Throughout this life, Charles Blackman found himself drawn back to the garden. As a child, his schooling was erratic — leaving him to obsessively read everything he could, often at the garden’s end. He developed a unique romanticism, dappled with flowers and white cats.
In the early 1950s, Blackman relocated to Brisbane with his future wife, Barbara nee Patterson, to live near the flower farms at Tamborine. Again he was immersed in florals. As Barbara’s eyesight diminished, the farm’s flowers formed some of the last stimuli she could see, eventually evaporating into fragrance. They become symbols of transience and longing.
Blackman moved back to Brisbane in the early 1980s with his new wife, Genevieve de Couvreur. They settled near the semi-rural region of Buderim, plotted between the Pacific Ocean, sugar cane fields and the Glasshouse Mountains. The encircling lushness once again brought the garden to Blackman’s consciousness.
In this series of screenprints, created in collaboration with master printmaker Michelle Perry, Blackman submits to the garden’s pull. Like Claude Monet, he looks upon the garden reverentially. Unlike Monet however, he conjures an unreality — a heady magic that recalls the fantastical gardens of Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden and Narnia.
"Flowers are bold in the sunlight / and the blue skies waving over; / … Small child never returning / where flowers make separate shadows / … with his own old house and a white cat sleeping."
- Poetry by Barbara Blackman, 1953
These works are populated only by a white cat — a symbol of innocence, lost childhood, a familiar and clandestine echo of the artist himself. She stands witness to the garden, its preternatural expulsion of flowers, thrown like stars across the night sky.
Cats and flowers are vital themes in Blackman’s oeuvre. Sites of wonder, forbidden yet intriguing, the Garden series is an abundant find for collectors of Blackman, landscapes and important works on paper. Explore today.