This Valentine’s Day weekend, Sydney art enthusiasts have the opportunity to delight in a brand new collection of ink and watercolour drawings by Christabel Blackman. As a lover of art forms that require skill and continuing professional development, I was thrilled to have a sneak peek at this upcoming exhibition at the Trevor Victor Harvey Gallery in Mosman.
The gallery’s intimate, yet brightly lit setting provides the perfect platform for Christabel’s series of nudes, entitled “Will You Be My Valentine.” The shapes are just revealing enough while being unpretentious and genuine. It is intimacy in a domestic setting. Of course, the appeal of the nude is timeless: artists have embraced this theme for centuries. But Christabel’s work speaks to a contemporary audience with a taste for classical form. Her work relishes in the narrative, and the beauty of the human form drawn in a single black line becomes about truth, definition and decisiveness.
It is the honesty of these works that strikes me. The classic shapes emerge effortlessly on the white paper, each line deliberate and unforgiving. Yet, the artist makes it look so easy! The crown jewel of this collection shares the title with the exhibition. This nude sinks slowly into the blankets, with her legs propped up on plump pillows. Her hair cascades over the cushions, with its curls blending into their pattern. Is she a French muse? Or the answer to Titian’s Venus? I am still thinking about the red rose she barely clasps in her hand, with its redness made more provocative as the only colour in the entire collection…
The nakedness of the drawing medium and the brutal honesty of each line leave no room for error and much to the imagination. The narrative and the symbolic qualities are conveyed through an immediate form of expression, ‘wrapping a line around a dream.’ This revealing medium also allows us to learn something about the artist herself:
I like the discipline of a single line because you have to give it your best, and accept its outcome.
Drawing has been a part of Christabel’s life since childhood. Her practice is to draw from live models, looking for honesty and openness in her compositions without overt sexuality. The result is subtlety, inquisitiveness, curiosity, combined with calamity and acceptance.
With such a heavy trend in the 21st century towards installation art and digital art, I find it reassuring to find the more traditional craft-based methods still strongly represented through commercial galleries. The honesty and discipline of skill-based art forms have the ability to connect us to the past without taking away from the contemporary present.
The exhibition will run over the Valentine’s Day weekend (13th-14th February), and art collectors will have the opportunity to purchase their favourite drawing at the TVH Gallery.