Soon after his return to London in 1979 Blake was invited to Los Angeles to attend the opening of an exhibition that included his work and that of some of his contemporaries. He traveled to California with his friend Howard Hodgkin and remembers spending his time there, staying with David Hockney, as ‘voyeur of enormous goings-on’, attending numerous parties, dinners and openings.
The trip inspired a new series of paintings based on Venice Beach and its surroundings. One memory in particular prompted a new work. A Remembered Moment in Venice, California 1981–91 depicts a scene in the early evening as he and Hodgkin walked back to the gallery after a day on the beach. With the day-trippers gone and the evening crowds yet to arrive, few people were about as a girl on roller-skates passed them by. Blake had been struck by the quality of light and colours of California, and the painting, completed with his typical realist mastery, is unusually atmospheric for him, demonstrating a shift in palette and tonal range adopted for his other ‘Venice’ paintings. Using a photograph of Daisy, his daughter, for the skating figure, Blake returned to Los Angeles the following year to take new photographs to enable this and the other two paintings from the series to be completed. The finished works demonstrate the artist’s typical tendency to fuse fragments of his past, present, imagination and reality.