One of the world’s greatest contemporary surrealist artists, Charles Billich, just happens to live in Sydney, Australia, with Croatian roots that inspire his paintings that, without exception, leave one awestruck and wonderfully delighted. Just ahead of the 30th anniversary of one of the world’s greatest surrealists, Salvador Dali, Charles Billich, unveiling his new surreal-style masterpiece “Hommage to Dali”, stepped on Friday 16 November 2018 at his art gallery (Billich Gallery, The Rocks, Sydney) into the world of hosting one of the largest Salvador Dali artworks assemblages worldwide. The Dali Universe, from Switzerland, owner of the largest collection of Salvador Dali artworks, is at this exhibition, which lasts into January 2019, showing Dali artworks with widely recognised melting clocks (from the Persistence of Memory and Nobility of Time works) along with a collection of graphic works and bronze sculptures, including some huge pieces that are displayed on George Street opposite First Fleet Park in The Rocks as they could not fit into the Billich Gallery.
On display at this exhibition are also paintings by surrealist Charles Billich. One can find his work in the Vatican, the United Nations and the White House, and he has been the official artist of many Olympics and was twice-named US sports academy artist of the year. He was the recipient the Florence Biennale in 2009, one of the world’s most prestigious art awards.
Charles and Christa Billich were perfect hosts at the opening of the Dali-Billich exhibition, that saw Andy Warhol with a glass of champagne in his hand mingle among Sydney’s glam and glitter. Andy at Billich Gallery was in fact actor Boguslaw Szpilcazak who is currently appearing as the puppet master of Pop Art, Andy Warhol in the play The Trial Of Dali.
Surrealism, the art and literature movement that has its origins in the 20th century, after World War One in particular, celebrates also its hundredth year this year! Surrealism seeks to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images. It has the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic: surreal complexities of the bureaucracy. It is often said that surrealism is dedicated to expressing the imagination as revealed in dreams, free of the conscious control of reason and convention.
Indeed, Salvador Dali was inspired by Sigmund Freud’s works who championed the psychology of the exploration of the dream and unconsciousness as a valid form of reality. Commenting about his thoughts and feelings about having the works of Salvador Dali alongside his at this art exhibition Charles Billich said:
“…It’s a new chapter in my life, we should go celebrate it, particularly me. I’m living through a dream coming through but also a challenge. I’m going to do it, I’m going to continue on the footsteps of Salvador… I don’t want to be Dali imitator; I want to be a response to the continuance of the movement of surrealism. Every now and then I come out with new images with new ideas with new concepts and I don’t really know where the impulses come from but I’m really happy with what I’m doing and instead of going into decline because of my age I seem to be improving. Miraculous! It’s unbelievable.”
As to the inspiration for his new painting “Hommage to Dali”, revealed to the world at the opening of the exhibition on 16 November 2018, Billich said:
“…well, the inspiration was Dali but the composition is mine and certain modifications of his devices are all mine, and certain inventions are all mine. For instance this is one of my contributions, one of them, a grown man driving a vehicle, holding onto the motor you know with hands and feet and knees, product of my wild imagination that is formed by the advance in technology. I want to introduce science and technology into my paintings just like Dali used to …I am interested in expanding my information, my sources.”
When asked what it feels like when people make comparisons between Dali and himself, a man who grew up in Croatia, spent time in prison in Croatia for his anti-communist Yugoslavia journalistic activism before he as a young man fled communist Croatia (Yugoslavia) and came to Australia, Billich said:
“I feel pretty good, I am very much in contact with Croatia, a lot of my surreal art in actually influenced by the history of Croatia and by Croatian interests. It’s nourishment and an expansion of my horizons, Croatia and Croatian history and Croatian national is behind some of my best work.”
To appreciate the enormous importance Charles Billich brings to the 21st Century surrealist art movement, I was proudly kept in awe by the words spoken at the exhibition’s opening by James Sanders, Project Manager at the Dali Universe, who exclaimed with evident utter conviction and pride the following:
“Surrealism is alive and well, Charles (Billich) you are a testament to a wonderful movement of the 20th Century – surrealism. Surrealism was born out of the embers of the First World War; actually we are celebrating here in Sydney 100 years of the end of that war. Surrealism is a celebration of life; of escapism and Charles you embody that. So one hundred years ago surrealism was born, it is alive and well, the first generation was through various artists like André Breton, René Magritte and of course Salvador Dali, the next generation of surrealist artists are artists like Charles Billich.”
In recapitulating the convictions impressed upon me from this Dali-Billich art exhibition, one conviction stands out and that is that the genius that Charles Billich is goes much deeper than the genius of Salvador Dali. Charles Billich is a master visualiser who blends advances in technology, so relevant to the 21st century, in the most of subtle, yet bold ways that turn the surreal into a factual reality. Billich’s works achieve the striving of 20th century surrealism movement, which to me appear as endeavours to make palpable and credibly real that which is imagined by the artist. All this in the framework of contemporary world where advances in sciences and technology coupled with artistic imagination manifest themselves as our reality or our very possible reality. While Salvador Dali surreal images and objects are often easily recognised as seen before in their “original form”, Charles Billich’s objects are often images of something new, unseen before but with interlocking subtleties in them – logical and real. That is what the effect of his juxtaposing or mixing advances in technology and sciences with known objects or experiences have. In essence, Charles Billich’s surrealism becomes something like an experienced reality; it is no longer the sub or unconscientious realism, often foreign to the artwork’s admirer, that the 20th century surrealist movement marked its wonderful existence with. With Charles Billich’s surrealism the unimagined and the seemingly unimaginable touch upon us as “familiar objects” albeit at times intriguingly unusual. Yes, surrealism is alive and well and getting even better under the paintbrush and imagination that Charles Billich presents to us on canvas.