Shoreditch Fringe Festival Review: Blur 21 Exhibition

The Blur 21 exhibition is situated in Londonewcastle in Shoreditch and curated by music photography expert Dave Brolan. Even though the project space is fairly small and minimal, reminiscent of a make shift degree show room, it contains a wealth of knowledge and insight into the progression of the band over the last twenty one years.

Blur’s first photo shoot for Food Records, Simon Fowler, 1990
Q Magazine shoot, Alex Lake- Stem Agency, 2012

The first part of the retrospective contains their earliest photo shoots and tour photos through to the present day, from photographers including Kevin Cummins, Tom Sheehan and Paul Postle, the man responsible for most of the band’s photographs during their height. Blur’s first photo session for Food Records by Simon Fowler in 1990 depicts the band’s nonchalance and emotionless expressions, and their cool, composed stances are still evident today in the frame of a recent shoot for Q Magazine.

“Parklife” Album Draft, Chris Thomson and Rob O’Connor, Stylorouge
“Puritan/Under the Westway” single cover and Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon’s sketches
Brit Awards Congratulatory Press Advert, John Geary, Stylorouge

Also featured are exclusive Modern Life Is Rubbish and Parklife album artwork drafts and developments by Chris Thomson and Rob O’Connor, of design studio Stylorouge, initial ideas and sketches by Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon for the Puritan/Under the Westway single cover, the Brit Awards congratulatory press ad, illustrated by John Geary, and stood in pride of place in the centre of the room are the two Brit Awards presented to Blur in 1995 for Parklife, best album and best single.

“Coffee & TV” Milk Carton

A milk carton replicated from the video for single ‘Coffee & TV’ sits above the entrance to the next space. Headphones positioned on the walls of a darkened room invite visitors to listen to the first of a series of Blur radio shows, recorded in collaboration with Spotify. The broadcasts will also allow listeners to hear exclusives as part of Blur 21 on a new Blur app in Spotify.

Graham Coxon, Anson Room Bristol University, Paul Postle, 1994

At the end of the exhibition subdued and reflective interviews are projected onto a whitewashed wall, which are then contrasted by explosive performances of singles such as ‘Song 2’ and more eloquent songs like ‘The Universal’, Damon’s emotive expression visible through the slightly grainy projection. And lastly at the end of the room, under spotlight, the last few photos show a stunning perspective shot of Graham leant against a staircase at Bristol University, an antisocial ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ image taken in Clacton in 1993 by Kevin Cummins, and a contact sheet of drafted concepts for the original Blur logo.

Blur fan or not, the impressive collection of exclusive imagery and unseen artwork will impress any art, photography or design enthusiast, allowing us to recognise the importance and influence Blur has had on the evolution of the history of British music.

Blur with Phil Daniels, “Parklife” Video Shoot, Paul Postle, 1994
“Blur” Album Collage, John Henry Studios, London, Paul Postle, 1996
Conceptual shoot, Simon Fowler, 1990
Click Studios, Tom Sheehan, 1991

Words and images by Kayleigh Rawlings