Paraphrasing the famous Austrian film maker, Fritz Lang (he of ‘Metropolis’ fame amongst other titles), critically-acclaimed contemporary figurative artist of our times, Hamish Blakely openly cites the following reason as to why (he hopes and maintains) that an artist’s work should speak for itself; “When a director makes a film and it doesn’t express what he wants to say and he needs to give an interview to explain to an audience why and what; he is a lousy director.” And we have to agree that there’s more than an element of truth in such a sweeping statement of intent.
Far from suggesting that an artist take an aloof approach to his work, Blakely is of the opinion that a painting (of whatever genre) should be in an illustrative position to convey the artist’s message, or at the very least, graphically lead the viewer toward – or intonate - a certain narrative. Indeed, Blakely goes as far to say that a composition that wants to be taken seriously as a work of art should grab the viewer without an attached essay or speech, leaving further explanation supplementary rather than vital. Yet at the same time Blakely concedes that there should, where possible, still be enough room left for the views of the audience to arrive at their own conclusions.
Blakely was a relative late-comer to contemporary art, despite revelling in it as a youngster, where he’d wile away hours creating the likeness (or copying for want of a better word) of any picture that appealed to him at the time. As a means to an end, Blakely looks back on this stressing that it was purely a way in which to absorb some idea of technique, and nothing more. Inspired by the revered likes of Caravaggio, Degas and Velazquez amongst other famous artists, Blakely goes to great lengths to underline the fact that he has never had any interest whatsoever in emulating the work of an artist who’s gone before in any way, shape or form.
Candidly admitting the fact that he continues to be confronted with niggles and self-doubt when approaching every naked canvas, Blakely insists that this is a positive quality and one that keeps him on his toes and avoid him developing a blasé sentiment to his work. Further describing how the art process works for him, Blakely tells how he splodges the paint on in the hope that he will emerge victorious in the battle, despite the brushes and paints sometimes having different ideas. What’s more, he’s under no illusion that every piece will be of equal merit or standing to the last success, indeed, with art as it is with advertising, you’re only really judged to be as good as your last campaign/composition. Yet it’s this perceived uncertainty to his work that motivates him as an artist; awaiting the unbridled joy of that next big breakthrough and subsequent response by his adoring crowd.
Rolling back the years, the first observed case of this knowledge that he was on the cusp of something altogether good in terms of his art arrived when Blakely was a mere 18 year old, and he recalls how it was a portrait of his father that provided the catalyst. Unlike nothing he’d manifested previously, once completed Blakely viewed it in a completely different light and suddenly experienced a feeling; a feeling in which he imagined himself as a professional painter, and literally seeing himself living that life.
Blakely’s figurative work projects a luminous quality and a sense of togetherness between the artist and the muse. But as the celebrated contemporary exponent of the genre points out himself, although painting is often seen as a solitary existence he envisages it as more of a collaborative art. So it may not come as a total shock to learn the Blakely’s wife, Gail, plays the role of muse with a pleasing regularity. This working relationship is never better illustrated than in Blakely’s most recent pieces, where his wife’s presence affords the compositions a greater aesthetic allure and breadth to the subject matter as a complete picture. The bond they share in their private life translates with ease and choreographed panache in their publicly revealed one, and to Blakely’s mind his wife isn’t merely a decorate or passive graphical element yet familiar flesh and blood who perpetually endows the piece with nobility, nuance, intrigue and grace.
Delving beneath the highly polished and resolutely finished surface of a typical Blakely piece and the artist admits that the process leading up to this is quite the opposite. Apparently when starting the painting, Blakely doesn’t draw or plan the composition; and whilst this approach can and does on occasion cause issues, he insists that he’s continually composing the piece until such time as it’s finished. Agreeing that it’s a risky business, Blakely turns this into another positive once more by implying that this circumspect angle of creative attack seems to lend a transient nature to the finished visual article and actively prevents it from appearing, perverse as it may sound, too polished.