GODWIN BRADBEER: Delinquent Sublime – early and recent work

The Lodger Revisited, Chinagraph silveroxide and pastel on paper, 197 x 126.5cm

Senior artist Godwin Bradbeer gives an interesting insight into the development of The Lodger Revisited a key work in his exploration and deconstruction of portraits that span a 40 year career.


‘In September of 2014 I found myself yet again drawing a figure of a man in a state of fall, or in this unfolding, a state of sprawl. Descending or ascending, in abandon or in anguish, intellectual or emotional, this subject had for me a primal aspect.

In isolation on the outskirts of a Victorian country town 42 years previously I had fallen from a tree and broken my neck. The trauma remained an artistic default position in my imagination.

Like Adam, like Icarus, like Humpty Dumpty.

In the studio last year I sprawled my man somewhat akimbo across the paper like a collapsed marionette and realized I was choreographing him in the ridiculous posture of David Bowie on the gatefold cover of his ‘Lodger’* album of 1979. Such a convergence, appropriation or plagiarism would usually defuse my sense of conviction and purpose, but I continued into my folly.

In my drawing there has been a recent innovation, both a modesty and a liberation. I allow my figures now, occasionally, to retain some garments, usually a dishevelled suit, the trousers and jacket, barefooted like Paul McCartney on the Abbey Road pedestrian crossing.

Four o’clock in the afternoon and I stand on tip toes on two milk crates reaching high to adjust the clips suspending my rolled length of Fabriano, clipped to a two metre panel of MDF, behind which is a second large drawing clipped to another large panel of heavy particle board. Thankyou Bunnings, where, it must be said, lowest prices are just the beginning.

Was I wishing this incident? Or was I another older man falling from his ladder in an attempt to prove himself useful in his twilight years?

Both drawings and both boards fell forward and knocked me backwards to the floor from my makeshift podium in the cluttered studio.

In the crazy moment I was falling and fallen pressed against a full sized drawing of a startled and bewildered falling man.

In the ludicrous aftermath I was both a failure at tragedy and a cartoon of stupidity. A man flattened beneath sandwich boards, boards that may as well have declared ‘The End is Nigh’.

I stayed for perhaps a minute assessing my condition, indeed, assessing my reality. My reality revisited, when I was then, a lodger in Wedderburn.

I eventually pushed the burden forward and upward, cautious not to damage the drawing, the fingers of my left hand leaving their imprint into the pinstriped thigh.

I have not worked on the drawing since.’

(Godwin Bradbeer, July 2015)

*Interestingly Bowie references his own visual sources within the ‘Lodger’ record sleeve amongst which are; Mantegnas ‘Dead Christ’ and Che Gueveras corpse. I would suspect Egon Schiele’s blitzed self portraits also played their part.

Where:  James Makin Gallery, Melbourne

When:    11 – 29 August, 2015


Editor: Jessica VelasquezEditor: Jessica Velasquez