About James Blake

James Blake - River Crest Oak

James Blake captures the richness of the cultivated environment in the exquisite detail of his pen and ink drawings and his paintings. The artist’s hand is very much in evidence; high fidelity, rather than photorealism, defines his imagery. His is a definitive personal style, out of the ordinary and timelessly elegant. Blake is a classic artist who adheres strictly to his own vision rather than to prevailing trends. His art, in its purity of form, speaks equally to the traditional spirit and the modern mind.

He began as a traditional painter of portraits, landscape, and still life, and he still works directly from nature rather than from conjecture. But through the years, his art has gained ever more nuanced content. His hallmark studies of trees have become indelible portraits, conveying the depth and subtlety of each one’s character without resorting to anthropomorphism. The trees are monuments and treatises; they explore ideas of time, weather, growth, decay, rebirth, community, isolation, simplicity, and complexity.

Blake chooses his tree subjects with care, searching them out on his travels, from Greek islands to the capitals of Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the Americas. In France, he singled out particular trees in the parks. In Apulia, Italy, he found an olive tree that was two to three thousand years old. In its prime it had split asunder, as olive trees sometimes do, and had spent century upon century adapting itself to its physical circumstances. In California, he visited coastal live oaks in all their craggy, mossy glory, and viewed eucalyptus trees through his windshield. He even turned his attention to the beautiful (and ubiquitous) agave plants of Santa Barbara.

Just as Blake’s trees have taken on a philosophical life of their own, so his cityscapes and interiors have evolved into statements about the identity of a place. A sleepy motel scene, for instance, evokes the profound dailiness of a worn but solid American vignette. Bright light rakes from one side to the other, creating deep shadows that underscore the silence. An image from a Bangkok hotel, on the other hand, evokes all the noise of that city. The staccato marks on paper fairly crackle with electricity.

Wherever he travels, James Blake is a constant observer. He notices the essential elements that lend significance to ordinary subjects, and conveys them to an appreciative audience. Through the power of his art, he satisfies both the traditional and modernist worldviews.

--Suzanne Deats


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