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 reject cultural paradigms that have existed since the Renaissance suggesting that Life Models are mercenary drawing instruments, muses or objects with no creative agency. Life modelling is not a form of anatomical data entry.
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.
Following an initial research stage, Aurélie and I started writing a book that will be published at the end 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 co-write an essay for publication in the exhibition catalogue for Charleston's 2021 retrospective of Nina Hamnett.
© Dominic Blake 2016 - 2021
Please scroll down to view a photo-journal including images of my lectures to date: