Born in Portsmouth and now residing and working in Hampshire, England, Pippa Blake embarked on a significant journey following the tragic death of her yachting husband, Sir Peter Blake, by reconnecting with her fine art training.
This restorative metaphorical journey has been encapsulated in her new exhibition, which is aptly named Journey, in Auckland’s Louis Vuitton store. Given the long association of Sir Peter and Pippa Blake with Louis Vuitton, Pippa Blake’s exhibition is a natural partner event for the Louis Vuitton Trophy regatta in Auckland from March 9-21.
The exhibition shows until March 28, and is open from 10am-6pm, seven days a week.
MiNDFOOD: How long have you been painting?
When I was at school – around the age of 14 or 15 – I became really attracted to the art room. In my last year someone suggested that I go to art school and that was just the way it happened, really. When I was 18 I went to Camberwell College of Arts in London, where I spent four years doing a BA honours degree in Fine Art. It was a wonderful time.
After that, did you continue to paint?
I continued for two or three years. I was in London and I had a job working in galleries to fund myself, but it really wasn’t long after that that I met Peter and my life changed rather dramatically. I really decided quite early on that yacht racing and the sort of work I was doing weren’t going to combine, and the man won over art!
Have you always painted, or have you used other mediums as well?
I’ve mostly always painted but I do a lot of drawing – I’ve always loved it, especially while traveling. But I also did some printmaking quite recently and I’m experimenting with three-dimensional work using layers of images printed out on acetate with some perspex boxes, but really that’s just something I’m experimenting with. To me the physicality of using the materials I use – oil paint, pencil and charcoal – that’s what I love.
How did you come to be involved with Louis Vuitton for the exhibition The Journey?
I’ve had an involvement for a long time with Louis Vuitton through sailing, Peter and the Challenger series running up to the America’s Cup. So there’s been a connection since 1992. Louis Vuitton has always been there in our lives and it wasn’t until last year that Mark Browne (General Manager of Louis Vuitton in New Zealand) approached me with the idea of doing this exhibition at the same time as the Louis Vuitton Trophy regatta is going on in Auckland. I haven’t shown work out here for many years, so that’s how it came together. I thought that’s very nice and it was a connection that seemed right. I’m very happy that I said yes.
What was the inspiration for this exhibition?
The paintings were selected by Trish Clark who’s the art consultant and curator of this exhibition. I was in the UK and she was over here so it was quite a process of sending her some images [via email] and her selecting the ones she thought would be good.
Will it be hard to part with them when they sell?
I feel as a professional painter you put the work into the painting and once it’s completed, it’s a gratification if a work is enjoyed by somebody else, so I’ve never felt you should, as a painter, keep the image.
What other artists do you admire?
In the early days – I’m talking when I was a student at school – we looked at Cezanne, Degas and the post-impressionists, then during the ’70s when I was at art school I became influenced by the abstract expressionists from New York. Painters like William De Kooning, Robert Motherwell – they were all artists I really admired. These days I love looking at the 17th Century Dutch artists, and then the likes of Bruegel and Titian. I love to look at old paintings.
Are there any New Zealand artists that you admire?
People like Ralph Hotere and Colin McCahon I enjoy. Something I’m really looking forward to is engaging more with what’s happening in the New Zealand art scene.
How would you describe your art?
There’s no doubt I’m an expressive, gestural painter. Quite an emotional painter.
Do you paint for personal pleasure or to sell your work?
I just paint because that’s what I do. I wouldn’t call it personal pleasure, it’s not actually very pleasurable. It’s tough, it’s hard being a painter and I beat myself up quite a bit through each work that I do.
How long did the paintings in this exhibition take to paint?
Some happened very quickly, over a matter of days. Most of them I worked on over a matter of weeks, sometimes months.
How do you know when the painting is finished?
It’s very hard to know when a painting’s finished. Sometimes you know or sometimes someone might come into the studio and say “don’t touch that” and then you have an internal debate about whether it is finished or not and sometimes it seems you can make mistakes and work too hard for too long.
What’s next, when are you heading back to England?
I’ll be in New Zealand until the Louis Vuitton Trophy series racing is finished. I’ll combine watching racing with coming back to the gallery space, and catching up with friends. Then I’m back to the UK and straight back into my studio working for my next exhibition, which opens in the middle of May. It will keep me busy, which is good. I will say that it’s a great opportunity that I’ve been given by Louis Vuitton to do this show. It’s really a chance to re-emerge as an artist out here.
A side note from Mark Browne:
From Louis Vuitton’s perspective we collaborate a lot with
artists, and have done so for many years. Our collaborations are
ongoing all around the world. We use art in our windows from time to
time and Marc Jacobs (our artistic director) works with artists to
develop new ideas. Art and the stimulus from artists is part of the
innovation and creativity of the brand. We saw this collaboration with
Pippa as a natural fit as we’ve been following her work for quite some