CHARLES BILLICH (Croatia, Lovran b. 1934 / act: Australia)

Charles Billich Charles Billich was born in Lovran, Croatia, on 6 September 1934, at a time when Istria was Italian and part of the Venice. At home they spoke Venetian, Italian, Croatian and German. He was a student dancer with the opera corp de ballet in Rijeka, where he went to college. He also wrote satirical articles for a local Italian-language magazine, and for doing so was sentenced to ten years imprisonment by a repressive Communist regime. It was 1952. A Slovenian Communist court dealt him ten years of political Gulag. The time he spent in prison, ignoring incidentals such as starvation, chill-bite and sadism, was very useful. He met many intellectuals who were political lifers. They had status and certain liberties and could obtain books from the outside. They delighted teaching him languages, art history and many practical skills. As Maribor jail was a vast penitentiary and contained its own theatre, he had the opportunity of learning about set design. He soon became designer in charge and there are still histrionic traces to his work there. Two years into his imprisonment he was unexpectedly released. He at once sought political asylum in Austria where he studied art in Salzburg. After he migrated to Australia in 1956 he studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the National Gallery School of Victoria, surviving with every imaginable job until he could support himself as an artist.

Today Billich has exhibited at some of the worlds best venues. He is the recipient of many prizes, including the coveted Spoleto Prize in Italy. He has been an honoured guest and resident artist on many occasions and he continues to travel the world to fulfil his numerous commissions and projects. The French made a documentary of Billich's Cityscapes. In America recently he was appointed as Sports Artist of the Year for 2000, a coveted title with a 20-year tradition, conferred by the United States Sports Academy. Two years ago he completed the series of Bleiburg paintings. Billich's exceptional spirit and talent have been forged by many dramatic personal experiences in a career spanning some forty years and have taken him to high pinnacles of artistic success, among which he counts the honour of having his work hung in the Vatican.

Charles Billich paints and draws in all media and sculpts in precious and semi-precious metals. He describes his work as surrealist. "There is a touch of irony in what I paint as there is in all surreal art." He paints from what he sees around him. Ballet and sport, architecture and town planning, eroticism and classicism, portraiture and stage, all provide the imagery of his work, and always in a way that challenges the norm. Sport and movement have always been conduits for the immensely talented Billich and much of his work is fuelled by these inspirations. As a fitting balance to this, humanitarian pieces and works of religious significance are also within the focus of the Artist. § Color, drama, compassion, humanity, the distilled elements of artist Charles Billich life and work, generate the visual impact of his internationally acclaimed achievement, Humanity United the stirring creation from a brief extended him by the Red Cross to commemorate the 2001 Centenary of the Nobel Prize for Peace. It was a brief made poignant by the deprivations suffered during a youthful incarceration as a political prisoner in Yugoslavia which ended only with the intervention of the Red Cross. The original oil can be seen in the United Nation's Great Hall in Geneva, Switzerland.

Charles Billich was honoured with the commission of Dr Jose Ramos Horta, Minister of Foreign Affairs f or East Timor , to make a painting in honour of East Timorese's greatest values of independence, determination, courage and patience. Billich again fused humanity and fine art when he exhibited at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in June 2004. Hosted by the UN Friendship Club and in another first for an Australian Artist Billich has been invited back with his Humanity United collection in September 2006.

Inspired by his work entitled The Beijing Cityscape, the official image for the successful Beijing bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games, Charles Billich has conceived a sensational series of images based on the Bing Ma Yong Terracotta Warriors. These world heritage listed historic treasures have been transposed through the art of Billich into images of the New Millennium, imbuing them with a new life and an everlasting future. The Collection of Images, portray the Bing Ma Yong Terracotta Warriors in a series of fabulous sporting compositions challenging the conventions of space and time. Fostering further his commitment to China and Beijing 2008 Billich in June 2004 completed Jubilation China's 100 Year Olympic Dream Realised - a piece depicting the triumph, joy and celebration that followed the announcement of China's victory in the quest to be the next Olympic host nation. His Olympic involvement continues having created official images for the Australian and US Teams for Athens 2004 and in this vein a symbolic cityscape painting of the 2008 Olympic Water sports venue Qing Dao has been presented to the Mayor and Beijing Olympic committee in Qing Dao in July 2005. Demonstrating that his skills have no boundaries on the playing field of sports art and in a fitting gesture Billich created The World In Union. This is the official image of Rugby World Cup 2003 and captures the essence of this great sporting event together with an artistic design that is unmistakably representative of the host nation.

Charles Billich has received the coveted 'Honorary Citizen of Atlanta' and the Key to the City during the Centennial Games; the title 'Sports Artist of the Year 2000', an Honorary Doctorate and the 'Order of the Eagle Exemplar' - three of the world's most prestigious awards from the United States Sports Academy and Sport Art Museum. In 2004 he has assumed the role of Trustee of this premier sports education facility. He has been decorated with the 'Olympic Gold Order' by the French Ministry of Sport for his contributions to the French Olympic Team during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. A master craftsman, he has exhibited at some of the world's best venues; has been an honoured guest and resident artist on many occasions and the recipient of many prizes, such as the Spoleto Prize in Italy. His editions and originals adorn boardrooms, galleries and collections across five continents.

Charles Billich dreams of a "peaceful, harmonious world, its values determined by compassion and man's inherent nobility of spirit." His work reflects that spiritual optimism and exhilarates.

[Megakles Rogakos 12/2004]