DOMINIC BLAKE | LONDON BASED ART WRITER AND PERFORMANCE ARTIST
'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
'Dominic Blake's National Gallery lecture, Symbiosis through Sitting, fundamentally altered my understanding of portraiture' - Dr. Harriet O'Neill, Public Courses and Programming Manager, The National Gallery
The Warburg Institute, 'Are Life Models Artists?', lecture, April 2024
Swedenborg House, 'Are Life Models Artists?', lecture and panel discussion, February 2024
V&A: 'Subverting Beauty: The Greek and Roman body and Donatello', short talk (in tandem with the exhibition Donatello: New Perspectives), Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre, 31 March 23
University of Leeds School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies: 'Are Life Models Artists?', 13 March 2023
University of Cambridge Faculty of Classics, 'Are Life Models Artists?', lecture (17 February 2023 at the Museum of Classical Archaeology).
The National Gallery, 'Symbiosis through Sitting', 30 January 2023
The National Gallery, 'Dominic Blake in conversation with Matthew Morgan' (director, Turner's House Museum), January 2023
Mall Galleries, 'Are Life Models Artists?', (date TBC, 2023)
KCL Centre for Philosophy and Art, 'Are Life Models Artists?' (date TBC, 2023)
University of Kent, 'Are Life Models Artists (or Mercenary Drawing Instruments?)', lecture, May 2022.
Royal College of Art, 'Are Life Models Artists?' February 2022
Middlesex University London, 'Are Life Models Artists?', April 2022
Royal College of Art, 'Are Life Models Artists?' February 2020
The National Gallery, 'Are Life Models Artists?', 2019
Hampstead School of Art, 'Are Life Models Artists?', 2019
Mall Galleries, 'Are Life Models Artists?', 2019
V&A Friday Late: The Body Beautiful | Panel Discussion: Dominic Blake in conversation with Whiskey Chow, moderated by Dan Vo in response to the exhibition 'Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance', March 2023
BOOKS | PAPERS
'Model and Artist in One Body', chapter, exhibition catalogue for Charleston's 2021 retrospective of Nina Hamnett. Co-authored with Dr. Aurélie Debaene
'Are Life Models Artists (or Mercenary Drawing Instruments?)', paper, delivered at the University of Kent's Aesthetics Research Centre, May 2022
'Bloomsbury and Social Justice', chapter about the life and work of Duncan Grant, due for publication in 2024. Ed's. Prof. Drew Shannon and Oliver Case
'Are Life Models Artists?' (translation of lecture series of the same name, with generous assistance from The Charleston Trust), due for publication in 2025/6
The Charleston Press, Aesthetica Magazine, KScope Music, Art for All Magazine, HSoA Blog
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. 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; JJ Delvine, Artist (BP Portrait Award 2018, 2011, 2006); Suzon Lagarde, Portrait Artist and life model and Robin George, life model. I am also indebted to Dr. Darren Clarke, Head of Collections and Research at The Charleston Trust; Professor Jean Wainwright, Professor Carrie Vout (director, the Museum of Classical Archaeology) and the RCA for their support.
In May 2022 I co-curated a symposium at the University of Kent's Aesthetics Research Centre with Dr. Aurélie Debaene, within which the theories I conceived and advanced in my lecture series 'Are Life Models Artists?' and associated issues that emerged out of Dr. Debaene's independent research, were explored. Our successful application to the British Society of Aesthetics received generous funding in 2019. I delivered a paper, 'Are Life Models Artists (or Mercenary Drawing Instruments?)' which was an abridged version of my forthcoming book of the same name. Prominent members of the academic and artistic communities participated through panel discussions and lectures including Jo Baring, Professor Jean Wainwright, Dr. Anna Pakes, Professor Anne Eaton, Anne Noble-Partridge and JJ Delvine.
I use my body as my medium to draw in space. The ephemeral, hieroglyphic forms I create represent direct emotional responses to the environments I locate myself within, the people I share them with and to my body itself. Captured photographically and videographically, they transform into permanent records of time and space. I also create site specific, live performances grounded in my body.
V&A - Alien Entity VII - Videographic installation - March 2023
The Crypt Gallery - Abstract Form VII - Durational performance - September, 2021
Royal College of Art - live performance - Commissioned by RCA Drawing - 2019
Royal Academy of Arts Staff Summer Show - Photographic self portraits - 2019
Pitzhanger Manor - Live performance - Anish Kapoor at Pitzhanger - 2019
London Drawing - Experimental Forms - Durational performance - 2019
Royal Society of Sculptors, Signals - Live performance - 2018
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art - Live performance - 2018
Natural habitat: The Royal Academy's Life Room
I have worked as a life 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'. 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).