Christabel Blackman

The Pleasures of Life

June 28 - July 12 2014

Christabel Blackman’s extraordinary life imbues her luminous paintings. Being the daughter of painter Charles Blackman and writer Barbara Blackman ensured a most atypical childhood, much of it spent in far off lands. She is consequently fluent in five languages. “By the time I was ten, I had the word ‘vicissitudinous’ well and truly established in my vocabulary. I was negotiating the streets of Paris solo, with my five-year-old brother tagging along. I was speaking a different language and knowing that every day would be a new adventure and challenge.”

Two seemingly contrary ideals have sustained Christabel Blackman and countered the vagaries of a bohemian lifestyle: the constancy of the great masterpieces she saw in Europe’s art museums and the gentle mutability of a garden setting. “Brushing so close to fabulous artworks for most of my life has made me realise that Art creates a very real imaginary world, which for me is a comforting, safe place. An image is eternal. I could go and see Boticelli’s Primavera and the women are forever dancing the same dance. It is reliable – if you can’t count on anything else, you can sure count on Art.”

Musing on another aspect of her formative years, Blackman continues, “At an early age I ran away from my nomadic family and settled with my beloved grandmother, Gertrude Patterson. Her well-tended garden was a fragile cacophony of colour, thoughtfully composed and forever delightful - an absolute defiance to the tropical heat of Queensland. Indooroopilly offered a backdrop of bulging pawpaws, jacarandas, banana palms and flame trees. It was definitely an Arcadian paradise, where childhood was timeless and the garden was my haven. This is where I go back to in my paintings!”

Blackman has only recently returned to Australia after living in Spain for 25 years. Although her previous studio amidst the pine forests on the outskirts of Valencia has been replaced with one in Rozelle, Sydney, she is still nourished by the harmony and beauty of nature. “I am currently living in a gorgeous federation house. The pathway leading up to it is cascading in roses and out the back, beyond the studio verandah, is a tableau of colour; a florid blooming garden with mauve parterres, camellia and gardenia bushes, purple daisies and strawberries.”

For Blackman, Art and the Garden offer a joyous refuge from the vicissitudes of daily existence. Her shimmering paintings invite us to enter a rhapsodic world governed by sensory delight and the eternal moment. “Painting exists on the visual plain and evokes responsive emotions,” says Blackman, “but beyond all else it provides an accessible expression of the human condition.” She describes the omnipresent Cat as the silent travelling companion, the passive onlooker and non-intrusive participator. The Girl who sits absorbed in an interior realm is largely self-referential. Blackman is expressing both the particular and universal in the desire to prompt inner journeys of our own. “My images are significant only as a part of the experience of art,” she states. “Visual interpretation and appreciation is ultimately in the eye of the beholder.”

Commenting on her painterly process Blackman professes her love of pure colour. “The variations in colour happen by juxtaposition rather than mixture. It creates a different intensity and effect because the isolated colours are not subject to chemical reactions between the pigments. This technique has partially come about through my extensive work in the restoration of gothic paintings whilst in Europe. It is also very much due to my studio experience with my father Charles Blackman. He taught me about layering a painting, building it up through transparencies. It makes the painting less static and enticing. He was a true Old Master and indeed still says ‘You cannot plan a painting’.” 

The title of the exhibition, The Pleasures of Life, has been chosen because Blackman wishes to share the introspective reverie she has known. “I have a strong desire to underline that pleasure and let it linger on the wall. I want you to swing around in your own home and always be able to take in the rewarding moments that form our heartfelt memories – a warm summer day, a purring cat, the still life or the quiet moment of reflection. Let us celebrate the pleasures of life!”

Born in Melbourne, Blackman has lived in London, Paris, Florence, Valencia, Brisbane and Sydney. She has an Arts Degree from Alexander Mackie College, Sydney, 1976 and attended Drawing Classes at Lorenzo de Medici School, Florence, 1982. Blackman then went on to complete a Diploma in Restoration of Easel Paintings at the Istituto per l'Arte e il Restauro, Florence, Italy, 1984-86 and an Attestato de Qualifica Professionale de la Regione Toscana, Florence, Italy in1986. She gained a Masters Degree, University of Valencia, Spain, 2007-08. Before her 25-year long sojourn in Europe, Blackman was an illustrator for the Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Quadrant and The Woman's Day from 1975-82. Blackman’s paintings hang in private collections throughout Europe and Australia.


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