In her author's note in The Golden Day, Ursula Dubosarsky writes that Charles Blackman, an acclaimed Australian modernist painter, was a particularly keen influence on the novel: "[My] greatest debt is to Charles Blackman's many astonishing, lush depictions of schoolgirls enchanting, disturbing, and endlessly evocative."
One of Blackwell's paintings, Floating Schoolgirl, was especially intriguing to Dubosarsky; it was during a visit to the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra where she first saw the painting, and it became the very first seed for The Golden Day. The painting is haunting and beautiful; it depicts a schoolgirl in a hat and uniform floating above a city, in what looks like the middle of the night.
Blackman's paintings are characterized by dream-like qualities; he most often depicts one lone figure, often a woman or a girl with distorted features, and his surreal figures are often floating or falling. They evoke dreams, memories, and a sense of longing and loneliness.
Primarily a self-taught artist, Blackman was born August 12, 1928 in Sydney. He quit school at 13 to work as an illustrator for The Sun Herald, and instead attended night school for about four years at East Sydney Technical College.
Blackman's Schoolgirl as well as his Alice series (based on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland) brought him attention and fame early on in his career. He befriended a variety of artists, who led him to many varied experiences such as working with musicians, the ballet and even creating set designs.
Blackman was a member of a group of Melbourne painters spearheaded by art historian Bernard Smith. Calling themselves the Antipodeans, the group is known for the Antipodean Manifesto, a reaction to a museum exhibition called The New American Painting, which was a survey of abstract expressionism. An art form particularly characterized by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, abstract expressionism focuses on a spontaneous approach to art that typically consists of dynamic gestures (dripping or pouring paint as Jackson Pollock famously did) on simple fields of color. The New American Painting toured Europe in 1958-59, and the Antipodeans were afraid that this new brand of American art would push their figurative modern art out of the public's favor. In response, they worked to promote figurative art (one based on real objects) over its conceptual equivalent. Interestingly, many of the Antipodeans were experiencing commercial success at the time, and their Australian expressionistic counterparts were not.
Blackman has seen much success over his many years as a painter. Having painted over 3,600 paintings, he is prolific and has won many awards. Although he suffered a stroke and heart attack in 1994, he is still vibrant and engaged in the art world. He is passionate about art, artists and their impact on the world.
Click this link to see more of Blackman's paintings.
This article was originally published in August 2013, and has been updated for the
April 2015 paperback release.
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