Whether it was drawing his favourite comic book superheroes or producing caricatures of his school teachers, Hamish Blakely’s natural facility with pencil paved the way for a future in painting from an early age.
Blakely was born in Canterbury in 1968 and developed an interest in art from an early age. He studied illustration at Wimbledon School of Art and completed his degree at Kingston University shortly after which he became a professional illustrator. During this time his clients included The Body Shop, British Telecom and Cable and Wireless and he was chosen to paint two front covers for the world renowned author of ‘Schindler’s List’, Thomas Keneally.
At the same time, he and his wife Gail set up and curated their own shows in London, leading to a solo display in the Thomas Kettle Gallery in Covent Garden. The show, entitled ‘Do not Disturb’, explored genetic manipulation and its effects on its patients. The entire collection showed an increasing interest in physicality and lighting that were to become the hallmarks of his later work.
It was acrylic that Blakely used for painting at this stage and throughout the first few years of his partnership with Washington Green, which he joined in 2005. Notably, it is his relationship with Gail that marked the first transformative phase of the style that has now seduced collectors worldwide. In the ‘Muse’ exhibition held at Halcyon Gallery at Harrods, Gail was the main protagonist in all 40 works. It is this uniquely aligned partnership between muse and artist that breathed a special sense of intimacy into the exhibition and brought new life to the genre of the painted nude. Judging by the reaction, it is something that is set to continue, inform and inspire his work, without end.
Some years later, the transition to oils seemed inevitable and this too was to become another turning point in his distinctive style. When asked about how his work has changed so dramatically over recent years, Blakely says: “More than a preoccupation with the end result, it is a passion for the process itself that urges the work to evolve.” He believes that there is something primal and mystical about creating the illusion of a convincing vision on a once bare stretch of canvas. There is something elusive in painting that defies formula and the more it is practised, the more is learned and the deeper an artist has to dig. Whether it is a children’s book, an advertising poster or a grand painting hanging in a museum, he ignores the idea of any hierarchy in art; the only important consideration is whether the work is meaningful or not.
While technique is obviously important in representative art, Blakely feels it is something that must not be over indulged. He believes a painting is more than an arrangement of polished rendering and that the life of it involves spontaneity and boldness. Rembrandt had the most captivating quality, the ability to paint with breathtaking finesse, while creating a tactile graininess that could only have been achieved with layer upon layer of heavily applied pigment. The paintings are more than beautiful; they are weathered by the accumulation of work, re-working and the most intense commitment. It is this complexity that Blakely finds so alluring.
He is also in the very fortunate position of having each piece he paints rigorously assessed through Gail’s quality control. He states that while a painting frequently needs a fresh pair of
eyes, Gail offers an unusually discerning view point that can spot technical issues and offer creative solutions in a quick glance. As well as being his muse and appearing in almost all of his output, Gail is responsible for many of Hamish’s most notable paintings, providing new concepts during the many discussions they have.
This is attested further in his ‘Out of Work Angels’ collection displayed at Castle Fine Art in Mayfair which explores Heaven’s creatures in a state of flux. As more and more younger people turn away from the Church, Angels are becoming expendable. This collection sees them arriving on Earth. Having lost their jobs, a new journey awaits them.
A new journey always seems promised with each new development in Blakely’s work.