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Article written by Dr. Jean-François VERNAY, editor and publisher.
Drawing upon Greco-Roman motives, Charles Billich can be described as a classicist with a quasi encyclopaedic knowledge. At times his paintings are surrealistic (1), impressionistic or even photo-realistic. His recent works are so accurate in their compositions that his poetry of details and the sense of place he captures on his canvases are to some extent reminiscent of the works of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Turning to age-old history, Charles Billich has shifted his focus on the East. His quite recent work exhibited in Xi’an (Shaanxi Province) to celebrate Beijing’s successful bid for the 2008 Olympics is inspired by the Bing Ma Yong Terracotta Warriors. This cycle of paintings, where East meets West, combines ancient history with the contemporary prowess of Olympic athletes, bellicosity and artistry. Thanks to this admixture of tradition and modernity, of 21st century sportsmanship and 384BC Qin Dynasty craftsmanship, Charles has captured the essence of the Olympic spirit. Reaching far beyond all self-imposed limits, the China series celebrates human potential as well as human achievement by displaying all the qualities required to achieve any physical feat: concentration, precision, willpower and velocity. Billich is a sports artist who manages to give his subjects both mobility and nobility.
A citizen of the world, Charles “feels at home wherever [his] canvas is”, though he sometimes craves for a change of horizons to explore another civilisation, new mores and lore. He roams across the seven seas in constant search for new themes and concepts to fuel the reservoir of his creativity. A remarkable polyglot (speaking over seven languages fluently, five of which he learnt when he served his jail term), he masters English with such expressiveness and playfulness that his florid style and word coinage proclivity (which produce fine instances of Billichism) always capture a mesmerised audience while showcasing his poetic bent.
Charles Billich is no poet of the banal. In his work, you will find no evocation of the monotony of daily routine, no faces deeply lined with toil, no deserted streets and socialising premises, quite the contrary: crowd-packed horse-racing tracks, unblemished bodies, special occasions such as festive events, you name it. In a synoptic attempt to synthetise Charles Billich’s opus, we could say that his style is to visual arts what lyricism is to literature – namely life-enhancing.
In this respect, the artist’s driving force is bombast and grandeur. His paintings remain ideals of perfection (Meliora sequamur could even be his motto), dreamlike utopias, if not testimonies of glory and magnificence, which reveal a lot regarding his optimistic and even sublimating outlook on life. Like his ever oversized glasses, his flamboyant attitude, his extravaganzas, his imagination-packed pranks, he seeks to deflate the effect of our mundane life by adding majesty to our daily routine. As Charles Billich has it, “What is the fate of figurative art in a transphotographic world? To do things the camera cannot do, or can at best unconvincingly do through dark room tricks.” Some commentators, like Ooi Kok Chuen, went as far as to say that the “happy, glorious pictures” seem “to cauterise the pain [Charles experienced in his youth] and to celebrate the freedom” he once lost when jailed “on suspicion of his anti-communist leanings as interpreted in his writings for newspapers and magazines.”
Charles Billich’s pictorial production shows an impressive palette of themes and genres, from surrealist landscapes to glamorous cityscapes, from portraiture to an extensive selection of erotica, from sports and games to Oriental motives, not to mention his political interpretations of history or his religious scenes. However, whatever theme he tackles, the lyrical painter invariably celebrates life in all possible forms such as action, aesthetics, national heritage or even history. To a certain degree, his creations also enable him to face death serenely as his oeuvre will undoubtedly outlive him – Vita brevis, ars longa, as the saying goes. Life to Charles is but a game from which he wishes to come out an eternal victor. His ultimate – if not sole – challenge to life would be to defeat transience, to defeat the tempus fugit pace of our earthly world, to defeat death and the ravages of time. But then, even if Charles strives to win the day over the years, he would certainly be aware that time and tide waits for no man.
Bionote: Dr. Jean-François VERNAY, a former editor and publisher, has written commendable books on Australian culture. His latest release is The Great Australian Novel – A Panorama (Melbourne: Brolga, 2010).
It’s been a Hell of a month!
Not so much that Lucifer went back on his word and reduced my comp time maliciously, rather it’s the frenzy around Gaddafi’s impending arrival!
Everybody is frying to make it the event he deserves! New fireworks have been designed by Lucifer’s expert special effect team. But do not expect pretty pyrotechnics a la Sydney Harbour on New Year. They are seriously intended to scorch that murderous megalomaniac. I nearly lost my own life when I visited Libya on my ocean liner “Galeb” way back in the 1970’s. Yes, the fireworks, the state reception, the renta-crowds, the lucullian banquets with mountains of delicacies, the speeches acknowledging my brainchild “League of the Non-Allied”.
It was all spoiled , unwittingly, by Gaddafi, always the sleaze, when he
well-intendingly sent a trio of sex-bombson board. Two were Russian and one Belarus. The gift was never consummated as my wife Jovanka was watching me like a hawk, not to mention my barely tolerated favourite masseuses Biba and Duba! Later I became privy to intelligence that the Soviet beauties would have emasculated me! This was at the time of Brezhnev, the President of the USSR, who never forgave me for separating from the Soviets and establishing my own, albeit smaller Yugoslav Empire! Having escaped narrowly death, I decided in favour of caution and loyalty, well, at least to three women.
Besides, some bodily dysfunctions were sadly already in progress and not even hotly dedicated Marxist NKVD whores would have helped erect Little Tito.
But back to Hell!…
Preparations for creative thermic tortures are now accelerating as none other than Asama Bin Laden is joining the Terrorist Circle of Hell. There are no denominational distinctions here, exacerbating the pain of many unecumenical extremists. Imagine a Muslim burning together with a Jew! And with women! On the other hand, scores of terrorist are looking forward to rub shoulders with Osama, but more about that later, as there is a queue of thousands (yet another torture) waiting to use the computer, so I must leave it for now.
Just one last thing…
I’m so proud of you Charles to be involved with the Beatification of Pope John Paul II, with His official portrait for all Christians to enjoy in their worship! I am so grateful to Pope John Paul for having inspired the collapse of the most pestilential system ever devised by man, Soviet Communism, which, sorry to say, I helped construct.
I have noticed your unwillingness to answer my mail. I do not blame you.
I feel one day you’ll find it in your heart to send me a line, which to me would be a life-line.
Keep on praying and painting, I guess to you it’s all the same!
Josip Groz Tito
It’s the BILLICH GALLERY’S 25th
One accumulates lots of ideas in 25 years, a lot of pictures, moments of joy, some tears.
One has travelled, in 25 years, millions of miles
To find a lot of sadness, injustice, yet many smiles.
Quarter of a century, eternity to a child, a blink of an eye to the curious – and wild!
Australia and the world, religion and sports, the human figure, themes and passions of all sorts have moved Billich, his skills and his tools to paint artfully, respectfully, yet breaking some rules.
He’s where he is due to friends, collectors and his Team who won’t allow him to ever run out of steam.
Internationally renowned Australian artist Charles Billich’s sketch of the pope was inspired by a “brief but awe-inspiring meeting” Charles had with the pope in 1995 when he presented the pope with a portrait of BI Mary MacKillop specially commissioned for her beatification.
Charles drew inspiration from the encounter, drawing a sketch of the pope with St Mary’s Cathedral as the backdrop. The pope’s coat of arms also adorns the image. “My hand was guided by a major force that allowed me to capture Pope John Paul’s warmth and wonderful nature,” Charles said. Charles works adorn boardrooms and galleries in Italy, the United States, Croatia, Thailand, Japan Switzerland and Australia. Religious artwork has been a major component of his portfolio, which has stretched over 40 years.
To celebrate the beatification of Pope John Paul II, a print of Pope John Paul II sketched by Charles Billich which will make an enduring memento of the occasion of the pope’s beatification.
For further information visit: www.billich.com
An apprentice artist 500 years ago would have been influenced by his master. Unless he lived by the sea he wouldn’t have ventured outside a 20 km radius and wouldn’t have seen any museums. Art books were few, with pathetic illustrations. His development was linear, rough, and inadequate.
Yet some masterpieces survived. My development is determined by greater levels of visual exposure, availability of artistic information and improved curatorial education. I have been influenced by hundreds of artists. I look at Canaletto to see how he handles crowds and the individual in them. At Hieronimus Bosch for mastering a multitude of focal points. At Gaudy for architectural relief. At Dali for metaphysical invention. At De Chirico for the weird and gothic. At Repin for the freezing of emotions. At Depero for style and décor. At Dobell for characterization. At Tadema for compositional perfection.
Ian Thorpe may be three times faster a swimmer than his coach… So why does he need him? Does he need a nag in order to win gold? As they say “those who can’t –teach!”.
Quite a paradox. So why does a torpedo need a push?
As a painter, I still miss some of my teacher’s comments and coaching. Since they’re not around, I register the input by sundry visitors to my studio. I’m often amazed at how much they influence my work, and how the painting benefits from laymen paintings.