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Asher Bilu: Blue Bilu


Circle (blue) 2021. acrylic, pigment & string on stainless steel 114.00 x 114.00 Photo: Charles Nodrum Gallery


Distinguished art historian and critic, Sasha Grishin, calls on us to “stop, look and be amazed and inspired” by this intimate exhibition by Asher Bilu who he describes as a distinguished “elder” of the art-world. Driven by a desire to achieve what Bilu describes as ‘visual ecstasy’ this exhibition, developed over five years in his late eighties, delivers that and more. It is a series of eleven meditative works that explore the big philosophical preoccupations of the artist condensed by abstraction and explored through the exhilarating application of the colour blue.

 

“I want to use this language to express the beauty and the mysteries of our existence in an infinite universe of which we are only a small part. I hope my optimism and love of life will be contagious.” Asher Bilu

‘Beyond the Distant Blue’ 2024 acrylic on board 178.00 x 260.00 Photo: Charles Nodrum Gallery


In this biophiliarts.com context where ‘Art Meets Nature’ the scope and brilliance of Bilu’s works, like our First Nations people, challenge us to rethink the values that inform knowledge, experience and cultural practice. Their place of origin in cultural, spiritual and literal terms includes not only Country but also skies and waters; stories and meaning are bound up in rocks, rivers, seas, fish, trees, grass, birds and animals...


“Country soars high into the atmosphere, deep into the planet crust and far into the oceans.”  Danièle Hromek, a Saltwater woman of Budawang/Dhurga/Yuin and Burrier/Dharawal ancestry, with French and Czech heritage.

Transformation 2’ acrylic on board 183.00 x 183.00 Photo: Charles Nodrum Gallery

 

As critic Sacha Grishin suggests this exhibition is “guaranteed to challenge the senses and leave a long-lasting impression.” 'Transformation 2' has profound impact on my senses. Exquisitely finished in a technical sense it takes me into the depths of the ocean where I, for one, can’t help imagining a floating mass of Bluebottle jellyfish. Bluebottles (‘Physalia utriculus’) are siphonophores and, not actually individual animals. Each Bluebottle is a colony of four separate organisms called zooids, that need to live together to survive. (Fact File Australian Geographic)

Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler” Einstein. 2024 acrylic and pigment 250.00 x 240.00 Photo: Jo Moulton


I visited the gentle and charming Asher Bilu in his Brighton home and studio for a brief preview of the work for this exhibition. Asher steered me through gardens, rooms and corridors of walls groaning with art, sculpture, objects and references to a lifetime of collaborations. The home/studio portrays a rich story of a man fully engaged with the natural and creative world around him. His long-term collaboration with independent film-maker Paul Cox included design work on Man of Flowers, My First Wife, Cactus, Human Touch and Force of Destiny. He was co-founder with Ivan Durrant of the United Artists Gallery, an artist cooperative making art accessible to everyone and situated in the room vacated by Georges Mora's Tolarno Gallery in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda.

 

In a dark room there is a wall of the eleven copies of the original Van Gogh paintings for the film 'Vincent: The life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh' and scenes of film sets that illustrate the paintings of the bedroom and the potato eaters. “Painted as bright as they would have been when he painted them” says Asher, explaining the luminosity of the yellow paintings.

 

Asher’s hospitality and his readiness with treats and playfulness with my unpredictable puppy, Cosi, was a delight to witness. He has all the spark, energy and poise of a man at the top of his game, an artist who has truly achieved his ambition to create ‘visual ecstasy’. The man/artist obsessed with sharing the joy of creativity and life was thoroughly contagious in person and in focusing us on the colour blue.

Blue Eclipse 2019 resin, pigments & felt on board, 183.00 x 183.00

 

If you miss the opportunity to view this exhibition at the Charles Nodrum Gallery there will be a major retrospective exhibition of Asher Bilu’s works between 1954 and 1979 shown at the Bayside Gallery, Corner Wilson and Carpenter Streets, Brighton VIC, August 31 – October 20, 2024. I urge you to enter it into your diaries.

 

Text:  Josephine (Jo) Moulton

 

References

 

Exhibition: ‘Asher Bilu: Blue Bilu' Charles Nodrum Gallery, 267 Church Street, Richmond: May 25 - July 13, 2024, Tues - Sat 11am -5pm


Link to Kate Nodrom’s Introduction to the catalogue.


Distinguished art historian, art critic and Emeritus Professor at the ANU, Sasha Grishin AM, FAHA. Sacha’s blog is a must read to guide you into this ‘Blue Bilu’ collection of works that are intellectually challenging, masterful and uplifting.


Australian Geographic fact file ‘Bluebottle’ (Physalia utriculus)


Danièle Hromek, a Saltwater woman of Budawang/Dhurga/Yuin and Burrier/Dharawal ancestry, with French and Czech heritage.

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