Tuesday, 1 September 2015

My Newest Favourite Thing: Charles Billich

When we were last in Sydney, we saw a beautiful building near the Harbour Bridge. It used to be a place for sailors to sleep; now it houses some spectacular art by Charles Billich. The canvases are crowded with images, real and imagined from the past, present and future. Cityscapes of Sydney, London, Paris, or Shanghai are vibrant and busy, juxtaposing iconic representations in a playful pastiche. As the official artist of Regatta Day, he delights in painting the Sydney waterfront, and as he is so close to it, it would seem contrary not to.

The gallery owner tells me that that the pictures don't date because they are often not real anyway. On hearing we lived in Canberra, she rushed to show us a print he had created of the capital. 

As well as cities and architecture, Billich's subjects include theatrical pursuits such as drama, ballet and orchestras, and sport - lots of sport. He was named the artist of the 1996 Olympic Games and in 2000 was the recipient of the Sport Artist of the Year Award presented annually by the American Sport Art Museum and Archives. The sports most represented in this gallery are racing, both of horses and motor cars. Billich captures the proud equine spirit brilliantly, and the paintings seem to burst to life; The World of Polo is a study of movement as realism melds into fantasy.

His Olympic portraits are stunning and often incorporate gold leaf, which shimmers from the walls and (I am assured) have no need for special gallery lighting to enhance their visual charms. Inspired by his work, The Beijing Cityscape, the official image for the successful Beijing bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games, Billich conceived a series of images based on the Bing Ma Yong Terracotta Warriors, engaged in sporting pursuits including fencing, rowing and archery.

Chinese masters also indulge in a series of games such as chess and other contests of skill in Billich's art. He also paints humanitarian pieces and works of religious significance. From landscapes to portraiture, classicism to eroticism, Billich has a wide and varied range of subject matter, to which he brings his inimitable style. The canvases are large and impressive, as are their price tags. A print of the Sochi Olympics is $200,000. At least looking is free.


Anonymous said...

Gorgeous pictures Kate, I loved the first and last. Did they do post cards?

Kate Blackhurst said...


They're fun and fabulous aren't they? No, they didn't do postcards, sadly, otherwise everyone would be getting one through the post!