For hundreds of years religion was the dominant theme in art. Dating back to the Medieval, Gothic and Renaissance movements, paintings of devotion were hegemonic and reflected the piety of the time and were found in places of worship such as in churches as altarpieces as well as in private homes; the presence of which reflected the spiritual concerns of the individual.
The artist Hamish Blakely places religion at the centre of his new art collection ‘Out Of Work Angels’ on display at Castle Gallery in Mayfair. Although the overriding theme in his work are angels and the notion of religion, he gives them a contemporary edge. Blakely uses traditional and conventional religious iconography, such as gold halos, which were typical features of devotional paintings that date back to the Renaissance. Yet unlike traditional religious paintings, Blakely’s depictions don’t show the depicted figures as peaceful and pure; these angels drink, smoke, have tattoos and wear modern clothes in a dramatic break away from the holy.
This is just one of the juxtapositions that are laden throughout his collection. The parodies of good and bad; saints and sinners; light and dark are implicit through the various guises the angelic deities are portrayed in.
Through his series, Blakely reflects on the issue of the relationship between religion and modern society and what it, if any, is the role it has to play in our lives. With religion not being as dominant and prevailing as in previous ages, what does that mean for angels? They are left with time on their hands now that they are not heavily relied upon for help or spiritual guidance – they are out of work.
Not only does the collection demonstrate the reduction of the reliance on religion in modern day society, but also of the decline of religion as the overriding subject matter in art. Gradually the main subject to be depicted in art changed from the high level genre of religion and history towards the lower level genres of still life and everyday scenes. Today, religion isn’t seen in art as frequently as it previously was with the shift away from a heavy reliance on faith and religion in modern life.
Hamish Blakely’s angels indulge in ‘sin’ and find alternate activities to occupy their time – it’s heaven but not as we know it.