Turning the pages of Charles Blackman’s sketchbook

 
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Charles Blackman, Australia b.1928 / Buderim Mt Sketchbook: Civilisation versus Eden 1984 / Full (faux) black leather sketchbook with gilt borders and red endpapers / 1 v.; ill. (some col.) / Gift of the Josephine Ulrich and Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2013. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program. Collection: QAGOMA Research Library / © Charles Raymond Blackman 1984. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney 2015

Sketchbooks have long been used by artists to jot down ideas, contemplate on particular moments and note creative reflections. They are a personal record of inspirational imagery that may later be referred to when developing ideas and composition for other works.

Charles Blackman’s Buderim Mt Sketchbook: Civilization versus Eden, dated 1984, affords us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the artist’s musings and some of the magic found in his rainforest series.

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Blackman created this sketchbook while he was living in Mt Buderim in the 1980s. Introduced to the area by his good friend James Birrell, an architect who lived near the Maroochy River, the artist moved to Buderim to escape the Sydney winters. Behind his home, he discovered a small waterfall; and so began his fascination with them, and with the rainforest.

Described as a romantic, Blackman marries the gothic architecture of French cathedrals with the grandeur of the rainforest, creating ‘living museums’ in his sketches and watercolours. A highlight of the sketchbook is ‘The engulfed Cathedral’ (1984), which references Claude Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie of 1910. It is a beautiful, lyrical ink drawing of a cathedral washed in a sea of blues.

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Several of the drawings in this sketchbook were reproduced in the book The Rainforest (Macmillan, 1988) to accompany texts by Blackman and poet Al Alvarez. The sketchbook also features poems by the artist, and a schematic flowchart linking words with the natural world.

Buderim Mt Sketchbook: Civilization versus Eden which is held in the QAGOMA Research Library collection is currently on display in the Gallery’s exhibition ‘Lure  of the Sun: Charles Blackman in Queensland’, where you can turn the pages of a digitised copy via touchscreen and muse on this intimate and beautiful work by Charles Blackman.

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