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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with artist and illustrator Pete Fowler

The hugely talented yet humble artist talks about the inspiration behind Hot Chip’s window display for Selfridges’ 'Sounds of the Mind' project

Written by Kat Phan

Hot Chip – I Feel Better (close up)

Two soft-bodied beasts wearing headphones hold onto each other tightly as sinister robotic-looking owls swoop over them. Two creatures – which look like giant armadillos with razor sharp fangs and claws – peer at the two lost souls with sleepy but watchful eyes. This fantastical world illuminated with shades of deep blues and pinks instills in them fear but their ipod drowns out the eerie sound of their surroundings; they have each other and that’s all that matters…

Hot Chip – I Feel Better

This is Pete Fowler’s wonderfully quirky window display currently exhibiting at Selfridges, generic inspired by Hot Chip’s recent hit single ‘I Feel Better’. Fowler’s installation is one of ten window designs for a show collectively entitled ‘Sounds of the Mind’, no rx launched to celebrate the music festival season. On display are exhibits by some of the hottest music acts of the moment, including Florence and The Machine, Dizzee Rascal, Empire of the Sun, Paloma Faith and Marina and the Diamonds.

Title window display

Having viewed all ten windows, which are pretty impressive in their entirety, my personal favourite was Pete Fowler’s. Call me a big kid but there is something incredibly sweet, romantic, childish and charming about colours and the characters, which made me want to break the window and join the beasts in a group hug!

I caught up with Pete, illustrator-and-monster-creator-extraordinaire, to find out more about the project and the inspiration behind those owls…

How did you and Hot Chip end up collaborating on this piece?
I’ve known Al (Doyle) from the band for a while so he’s quite familiar with my work. When this project came up, Al thought it would suit my style so he asked if I might be interested in coming up with some ideas, which I was chuffed about. We talked over a couple of themes and then I went off to sketch a few initial designs.

What were the key themes from the song that you used for inspiration?
To me, the record is an unusual love song about a couple being together, but the situation or outside world being against them. With the general design, I wanted to go with the idea of two beasts locked together in an embrace in a place where the surroundings were a bit scary but fantastical. I picked up on the vibrancy of the sounds and used mainly pinks and dark purples to create a deep-coloured palette to reflect this. I used some of the lyrics in the song to help me focus and visualise my ideas, which is where, somehow, the owls came in!

How many ideas did you come up with before you settled on the current display and were there many variations between the sketches?
I started with one initial idea which just evolved, but the basic concept remained pretty much the same. I was lucky that the idea was so well-received straight off the bat! Most of the changes were made once the image was worked up on the computer, which just involved adjusting the scale and positioning all of the elements that make up the window. Everything I do starts with a sketch – when I translate this onto illustrator, I can start to manipulate the drawing.

Sketch of Hot Chip’s ‘I Feel Better’ window display

What do you think this project is trying to achieve?
I think it’s a good move for a shop to be so open to the ideas of bands and designers. In this case, they allowed a lot of creative freedom and pretty much handed over their windows! Ultimately, I think it’s a positive move for them as all these bands are hot right now. I guess it has a lot to do with them staying in the loop and keeping up to scratch.

What other window displays did you particularly like and why?

I liked Empire of the Sun’s display as it’s got quite a flamboyant and cosmic-feel to which is reflective of their music. I also liked Dizzee Rascal’s display with the cartoon-style title background opening and the audacious insert of the video in the middle. It was very entertaining because the focus was all on him; simple and pretty much to the point!

Empire of the Sun – Walking On A Dream

Are there any other songs you’d like to add your own artistic slant to?
Something really long and cosmic perhaps. Maybe Space Woman by Herman’s Rocket or Lovemachine by Supermax from the 1970s. It would probably make quite a sleazy window though…

Monsters often feature in your work – why is this?
I’ve always been into supernatural things. As I was growing up, I definitely had a fascination with Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and the exaggerated characters found in comics, which I think have all influenced by work to some extent. I love the idea of strange beasts and monsters. I think it’s because there are no rules or limits when it comes to them; only those you set yourself whilst you’re playing god. It’s an environment where you can fit in all your quirks, interests and flights of fantasy.

What song best describes you?
The Great Egg Race (Theme) by Denton & Cook (that’s off the top of my head). It’s a bit weird, slightly geeky and a bit disco-y, with a smile on its face!

Pete Fowler’s ‘I Feel Better’ display in collaboration with Hot Chip and a collection of other song-inspired windows (see below) will be running until the 14th June at Selfridges, Oxford Street, London, W1.

Dizzee Rascal – Bonkers

Florence and The Machine – Cosmic Love

Marina and the diamonds – I Am Not A Robot

Paloma Faith – Do You Want The Truth, Or Something Beautiful

The Big Pink – A Brief History of Love

The XX – Stars

Charlotte Gainsbourg – Heaven Can Wait

The Drums – Best Friend

All photography by Andrew Meredith


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