I have a whole load of projects on the go, too many to list! I like to keep myself busy on very different projects as keep me on my toes and the influence that can be transferred from one project and medium to another is important to me and the way I work.

Follow Locws International & Pete Fowler on Twitter: @Locws_Art @themonsterist

A Limited Edition Print of Pete’s work is available to purchase here.

Giclee Print on Siriol Fine Art Smooth 300gsm paper, 420mm x 297mm, numbered and signed by the artist in an edition of 50.