ARE LIFE MODELS ARTISTS? (all words © Dominic Blake 2016 - 2021)
I believe that Life Modelling has the potential to be a physical mode of artistic practice within which the model uses their body as their medium of expression to draw in space. The ephemeral, hieroglyphic forms I create are direct emotional responses to the environments I am located within, the people I share them with, internal dialogues and to my body itself. I became a Life Model to express myself creatively, this is my language. I reject cultural paradigms that have existed since the Renaissance suggesting that Life Models are mercenary drawing instruments, muses or objects with no creative agency.
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's work within his exhibition 'Anish Kapoor at Pitzhanger'. The photograph included here represents one of the ephemeral forms that emerged during that evening. These forms would then be interpreted by participants of an experimental drawing class.
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.
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 The National Gallery and Hampstead School of Art. 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 early 2021. You can view a mini-version of my lecture, recorded in December 2020 above.
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.
'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 interviews above.
Symposium: 'Revaluing the Life Model' - In association with the British Society of Aesthetics and the University of Kent, 2021
I am co-curator with PhD candidate and colleague Aurélie Debaene of a symposium within which related issues will be discussed in 2021 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, JJ Delvine. We are also in discussions with artist and lecturer Jake Spicer. I will be one of the keynote speakers and sit on the panel with Aurélie, (Aurélie will also be a keynote speaker). We are currently in discussions with The National Gallery, who have expressed an interest in working with us on the symposium.
Aurélie Debaene 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. We believe that the Life Model has the potential to be an artist in their own right, given particular motivations on the part of the practitioner and the contexts / environments within which they locate their practice. Following an initial research stage, we have started writing a book that will be published at the end of 2021 / beginning of 2022 and stocked in The Mall Galleries / NG Bookshops. The book shares the same title as our symposium. Further details to follow.
Charleston Trust 2021 Exhibition
Darren Clarke, Head of Collections, Research and Exhibitions at the Charleston Trust, invited Aurélie 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).
© Dominic Blake 2016 - 2021
Please scroll down to view a photo-journal including images of my lectures to date: