Brush with death leads to artistic career
Guyra-born Nudge Blacklock began his career as an artist by accident. Literally.
While driving a garbage truck in Penrith in 2001, Nudge swerved to avoid a head-on collision, ran off the road and slammed into a power pole.
Trapped inside the cabin, with both doors jammed shut, the driver of the other vehicle came to his aid.
“With the other driver’s help, I dived out the window, narrowly missing the wires that were dangling
down from the power pole,” Nudge said.
After the accident, Nudge asked his doctor for sleeping pills to help overcome recurring nightmares, but was told they were addictive, so Nudge turned to alcohol, “which only made things worse”.
Art becomes the best healer
The following year Nudge picked up a paintbrush, starting out with landscapes, then turned his talents to painting didgeridoos and boomerangs.
With his grandmother’s Biripi blood and grandfather’s Ngarabal heritage, art became the best healer ever.
Although the Blacklock name features prominently in professional football circles, there’s a strong artistic streak running through the family. Nudge’s brother Ray painted before he became ill, and his mother’s two brothers were also gifted with the brush.
He took a short break from painting, and in 2007 someone asked if he was interested in having some of his work displayed in Paris. No need to ask that question twice – and Nudge picked that paintbrush up again and has rarely put it down since.
Creativity runs in the family
“I thought it would be good to do some paintings with my son, Stevie-Ray Blacklock, who was working as an apprentice chef at the Mirana Mirage on the Gold Coast,” Nudge said.Â “He does the old, traditional style of paintings, while I do the more modern contemporary type, and thought if we could put our artwork together, that would be something different.”
About this time, Nudge was visiting a friend on the Gold Coast and arranged to meet that friend at the Australian Outback Gallery at Runaway Bay.
“My friend didn’t turn up, but the gallery owner, Michael Micallef, came over and asked me who I was and what I did,” he said. “I looked at all the beautiful artwork there and told him I did Aboriginal art, but nothing like he had.”
“He asked to see some of my work and I showed him on my computer. At the time I was intending to go back to Sydney, so he offered to fly me back to do some paintings for him.”
“In the end, I never left the Gold Coast, and my Dad kept ringing and asking when I was coming home. I told him I’d come back after I entered this competition.”
First competition a winner
Nudge entered the competition and won the $3000 first prize, so he was in no hurry to return to Sydney since painting had become such a lucrative and enjoyable part of his life.
Then a third member of the Blacklock family took up painting – Nudge’s then 74-year-old father, Alex, who had only ever previously painted houses.
“Michael got Dad painting, too, and sold some of his works overseas, along with quite a few of mine,” Nudge said.
Since his initial competition success, Nudge has won numerous accolades for his paintings.
He was invited to do etching prints for the College of Fine Arts and was shortlisted in the Telstra Indigenous Art Awards 2012. From 2008 to 2013 his works have featured in the Parliament HouseÂ Indigenous Art Awards.
He called in to the Rainforest Gallery at Dorrigo offering to hang some of his works and sold 44 paintings there in a month.
Three generations exhibition a first for family and gallery
A career highlight was the three generations exhibition he and his son and father featured in at the Tweed River Art Gallery – a firstÂ for the gallery and a huge moment for the Blacklock family.
Nudge’s daughter, Natalie Cunningham, is also extremely gifted, having her own swimwear and clothing company, Emu Designs, on the Sunshine Coast.
Now based in Glen Innes, Nudge said he tried his hand at drawing in school back in the 1960s, but was Ã¬hopelessÃ®.
“I started on my artistic journey by accident, so you really do need to just have a go and see where it takes you,” Nudge said.
“Nothing’s impossible – and you never know until you try.”
So … who is Nudge Blacklock?
Born April 23, 1958, he was christened Graham, but is rarely called that these days. He earned the nickname of Nudge very early in his life. He didn’t speak until he was three years old so in order to attract people’s attention, he would walk around and nudge them.
His father Alex said Nudge has more than made up for the silence in his early years and can now happily talk the legs off a table!
The family didn’t stay in Guyra and moved to the western suburbs of Sydney.
Inspired by country
Nudge gets inspiration for his paintings from both his mother and his father’s countries, the Biripi people from Port Macquarie in northern NSW and the Ngarabal people from Glen Innes and Tingha.
His works have been shown in individual and group exhibitions both in Australia and overseas. He launched his first works in an exhibition in Paris in late 2007.
On his winning way
Nudge won first prize at the 7th Annual National Parks and Wildlife Service Aboriginal Art Award in Murwillumbah, held at the Tweed River Art Gallery, in September 2008.
He said this prize inspired him to continue painting and keep improving his work.
Since then he has sold many paintings, both nationally and to overseas art lovers.
Nudge is part of the new generation of Australian Indigenous painters who developed their art as a personal reaction to their country, history and culture.
Where tradition and innovation meet
He has modified aspects of his tradition for a more individual expression while constantly proving his ability to innovate.
Nudge’s work is completely revolutionary and unique. His style shows diversity and sophistication.
Nudge’s work bridges traditional Aboriginal art and culture with contemporary art through modern natural and environmental issues.
Nudge’s Aboriginal culture exists in oral form, where for thousands of years tribe members have been learning and passing on knowledge from the Dreamtime or the Time of Creation.
Symbolism is predominant in Aboriginal culture and Nudge portrays symbolism through his work in a natural connection between his subject matter and the aspects of his Aboriginal culture.
Still waters run deep
Nudge is considered a quiet achiever, having been selected to represent Australia as a feature artist in the most prestigious International River Project with Campbelltown Arts Centre.
Nudge’s deep, thoughtful, highly sensitive and charismatic demeanour is revealed through his work and is influenced by his environment. His work is a reflection of this.
Nudge has been deeply influenced by the love he has for the water that surrounds us and his great respect for water is so important that it is a dominant theme in his work, because “without water there is no life”.
Exploring earth, wind, fire and more in his works
His grandmother’s country was along the sea with the many shades of blue and the white reflection from the sun to give it a unique appearance. He strives to create movement and impression in his most popular collections, The River Series and The Water Series.
Nudge hopes that the water themes he paints can help raise an awareness of the significance that water has in our lives and unite people from all parts of the world by breaking down what was once considered tribal boundaries from the river systems of the past and bring respect, hope and equality to all nations in the future.
Nudge’s other themes include The Earth Series, The Fire Series, The Wind Series, The Creation, The Body Paint, The Honey Ant, The Shield, The Coral, and Bush Tucker Dreaming.