Sunday 4 December 2016

MI6 stays hidden in art display

Published 14/02/2011 | 15:47

Artist James Hart Dyke with his paintings of A year with MI6 at the Mount Street Gallery, London
Artist James Hart Dyke with his paintings of A year with MI6 at the Mount Street Gallery, London

As an organisation shrouded in secrecy, it might seem odd for MI6 to appoint an artist to depict its mysterious work.

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But this was the unusual assignment handed to James Hart Dyke, who was invited to record daily life at the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in a series of paintings and sketches.

It was not a mission James Bond ever attempted, but the artist had to take the same cloak and dagger approach to his job as the fictional spy did in Ian Fleming's novels.

The project saw him working closely with MI6 for a year, both in the UK and abroad, although his access to the service was, unsurprisingly, carefully controlled.

With the need for discretion paramount, the paintings do not identify actual officers, agents, operations, or events.

But the artwork, commissioned for the service's centenary celebrations and going on display to the public in London's West End on Tuesday, sheds a glimmer of light on the world of spying - albeit through impressionistic brush strokes and veiled meanings.

Some of the settings are familiar enough: the MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall in London, rendered in oil on canvas, or the blue-grey watercolour of the turnstile barring all but a privileged few from the building.

But in other paintings, the meaning is more oblique.

Doughnut on stripes depicts just that - a still life of the cake on a pink and white tablecloth - a jokey reference to the nickname given to the ring-shaped GCHQ.

https://www.sis.gov.uk/(MI6)

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