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Charles Blackman Turns 90

Charles Blackman Turns 90

Happy Birthday to esteemed Australian artist Charles Blackman OBE, who turns 90 today!

Blackman first came to prominence in the Melbourne art world of the mid-1940’s with his dreamlike images tinged with mystery and foreboding. Best known for his Schoolgirl, Avonsleigh and Alice in Wonderland series of the 1950s, Blackman’s career culminated in a major retrospective of his work in 1993.

Now in frail health, the artist’s affairs are managed by the Charles Blackman Trust, which manages the sale of works still owned by the artist himself to ensure his expenses are taken care of. The Bromley & Co galleries in Daylesford and Windsor, in Victoria, are among the few places entrusted with the sale of these artworks.

Blackman has been a mentor to younger artist David Bromley throughout his career. In 2002, David was an Archibald Prize finalist with his portrait of Charles, a homage to a man whose iconic work epitomises a definitive time in Australian art history.

In recent years, David’s admiration for Charles and his work has seen a further collaboration whereby, under the authority of the Charles Blackman Foundation, David has worked with a selection of Charles’ artwork, in particular, his series of ink drawings on paper, to colour, collage and ‘reimagine’ the visuals through his own colourscape. The resulting works, the Blackman by Bromley collection, bring to light Charles’ drawings spanning from 2006 to the present with a playful flair and imagination, with proceeds from the sale of these works playing a part in the support and care of the older artist as his health began to fail.

David has always admired Charles’ no-nonsense nature and his ability to view the world and his surroundings as though peering down the rabbit hole, much like the Alice in Wonderland figures that feature prominently in his work. “I’ve spent a big part of my life endeavouring to turn dreams into reality,”says David, “and working with Charles is an honour so great that I would never have dared to dream it could be possible.
I have had the good fortune to spend a lot of time with Blackman’s work and the opportunity to see in the flesh much of the last decade’s work.

As I had done with my father I mourned the loss of the vital expressive, surreal work of the Blackman I had revered for so many years.

“Then, after years ofseeing these works unfold I started to realise I was doing as I had done with my father, not being able to see the potency and poignancy of this stage and I was missing out on seeing this side of the man and his art.

When I removed the veil from my eyes and from my thinking, I was able to see this new world unfold.”

“I now truly see this recent work and have entered once again into a “rabbit’s hole” type of experience that he has taken me into the past that was staring me in the face.

Characters and stories ever present in his surreal mind, outpouring despite frailty.

A determined hand connected to an imagination ever fertile, ever determined, like Picasso, like Matisse, making art, as usual, for his life.

As for his art, despite his condition, it can never be truly closed o from memory, autobiography.

Charles said to me once, a relationship with art is about the conversation and interaction you feel and have with a particular piece or body of art and then the conversation that the art has back with you.
……This is what I have with this decade of Blackman work – MAGIC in a world of Charlie’s making.”

— David Bromley

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