ARE LIFE MODELS ARTISTS? (© Dominic Blake 2017 - 2020)
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. I became a Life Model to express myself creatively, travelling on symbiotic journeys with the other artists who draw, paint and sculpt me. I am emotionally engaged and critical within the artistic relationships my practice manifests. 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. The forms I create are direct emotional responses to the environments I am located within, people I share them with, internal dialogues and to my body itself. This is the most important journey of my life.
Between August 2019 - June 2020, I am delivering a series of lectures at venues including The National Gallery, Mall Galleries, RCA and University of Kent in response to the question I am posing: 'Are Life Models Artists?'. My first lectures at the Mall Galleries, The National Gallery and Hampstead School of Art sold out. My lectures will conclude in the US, and I am in discussions with a US museum about creating an installation at the end of 2020 (within which my practice will remain the same but participants will not view me as a drawing instrument, rather as a 'Living Sculpture' (after Gilbert and George), a Performance Artist.
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, 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 on Soho Radio. Further, I am currently assisting the Aesthetics Research Centre at the University of Kent as the co-organiser of a symposium ('Revaluing the Life Model') within which related issues will be discussed in 2020. The title and inspiration for the symposium was PhD researcher Aurélie Debaene's. Our application to the British Aesthetics Society for funding was accepted in November 2019, being awarded the maximum level. I will be one of the keynote lecturers alongside Jo Baring and JJ Delvine. Other prominent members of the art community will participate through panel discussions and lectures.
Through my work over a period of years, I have actively engaged with artists, museums, galleries, arts schools and students to raise awareness of the role of the Life Model, allowing people to know the tremendous creative value it holds in its own right. I have also campaigned successfully to improve conditions for Life Models in relation to issues of pay. Although I am not claiming Life Models are artists in an absolute sense, I believe that in particular contexts and given particular motivations Life Modelling might become an artistic practice.
I will begin researching and writing a book in tandem with my lecture series between Jan-August 2020. My book will share the same title 'Are Life Models Artists?' and be published in late 2020, stocked by the Mall Galleries, Wellcome Collection and other major museums. I will announce details of the Publisher in the coming weeks.
Please scroll down to view a photo-journal including images of my lectures to date and artistic practice: