ABOUT ME (all words © Dominic Blake 2016 - 2021):
LONDON BASED PERFORMANCE ARTIST, WRITER AND LECTURER
Dominic Blake is a performance artist and writer using photography to permanently record the ephemeral forms he creates with his body. He is co-curator with Aurélie Debaene of an upcoming symposium ‘Revaluing the Life Model in Art Practice’ in association with The British Society of Aesthetics, and co-author with Debaene of a book sharing the same title due for publication in 2022. In 2019 his lecture series ‘Are Life Models Artists?’ sold out The National Gallery. In 2020 The Charleston Trust commissioned Blake and Debaene to write an essay, ‘Model and Artist in one body’, for inclusion within their upcoming 2021 exhibition (delayed due to the pandemic). Blake’s work has featured in The Guardian and two Royal Academy publications. Blake works as a Life Model at the Royal Academy of Arts.
I use my body as my medium to draw in space. The ephemeral, hieroglyphic forms I create emerge spontaneously in solitude and in collaboration with other artists. They are direct emotional responses to the environments I am located within, the people I share them with, internal dialogues and to my body itself; a kind of self-portraiture. This is the language I use to convey my deepest emotions. Captured photographically, they transform into permanent records of time and space.
In 2019, I was invited to create temporary installations within three galleries:
The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art invited me to locate myself within their two gallery spaces and create direct, emotional responses to the Grignani paintings within their exhibition 'Franco Grignani: Art as Design 1950-1999'. These ephemeral works would then be interpreted by the participants of an experimental drawing class curated by Jenny Pengilly, the Estorick's Education Coordinator. Prior to the event, I spent two hours alone with Grignani's work, absorbing its electric energy. During this time, I created a series of spontaneous forms, one of which I have included here.
Pitzhanger Manor and art historian Karly Allen (The National Gallery) invited me to create direct emotional responses to Anish Kapoor (RA)'s work within his exhibition 'Anish Kapoor at Pitzhanger'. The photograph included here represents one of the ephemeral forms that emerged during that evening.
RCA Drawing invited me to create a spontaneous interpretation of a Henry Moore sculpture located within the Royal College of Art's Senior Common Room. You can view a photograph of the form that emerged here.
I also continued to work within collaborative artistic relationships creating work in symbiosis with other artists. I have shared an artistic relationship with JJ Delvine (BP Portrait Award 2006, 2011, 2018) for several years. Through our respective practices we explore the existential depths of the human condition. You can view a painting that emerged in 2019 resulting from one of our collaborations here.
In Autumn 2021 I will stage the first solo exhibition of my work 'Ephemeral Hieroglyph' at HSoA Gallery, London. My exhibition will follow others by artists including Frank Bowling (RA) and Alan Gouk. I will also be creating installations in US / UK museums in 2022.
'Blake's beautifully contorted poses resemble dance or performance art', Tim Jonze, Associate Editor, Guardian Culture, The Guardian, 14 August 2019.
'Dominic's advocacy of a new way of viewing the Life Model is inspirational, his work *is* an artistic practice', Jo Baring, Director, The Ingram Collection.
In 2017 I conceived a lecture series, 'Are Life Models Artists?', the first of which I delivered at Mall Galleries, London in 2019 and then at venues including Hampstead School of Art and The National Gallery Examining Life Modelling through art historical and experiential perspectives I discuss the existential realms within which the practice exists. While not claiming in an absolute sense that Life Modelling is an artistic practice, I advocate a more enlightened perspective proposing that it might be given particular motivations on the part of the practitioner and given particular contexts. My first lectures all sold out. I will continue delivering 'Are Life Models Artists?' throughout 2021, my next lecture due to take place online via the RCA Drawing academic research portal in January. You can view a mini-version of my lecture, recorded in December 2020, here.
In preparation for my lectures I interviewed the Directors of several major galleries, museums and private collections, practicing artists, Life Models and curators to gain their insight into the question I posed. Included within the group of interviewees was 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); 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.
Charleston Trust 2021 Exhibition Catalogue
Darren Clarke, Head of Collections, Research and Exhibitions at the Charleston Trust, invited PhD candidate Aurélie Debaene and I to write an essay for publication in the exhibition catalogue for Charleston's upcoming exhibition (postponed due to the pandemic but which will take place in Autumn 2021). Aurélie and I came together in 2019 having bonded over our shared experiential, philosophic and academic belief that the role of the Life Model is misunderstood within art theory and practice.
Book | Symposium
Following an initial research stage, Aurélie and I commenced work on a book that will be published at the end of 2021 / beginning of 2022 and stocked in The Mall Galleries and The National Gallery Bookshops. Our book, 'Revaluing the Life Model in Art Practice', will be published in tandem with a symposium sharing the same title that we are co-curators of at the University of Kent's Aesthetics Research Centre. Our successful application to the British Society of Aesthetics was awarded the maximum level of funding in 2019. Prominent members of the academic and art communities will participate through panel discussions and lectures including Jo Baring, Professor Anita Taylor, Professor Jean Wainwright and JJ Delvine. I will be one of the keynote speakers and sit on the panel with Aurélie Debaene, (Aurélie will also be a keynote speaker). Further details to follow.
Natural habitat: The Royal Academy's Life Room.
Traveling on symbiotic creative journey's with other artists, 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), Adele Wagstaff and Andrew James (RP).
Within art classes, I am skilled at recreating classical poses, and am happy working according to the specific requirements of artists and tutors alike. I am friendly, punctual and reliable.
Although I work mainly with the Royal Academy, which I love with all my heart (the RA is a close-knit family and being part of it means more than I can easily express in words), I started moving away from most art other schools during 2019 and locating my practice within contexts beyond the Life Room.
This shift was grounded in two reasons: Firstly, I no longer wanted Life Modelling to be a form of 'data entry', which it often can be within Life Drawing classes (the anatomy class, for instance). Secondly, the cultural paradigms I mention above suggesting that Life Models are what I term 'mercenary drawing instruments' have to the largest extent been perpetuated by Art Schools. Art Schools have historically paid Life Models very poorly, often reinforcing notions that the Life Model is an expendable commodity. Life Modelling is physically and emotionally demanding and professional Life Models are skilled practitioners. In my own case, having devoted myself to the Art School tirelessly, working very long hours, days, weeks, months and years and unable to survive financially, I decided that I needed to rethink the way in which I worked, spiritually and practically. I needed my work to be properly valued and respected.
I will continue working with the RA, The National Gallery, The Wallace Collection, Hampstead School of Art, City Lit, C&G Art School, RCA Drawing, RIBA, Mall Galleries, RADA, The Estorick Collection, NPG, London Drawing, Freeform Life Drawing, Reconfigure, Draw Brighton and a few other institutions.
Between 2016 and 2020 I worked with:
Royal Academy of Arts, The National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, The Courtauld Institute of Art, The Wallace Collection, The Art Academy, Hampstead School of Art, Putney School of Art and Design, Royal British Society of Sculptors, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, Royal College of Art, Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), Slade School of Fine Art, Central Saint Martins, Life Drawing Montmatre (Paris), City Lit, The Hesketh Hubbard Society, the New English Art Club, Mall Galleries, Apple (UK), City and Guilds Art School, Greenwich Adult Education College, Richmond Art School, Draw Brighton, University of the Arts London, Burberry (Henry Moore exhibition 2017), Morley College, City Academy, Insight School of Art, Cambridge University, Eton College, The UCL Bartlett School of Architecture, Brunel University, Facebook UK, Freeform Life Drawing, Art Macabre, London Drawing, Reconfigure (Edinburgh), The London School of Figure Drawing, London Drawing Group, Camden Arts Centre, The Guildhall (London), Highgate Scientific and Literary Institute, Lewisham Art House, Phoenix Studios Oxfordshire, Wimbledon Art Studios, South Thames College, Figuration, ETNA Community Centre (Richmond), The Jolly Sketcher, Drawing the Star, Eileen Cooper (RA), Maggi Hambling, Robin-Lee Hall (RP) (Past President, Royal Society of Portrait Painters), Alastair Adams (Past President, Royal Society of Portrait Painters), Tai Shan Schierenberg, Michael Kirkbride (NEAC), Tim Benson (President, Royal Institute of Oil Painters), Diane Magee (Head of Drawing Studio, C&G Art School), David West, Alan McGowan, Adele Wagstaff, Jake Spicer, Shelley Morrow, Simon Chambers, Dan Whiteson, David Caldwell (RP), Sam Dalby (RP), Susanne Du Toit, Francis Bowyer (NEAC / PPRWS), Annabel Cullen, Carl Randall, Patricia Barker, Vincent Milne, Estelle Lovat, Valerie Wiffen, Bobby Gill, Jane Clatworthy, Karly Allen (art historian and lecturer at The National Gallery), Mark Hampson (Head of Fine Art Processes at the Royal Academy) and with many other institutions, tutors and artists.
Courtauld Institute of Art Life Drawing group
In 2017, I helped to set up a successful tutored Life Drawing group at the Courtauld Institute of Art, with art historian Hannah Boulting. As well as Life Modelling within the group on numerous occasions, I also arranged for artists including Michael Kirkbride (NEAC), Adele Wagstaff and Dan Whiteson to deliver classes.
PUBLICATIONS / PRESS:
***BBC Radio 4 (October 2019), Interview about my career (recorded at The National Gallery in September 2019).
***The Guardian (August 2019), interview about my work.
***The National Gallery Whats On Guide (Autumn 2019).
***Soho Radio (August 2019), Interview with BBC Arts correspondent Maeve Doyle broadcast within her programme 'A Private View'.
***BBC Radio Guernsey (15.08.19), interview on The Eliza Philipidis Arts Show about my lecture series: 'Are Life Models Artists?'.
***A Little History of the Royal Academy, Peter Sawbridge (2018); I feature within the book, which celebrates the Academy's 250th anniversary, representing the practice of Life Drawing.
*** Artists Working From Life, Royal Academy. I appear twice in the book, published in tandem with the RA's exhibition of the same name. Artists including Humphrey Ocean, David Hockney and Cathie Pilkington write about what drawing from life means to them. (2017).
***Hampstead School of Art Course Guide (Autumn 2019), interview about my lecture series 'Are Life Models Artists?'.
***Jackson's Art Magazine (July 2018), interview.
***The Artist (February 2018)
***Richmond Art Press (2017), interview.
***Drawing Life Magazine (2017, interview.)
***Hampstead School of Art Course Guides (2017 / 2018).
***Londonist (August 2018), interview.
***Lancaster University Alumni Magazine (April 2019), interview).
© Dominic Blake 2016-2020 Image conceived and designed by Dominic Blake
ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS
I have worked regularly as a Life and Portrait Model for several years within courses focusing on 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 Life 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'.