DOMINIC BLAKE | LONDON BASED ART WRITER AND LECTURER
'Dominic Blake's work is located at the core of an emerging art historical debate about the role of the life model' - Royal College of Art
'There is an emerging interest in the broader culture of investigating and revaluing the role of the life model in art practice. In the U.K., this has been led by Dominic Blake' - Dr. Aurélie Debaene, Aesthetics Research Centre, University of Kent
'Blake's advocacy of a new way of viewing the life model is inspirational' - Jo Baring, Director, The Ingram Collection
In 2016, I conceived a novel art historical theory grounded in my experiences working as a life model at the Royal Academy of Arts, which I wrote about and first discussed in a lecture series, 'Are Life Models Artists?' at institutions including The National Gallery, the Royal College of Art and Mall Galleries in 2019. Examining life modelling through art historical and experiential perspectives I explore the existential realms within which the practice exists. While not claiming in an absolute sense that modelling is an art form, I advocate a more enlightened perspective according to which it might become one within the realm of performance art or contemporary dance according to the determining factors of motivation and context. 'Are Life Models Artists?' is an ongoing enquiry, the seismic impact of the pandemic has fundamentally altered the calculus upon which our understanding of the life model is based.
While undertaking research for 'Are Life Models Artists?', I interviewed the directors of several major galleries, museums and private collections, practicing artists, life models and curators to gain their insight. Included within the group of interviewees was Sir Christopher Le Brun, Past President, Royal Academy of Arts; Simon Martin, Director, Pallant House Gallery; Jo Baring, Director, The Ingram Collection; Lara Wardle, Director Curator, The Jerwood Collection; Gill Saunders, Senior Curator, V&A Department of Word and Image; Anne Noble-Partridge, Director, London Drawing; JJ Delvine, Artist (BP Portrait Award 2018, 2011, 2006); Desmond Healy, Artist and Fine Art Tutor; John Close, Artist and Fine Art Tutor; Suzon Lagarde, Portrait Artist and life model; Robin George, life model. I am also indebted to Dr. Darren Clarke, Head of Collections and Research at The Charleston Trust; Professor Jean Wainwright, art historian and critic; Maeve Doyle (Director, the Maddox Gallery, London) and the Royal College of Art for their support.
'Are Life Models Artists?' has received coverage in the mainstream art press: The Guardian published a feature about my work in August 2019 and I was also interviewed by BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Guernsey and Soho Radio. You can listen to the BBC R4 and Soho Radio interviews above.
SYMPOSIUM: 'REVALUING THE LIFE MODEL IN ART PRACTICE'
AESTHETICS RESEARCH CENTRE, UNIVERSITY OF KENT, MAY 2022
I am co-curator with Dr. Aurélie Debaene of a May 2022 symposium at the University of Kent's Aesthetics Research Centre within which the theories I conceived and advanced in my lecture series, and associated issues that emerged out of Dr. Debaene's independent research, will be further explored. Our successful application to the British Society of Aesthetics was awarded generous funding in 2019. I will deliver a paper, 'Are Life Models Artists (or Mercenary Drawing Instruments?)' at the symposium. Prominent members of the academic and artistic communities will participate through panel discussions and lectures including Jo Baring, Professor Jean Wainwright, Dr. Anna Pakes, Professor Anne Eaton, Anne Noble-Partridge and JJ Delvine.
Royal College of Art, 23 February 2022.
Middlesex University London, April 2022
Aesthetics Research Centre, University of Kent, 7 May 2022
I am currently translating my lecture series into a monograph, due for publication in 2023.
CHARLESTON TRUST COMMISSION
In 2021, The Charleston Trust commissioned Dr. Debaene and I to write a chapter within Charleston Press No. 4, 'Model and Artist in One Body'.
British Society of Aesthetics
I use my body as my medium to draw in space. The ephemeral, hieroglyphic forms I create emerge spontaneously in solitude. They are direct emotional responses to the environments I locate myself within, internal dialogues and to my body itself; a kind of self-portraiture. Captured photographically and videographically, they transform into permanent records of time and space. I also create site specific, live performances grounded in my body.
Royal College of Art (live performance commissioned by RCA Drawing), 2019
Royal Academy of Arts Staff Summer Show (photographic self portraits), 2019
Pitzhanger Manor (untitled live performance, Anish Kapoor at Pitzhanger), 2019
London Drawing, Experimental Forms, 2019
Royal Society of Sculptors, Signals (live performance art installation), 2018
US installations 2022
Natural habitat: The Royal Academy's Life Room
I have worked regularly as a life and portrait model for several years at the Royal Academy within courses focusing on experimental drawing, performative art, anatomical drawing, expressive portraiture, digital drawing and Renaissance art. I also work regularly within the Friends and Academicians Life Drawing group and within drawing courses delivered by RA Schools in conjunction with Apple, Burberry and the Henry Moore Foundation. In addition I have modelled within private events for RA Patrons and Trustees, and for the attRAct programme. I am featured within two Royal Academy publications: 'Artists Working From Life', which accompanied the RA's 2018 exhibition of the same name, and 'A Little History of the Royal Academy'. In 2019, I was the first life model in the RA's history to be appointed a member of staff. Following a pause due to the pandemic, I returned to the RA in late September 2021.
I specialise in creating complex, dynamic gestural forms that are interesting to draw, paint, photograph and sculpt. Included among the people I have worked with are Eileen Cooper (RA), Cathie Pilkington (RA), Maggi Hambling, David Caldwell (RP), Sam Dalby (RP), Robin Lee-Hall (PPRP), Alastair Adams (PPRP), JJ Delvine, Adele Wagstaff & Andrew James (RP).