'Curious Blackman!' - Revisiting the Mind of Charles Blackman
Curious Blackman is a celebration of art hero and eternal romantic, Charles Blackman. Spanning through his masterful Alice and Schoolgirl series, this collection is a curation of fourteen big, fine quality art prints from Charles Blackman Editions. Equal parts iconic and eye-catching, each print plays testament to the stories and sharply inquisitive mind behind them.
Curious Blackman features key works from Blackman’s Schoolgirl series. The Schoolgirl series struck Blackman after he learnt of schoolgirl Alma Tirtschke’s death in 1921. Alma was found raped and murdered behind a Melbourne wine saloon.
Struck by this collision of innocence and sin, Blackman paints the young girl traversing Melbourne’s moonlit alleys and ovals. In Prone Schoolgirl (1953) Blackman catches the girl strewn on a sea-green lawn, backed by a horizon of saw-toothed buildings. Then, in Schoolgirls in Laneway (1953) he sees her cornered by a backlit silhouette. In Skipping Girls (1954) she and a schoolmate frolic, while something dark laps at their heels. Four Schoolgirls (1960) ends the series with four friends, backs turned and heads heavy. Are they mourning or gossiping? Blackman leaves us unanswered. Open-endness rings through this series, mirroring Alma’s unsolved death. Shortly after she was found, the police arrested and executed saloon owner Colin Campbell Ross. In 2006 however, new evidence emerged proving Ross’s innocence and in 2008 he was acquitted, almost ninety years post his hanging.
Departing the dark world of Alma, Blackman turned to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. After reading the book to his blind wife, Blackman discovered kinship in her spirit and a sadness, not unlike Barbara’s in her grapple with a hostile world. So Blackman set about painting her world. In Alice in Wonderland (1956) he places Alice in a topsy-turvy setting of blossoming shapes. In Feet Beneath the Table (1956) she sits alongside a white rabbit and in Dreaming Alice (1956) she glides weightless across the canvas. Each work is a testament to Blackman’s perceptiveness and tender love of a good yarn.
Blackman’s art can be mistaken as naive. While his paintings can appear broad and loud, in truth they pursue something quiet and difficult. With each work Blackman beckons us into his mind - a place ablaze with wonder and wit. Whether we crouch in the quiet intimacy of The Meeting (1961) or join Alice in her tumble, Blackman skirts something earnest and complex. This collection marks an outstanding opportunity to acquire fine quality prints of the legendary Blackman’s big art triumphs.