Many of Australia’s greatest artists have produced erotic and even ‘pornographic’ art works. A good example is a recent acquisition by the National Museum of Erotica called Bananaland by Charles Blackman.
Charles Blackman is regarded as one of the major Australian artists of the post war period. Some of his most highly praised themes are strictly taboo in adult industry circles and include his ‘Schoolgirl’ and ‘Alice’ series.
Blackman won an Archibald in 1966 and was one of the leading lights in the push to get rid of the beastly ‘abstract impressionism’ that hung around Australian art like a bad fart for decades.
Bananaland is a slap in the face for social conservatives who claim that all ‘pornography’ is humourless, bland and devoid of artistic merit. This painting is ‘positively’ pornographic as well as being exuberant, lush, sensual and funny. It celebrates lust and desire as something good and natural. The sun is shining, the sands are glowing and the water is beautifully blue. ‘Just another day in paradise’, as Phil Collins would have seen it. And hanging from the heavens is a multi-coloured, psychedelic-looking bunch of bananas. Heavy and ripe, they’re all falling off into the ocean. So what’s a young girl strolling on the beach supposed to do? Well… devour them of course, in as many ways as she can!
Unlike the troubled and shameful imagery of the apple tree in the Christian tradition, Blackman is telling us he doesn’t believe that all fruit is equal. So he creates his own Garden of Eden somewhere on a beach in the South Pacific and instead of eating the forbidden fruit, Blackman’s ‘Eve’ just sticks it up her arse!
Robbie Swan: Director, National Museum of Erotica, Fyshwick, Canberra.