Time Out Sydney

Australia's artistically-minded singer-songwriter sees herself reflected in Bacon's provocative paints

Time is running out to get to the Art Gallery of NSW and take in its electrifying survey of the work of painter Francis Bacon, with the exhibition set to wrap up on Feb 24.

The Gallery’s special Art After Hours Bacon programme is also drawing to a close: free entertainment on Wed Jan 30 includes a musical performance by jazz vocalist Emma Pask and a talk by journalist David Marr on the connections between Francis Bacon and Patrick White; Wed Feb 6 will see the Creedence-inspired stylings of Zoe and the Buttercups and talks by artist Julie Rrap and Barbara Dawson, director of Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane.
Also performing on Wed Feb 6 is acclaimed singer-songwriter Bertie Blackman. Coming from a family of painters – her father personally knew Bacon – Blackman is an appreciator of art and the work of Bacon specifically. Indeed, her 2012 album, Pope Innocent X, was named for Bacon’s shocking ‘Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X’.
Time Out flung a couple of Bacon-related questions in Blackman’s direction.
Bertie, could you tell us what the work of Francis Bacon means to you?
That’s a multi-layered question with multi-layered answers!
Being from a family of painters, I was surrounded by all kinds of visual art growing up and encouraged to form my own opinion on what I liked and didn't like. It wasn't forced upon us… like, ‘You must love and worship Francis or you are not worthy of being a Blackman!’
Both my mother and father have always been admirers of Bacon’s work. But I came to rediscover him as an adult on my own. I love his study works… the study of his self-portraits, the study of ‘Heads’… to see his process as part of a formal collection is intriguing to me.
What do you see in those paintings?
It’s difficult to describe in words what I see in his art… but in some ways I see a reflection of myself. A canvas mirror to connect to. Teetering between real and unreal.

Does any aspect of your songwriting reflect a painterly approach?

Yes definitely. From the way my pencils sound when they scratch paper as I’m writing the lyrics to the full worlds that I create in my head. I can vividly see the worlds when I sing them. And it has been so exiting and surprising to now express what only I could previously see now into illustrations. I wish I had the guts to say I write music like Francis Bacon paints! But I would say that I’m an artist.


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Updated on 24 Jan 2013.

By Darryn King   |  

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