Thursday, February 18, 2016

Abstracted Landscapes

"Over succeeding decades I have travelled throughout many parts of Australia
 and much of America."
David Blackburn

The American writer Henry Miller said about travel “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” It is an aphorism that particularly applies to the British abstracted landscape painter David Blackburn.

An only child Blackburn spent much of his youth painting and walking the West Yorkshire moors that surrounding his home in the market town of Huddersfield.

Whilst studying at the Royal College of Art during the 1960’s Blackburn met and studied with the Austrian artist Gerhard Frankl who introduced him to pastels. A medium Blackburn was to use for the rest of his life.

About which Blackburn has said “I'd never seen pastel used to produce such intensity and depth of color. It had an extraordinary looseness and freedom, which suggested huge spaces, shimmering light and a feeling of cold. I found it a revelation. He became almost a father figure to me. Gerhard was an Austrian-Jewish émigré who'd settled in London: his family had perished in the Holocaust. He was an art historian as well as an artist and he taught me how to look at pictures.”

A year after graduating from the Royal College of Art, Blackburn traveled to Australia to teach at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. During his three years there he discovered the light and space that is central Australia aka The Outback.

Which Studio International reported Blackburn as saying “The Outback had been a revelation, and suddenly the drawings became full of glowing reds and blazing oranges, with the sky taking up half the picture plane. As the feeling of this huge space, along with a strange dreamlike quality, entered my work the European concept of foreground, middle distance and background came to seem irrelevant.”

After several further visits to Australia and a sojourn on the East Coast for the United States Blackburn settled in country of his birth.

As he told the Wall Street International “It’s what I know – the hills and valleys, the history, the mix of urban and rural, old and new: the sheer texture of the place.”

Although Blackburn added a caveat, as he told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner "But my private ‘valley of visions’ remains a mixture of the wet moorlands of Yorkshire and the heat and color of central Australia."  

A retrospective exhibition of Blackburn’s work is currently on show at the London gallery, Messum’s, until the 11th of March.

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