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Hamish Blakely

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Like a dog (supposedly), but nothing like a dog (really), universally-applauded contemporary figurative artist, Hamish Blakely once saw the world only in monochrome. The would-be/future artist’s black and white existence was only in the 2D form, thankfully as whenever he turned his hand to art when of a youthful disposition, chances are it would be rendered in pencil and charcoal and amid an equally flat colour and surface area. But then one day he experimented with a life outside of his tried and tested monochrome comfort zone when tackling the portraiture subject of his very own father. Adding colour via paint to his dad’s picture, Blakely was clearly taken aback by the results. From this point everything changed as Blakely immediately fell in love with paints.

He still sees drawing as the original expression, but appreciates that to capture it fully he must introduce colour swatches to the pictorial equation so as to grant it life beyond the blacks and greyscales. Periods of higher educational study at both Wimbledon School of Art and Kingston University helped and encouraged him to explore with colour further and it’s fair to say that he’s never looked back. From this juncture painting usurped the need to draw completely to Blakely’s agile, creative mind, and with almost immediate effect he withdrew his pencils from the thick of the creative action. Preparatory-wise and any other interactions.

Stripping back and de-cluttering (if you like to call it that) seems a mantra of Blakely’s, as he alluded to in the following soundbite offered on one occasion; “Art in any form can be so many things that it can be in danger of being too many. I believe that art is at its best when simply emotional”. A sentiment which Irish crooner and former boy band member, Ronan Keating summed up equally poignantly in the title of his 1999 chart-topper, ‘You Say It Best, When You Say Nothing At All’. Although if he hadn’t said something (and if Blakely doesn’t paint anything) then, respectively Keating wouldn’t be a singer nor Blakely an artist. Something worth considering. We think the point Blakely was trying to make was that a huge, over-bearing illustrative narrative isn’t always the best policy; especially in light of another quote of his which went a little something along the lines of this; “A painting should grab the viewer without an essay or speech, leaving further explanation supplementary rather than vital. Where possible, my own thoughts should recede to allow space for the views of the audience”. Our sentiments completely.

Blakely has always been fascinated with the pictorial capture of people and figures rather than objects or just things, and is passionate in his considered and graphical portrayal of the human anatomy. A huge fan of Degas and Carravagio, Blakely looks at their signature pieces with wonderment at just how they cemented their twisted torso’d muses so adeptly amid their historically vast, allegorical works. Therefore he’s always been drawn to the confined, outer (and inner) limits of such compositions; a spot-lit area which effortlessly reveals a rigid jaw line or a twist in an already well turned neck.

Blakely hails from a theatrical background, where drawing was his original means of expression and would throw himself into the emulation of other artists during his youth and formative years in a bid to understand how they manifest what they did, artistically and just how they achieved that look and feel. But as we mentioned above, sketching was the medium of creative discovery-making until he found the mettle to use colour, which changed everything.

And it wasn’t solely the classic masters whose works influenced an impressionable Blakely, as a gaggle of diverse artists, composers, singers, dancers and writers all had a memorable effect on the budding fine artist. In more recent times Blakely pays mention to even Sunday supplements, and the oodles of fashion-led pages habitually found within for their proffering of fleeting artistic style and decorum advice and pointers. a casual glance at something which from the outset appears not quite so obviously stirring can plant a seed; the structure of models’ faces when subjected to light for instance can often provide an alternative, yet compelling start point.

Speaking of Blakely’s muse, and in an unusual switch (although keenly championed by fellow contemporary figurative artist, Richard Blunt) he chooses to position his own wife in a large percentage of his compositions, which manages to create a wholly different perspective. This sense of accord betwixt the artist and model doesn’t go unnoticed by the viewer, as an innate sense of togetherness or familiar bond courses through the individual piece which ultimately paints an illustratively more formidable picture quality in the event.