Hamish Blakely | Muse

Hamish Blakely

MUSE Hamish Blakely


In ancient mythology the nine muses, young virgins all, were the offspring of Zeus and Mnemosyne. They were the collective inspiration for all the arts and the driving force of those pursuing eternal beauty. Their importance lives on in our own word ‘museum’, which means literally the place where the muses live. If the Greek oracle had been consulted as to the actual appearance of these inspiring girls, the description that came back through the mouthpiece of the ingeniously contrived sculpture which delivered the verdict would undoubtedly have been close to what we see now in Hamish Blakely’s paintings of his wife, Gail. Curiously, there was no muse for painting although, if there had been, she must surely have looked like this. These paintings are celebrations of admiration, respect and devotion, all other ‘real’ considerations having been excluded. Narrative is usually a forceful element in Blakely’s painting, where what has happened before and after the painted scene are left open to speculation. Part of the enjoyment of looking at such pictures derives from deducing what has led to the tension of the depicted moment. But here, in ‘Muse’, figures are enclosed, isolated outside of all time and beyond all worldly, material concerns.We ask ourselves ‘What are these figures thinking?’, and the only narrative resulting from the question is the invention of the viewer’s willing imagination. Blakely is a knowledgeable painter and he comes to his subject well versed in the traditions of his genre. It is fitting that the artist is aware of the distinguished history in which he works, for there has been no more constant subject in the male-dominated history of art than the naked female presented for universal adoration. It is the form in which men celebrate their attraction and enslavement to women. And there is surely no clearer passage into the artist’s fundamental feelings and beliefs than in paintings of his wife.Those well-versed in the history of depicted nudity, fromVelasquez, Rembrandt, Delacroix and Etty to Degas, Alma-Tadema, Russell Flint and Lucian Freud, will

recognise in these paintings distant echoes of the Old Masters, as their lessons of pose, drapery and fruity colour, not to mention their use of mythological camouflage, are absorbed into Hamish Blakely’s personal vision. Particularly strong is his appreciation of the balanced composition so important in pictures where any jarring ingredient will undermine the all-important mood. His developed appreciation of sculptural form, and in particular of making complex poses appear natural, is achieved by catching in shafts of bright sunlight, figures in otherwise gloomy interiors: thus is the drama of these pictures intensified. Such techniques come naturally to good painters and scarcely need pointing out because, as Sickert wrote, “If the subject of a picture could have been stated in words there had been no need to paint it”. Hamish’s wife is his still life, his exhibit, his living statue, his idol of secular worship. As the 19th century illustrator and designerWalter Crane once famously declared: “Nothing in art is of any worth unless done for love.” Never more true than here. Sometimes her mood is warm and beguiling, while in other guises she is cooler and more distant. In some accounts she grows naturally like a flower from a mound of drapery, while in the next she is Marvell’s teasingly coy mistress. Elsewhere, she is the femme fatale, the forbidden fruit whose attractions are tinged with danger. I am heartened that during an age in which artistic conventions are routinely, thoughtlessly cast aside to allow the most abysmal charlatans free passage, and where the muses are more often those of Success, Notoriety and Money rather than Art and Beauty, there is an artist still prepared to take on with conviction, skill and accomplishment such a difficult conventional subject.

David Lee Art Critic & Editor of The Jackdaw

Hamish Blakely

“It is as if you are painting me in different lives”.

and never have I found a subject or genre that has so wholeheartedly engrossed my energies.The other revelation has been how unforced the process has been. Gail has been the choreographer, selecting her positions without the exertion of an artist's blueprint. It has been collaborative and easy flowing; perhaps the only way to observe the truth and communicate spontaneity. While the obligation to create a meaningful likeness is never more pressing than when painting a loved one, this technical imperative never sidelined any instinctive interpretation.There are many themes explored in this collection and, I hope that, it is evident that these works are not simply academic renderings or ornamental depictions of the female nude. Gail can express a gamut of emotions with a subtle shift in posture or a tilt of the head. How her physical stature appears to shift and morph in certain pieces is testament to her complexity and the redundancy, in this case, of an artist's unconscious inclination to summarise. Clothing can be deceptive.While petite, Gail is very strong physically and in spirit. Bereft of garment, I was allowed to explore these facts in the clearest possible pictorial terms. Gail also, isn’t vain.This meant that both of us could be relaxed whilst creating the images. Being relaxed is the key to most things. In certain pieces, the incidental adornments of headscarves and jewellery further heighten her exotic allure, adding clues to the subject of who she is and where she is from. Her olive skin tones and athletic figure reward the single light source as she effortlessly tells another story.

While I was working my way through this collection this is what Gail, my wife, said to me. In one sentence she had expressed a motif that has suffused this entire series of paintings and has become the keynote to this voyage of rediscovery. I write ‘re-discovery’ because this has been an exploration of what has always been known. Each new painting has become the vessel to uncover another aspect of her and every new piece has revealed something new; always they have been reminders of who she is, in all her incarnations. As the series evolved, it achieved its own momentum naturally and it felt as though all I had to do was to keep up. This is a unique and very fortunate position for an artist to be in; the agenda was simply the recording of what was in front of me. The character and substance were conveyed innately rather than sought after. Of course, this was also the result of lived experience; the fruition of two people simply knowing one another very well. I have not always worked in this way, although the omission of any drawing or plotting on canvas, prior to painting, still remains central. The quality of the paintings changed when I began producing dance pieces with Gail and myself as the models. Previously my reference was based on external material, on anything I could lay my hands on. I seemed to be looking outward and beyond when the real answer was closer to home.This was my first lesson. Sometimes the greatest inspiration is right in front of you. It had been right beside me all the time.This simple acknowledgement transformed my work. I then began painting Gail on her own. From a modest beginning to the work in this exhibition, I felt as though I was creating the most important work I had ever done.This is a rare but wonderful feeling

There is always another story waiting to be told.These are just the first chapters.

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 41½” x 29¾” TigerLily

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 25¾” x 25¾” SilkenRepose

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 25¾” x 25¾” Monsoon

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 39½” x 29½” Rites of Summer

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 29½” x 39” ThePinkShawl

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 39¼” x 29½” Beholden



Makeeda •

Winsome •

Milk&Honey •

Songof Persia

All Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 12” x 12”



Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 31¾” x 37½” Eolande

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 31½” x 39½” Arcadia

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 31½” x 35½” Sylph

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 39½” x 29½” Inamorata

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 35½” x 35½” TheBlackScarf

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 25¾” x 25¾” FemmeDorée

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 33½” x 33½” BlueTassles



Cambré •

Chrysalis •

Daughter of Dusk •


All Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 12” x 12”



Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 29½” x 29½” Insouciance

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 31½” x 31½” Delilah'sLullaby

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 39½” x 29½” Soft asSable

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 25¾” x 25¾” Maiden

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 35½” x 31½” Absenceof Time

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 33½” x 37½” Cello

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 33½” x 33½” Eponine

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 25¾” x 25¾” Challis

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 25¾” x 25¾” Zingara

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 31½” x 39½” Arabesque

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 43½” x 31½” Odalisque

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 37½” x 31½” LaFilleBédouine

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 31½” x 39½”

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 29½” x 39½” TheRedChaiseLongue

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 25¾” x 25¾” FanciulaGentile

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 33½” x 33½” Lamplight

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 59” x 47” Aloft

Acrylic On Canvas • Image Size 29¾” x 39½” Aphrodite'sPromise

“Nothing in art is of any worth unless done for love.”

Walter Crane

Hamish Blakely

©Washington Green 2011.The content of this brochure is subject to copyright and no part can be reproduced without prior permission. www.washingtongreen.co.uk THE GALLERY AT HARRODS Price £10.00

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