Mad about Alice! Five Question Interview with Auguste Blackman

Alongside our new collection Mad About Alice!, we asked Auguste Blackman five questions. Here, he opens up about being raised by one of Australia’s foremost artists, rabbits as omens and enduring power of a girl’s tumble down a rabbit-hole. Enjoy! [Below: Charles and Auguste Blackman]

  1. The story of Alice in Wonderland has been interpreted in many ways - sometimes as a whimsical fairy tale and sometimes as something darker. In Charles’s work, there are elements of both. What do you think the story meant for him?
It was the beginning of his family life. Barbara was pregnant with me and Charles had listened to the story on mum’s ‘Talking Book’ machine without seeing Sir John Tenniel’s famous illustrations. Charles could then interpret Alice in his own design. Working for Georges Mora as a chef, Charles night life was a riot of plates and cooking. By day he could place them in his own ‘Wonderland’ with Barbara as his Alice. This also gave sight to the poetry of their lives. When I was born another upside down dimension was added to the alchemy of studio life.

  1. What draws you to Alice in Wonderland?
Charles had claimed ‘Alice’, so I was drawn to Edward Lear from this same (late 1800’s) period. Until a show in 2015 when suddenly the rabbit’s ears appeared. I literally leapt back and was about to rub them out when I decided to see what would happen if I painted it my way. So I am interpreting the tale of Alice as ‘Mother’ and Rabbit or March Hare as ‘Father’. From this point of view I am able to address my own version of my childhood. I came to realise that I am the Dormouse at the magic table, watching ‘Wonderland’ unfold, as this was my real childhood also.

  1. Where would you place yourself in the story and why?
The Dormouse observes and sees the madness of Wonderland and has his own point of view. He can also pretend to sleep and hide in the Teapot or join the dance.

  1. What was it like growing up with your father as he created the Alice series?
Our world was ‘Wonderland’ and it was very difficult emerging into the real word. Like coming out from the Rabbit Hole, I suppose. Some family members didn’t cope. I myself had to battle many demons of my own to survive. Eventually I attended West Wollongong TAFE for 4 years to learn ‘how’ to paint. Free at last to paint my way!!

  1. How do you think your and Charles’ versions of Alice connect or diverge?

The interpretation finds familiar figures playing out their own game on a visual playground. I have the luxury of Charles work to inspire. We both share a love of figurative expressionism and can change time and gravity with the swish of a brush. Very exhilarating when in full flight. At the end of a painting session, I sometimes pick up an old canvas and reinterpret a previous image in total free-form with the paint memory of the day still at my fingertips. As in 'Wonderland' from my current exhibition [below].

See Charles + Auguste Blackman's new collection 'Mad About Alice' here.
Read our collection synopsis, here. 

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