Here, on a sunlit table, the winged cut-out shape of an open book shines forth on either side of a swelling bud-like head. Its spreading wings also form an angelic collar for the adolescent girl who is seen from behind. Her heavenly blue shift is framed by a skeletal chair back in the foreground - a structure that leaves the nape of her neck exposed. As if to underpin this softer shape are three black brushings that entwine/thread the bony verticals of the chair.
Blackman’s paintings hover between the dreamlike and the explicit of real life; they mix logic with make-believe, memory with experience, elements with shapes. For their field is the feminine psyche. The present image evokes the idea that the girl’s head is on the brink of fluttering her away into the expectant space above.
Having no books during his childhood, Blackman was deeply affected by his intensive reading during the 1950s and beyond. He read aloud to his low-visioned wife Barbara, at great length and with a certain amount of precision, including from modern French literature, with the emphasis on novels of adolescent eroticism. Books were a source of illumination and with the sharing of emotions.
Girl Reading touches back to the major painting Girl with blue bows 1954, in which the figure of an adolescent girl with a thrusting head looks away from the viewer across an empty field. But the present picture also looks forward to the cut-out maquettes of the schoolgirl ballet project commissioned by the English choreographer, Walter Gore of the Ballet Rambert Company.
We are grateful to Felicity St John Moore for preparing the above catalogue entry.