‘Birdsong’ is Auguste Blackman’s first series since the passing of his father. Proud yet gentle, these works echo Charles, as well as fellow artist and family friend Mirka Mora, who also passed recently. Sometimes blissful sometimes sad, these winged creatures carry more than the wind, soaring across the canvas to reveal truths about the human experience.
When asked what they mean for him, Auguste muses that “the first bird call of the day sets the mood” - it declares the end of the night, where we fly on the “wings of our dreams”. He names his favourite kinds - the butcher bird, currawong and magpie - and reflects that he is still in mourning. As he paints, Auguste listens to Papageno of Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflöte’.
In John Keats’s poem ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, the timeless song of a Nightingale is set against the transience of life. In ‘Birdsong’ too, the tension between permanence and flux lingers. Auguste warns that we ought to care for nature, as it is fragile. Yet, his birds also seem eternal - conduits for time, space and the connection between a father and son.
Throughout his work, Keats returns to the idea of death. For him, instances of death surround us and it is only through art, that immortality can be attained. The Nightingale’s song - a metaphor for poetry - offers solace, never straying from the here and now. Auguste’s series recalls this. Like Keats, his birds drift on “the viewless wings of poesy”, eyes closed, remembering “all the birds they have met, songs they have sung and places” they have been.