About James Blake
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.