Paul Peter Piech - Walt Whitman
Paul Peter Piech (1920-1996) was an advertising executive, a publisher, a propagandist, a graphic artist, a humanitarian and a rule breaker. He looms large over 20th century creative printmaking. Born in Brooklyn, New York to Ukrainian parents, Piech came to the UK during World War II. He was stationed in Cardiff (where he painted pin-up girls on the fuselages of US Air Force bombers), he fell in love and married a Welsh girl, Irene Tompkins. On completing his studies at Chelsea College of Art, under Ceri Richards, Piech became artistic director of W.S. Crawford’s advertising agency in London, before moving to Saatchi and Saatchi. In 1968, Piech committed to freelance printmaking. Over the following three decades, he produced an extraordinary body of work expressing urgent and powerful political opinions on power, racism, torture, war, inequality and national identity. Alongside this, he used his artwork to express his love of literature, poetry, the natural world and jazz. In 1980, Piech moved to Porthcawl. From there, he used his prolific beachcombings in his prints, while developing an interest in Welsh culture, art and language. Piech’s principal technique was linocut printing. The process involves making a printing plate from a thick piece of linoleum, the image is cut using a knife, chisel or gouge. Ink is then applied to the uncut surface of the plate to produce a positive impression. It was this technique that Piech employed to explore new ways of combining texts and imagery within his printed posters. Piech broke all the traditional rules in creating his work. He produced work at rapid speed with no particular concern for consistency of imagery or uniformity. The one thing that did remain constant was his desire to get the message out there. Piech’s work is held in print collections around the world, including a major collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.