Over several years spent in Queensland, Charles Blackman was nurtured by a series of relationships and profound connections to place, and these inspired some of his most innovative and important works.
During his first visit to Brisbane in 1948 Blackman experienced a period of intense personal discovery essential to the launch his career; he found love and a means of artistic expression through a potent and highly individual visual language emanating from his psyche and focused on his inner world.
Charles Blackman is central to our understanding of the development of modern art in Australia. He gained immeasurably from his time in Queensland, consolidating as it did his artistic vision through the influence of fellow artists, writers and influential friends. Blackman himself elaborated on the lure of the sun in an interview conducted in London in 1965:
I think that Queensland probably had the best influence on me as a person, its sunshine and its lightness and its colour and its friendly spirit probably helped me to flower as a personality in some way.
Laurence Hope worked in Queensland from 1944 to 1952 and brought with him (from Melbourne) a modern vision in contrast to the conventional approach predominating local art societies. The links between Laurence Hope and Laurence Collinson, and their innovation in Melbourne, were particularly important to the Miya Studio group, which became the centre of expressionist art practice in Brisbane. Themes of love, loss and loneliness explored in Hope’s work were important influences on the young Blackman.
It has been noted that there was a great similarity between Hope’s works’ moody, introspective quality and rough brushwork, and the drawings of the contemporary Melbourne artist Joy Hester, who was also close to the Blackmans. The sketch Tired girl 1950 is painted on the back of a letter from Barrie (later Barrett) Reid, Hope’s Miya Studio and Barjai journal associate.
As a painter of ‘internal things’, Hope’s expressive and often darkly isolated figures, as seen in Sketch of Mo (Roy Rene) 1947 and in Tired girl, were important influences on Blackman’s understanding of human character and helped him develop his own powerful imagery. Blackman recognised this influence:
[Hope’s] pictures impressed me, they were real live art . . . He taught me that you can actually draw your own images, you don’t have to use other people’s images. An image is something that you can make yourself . . . My own work became more personal.