Art Preview: Naked people! No seriously, naked people!

By Stephanie Shewchuk

Imagine a utopia. A place so perfect people never go hungry, always have a safe place to call home and are protected by an honest government. In this place, artistic ideas flow openly and citizens are free to write, watch and listen to whatever they please. Sound something like Narnia? Even after serving two years of a 10-year prison sentence administered by a repressive Communist regime in his native Croatia, artist Dr. Charles Billich, who will be in Calgary painting live nude models Thu., Nov. 10, continues to believe the world is close to approaching this vision.

“I think we come pretty close to living in a utopia,” he says. “No one goes hungry here, there are certainly aberrations, but there is so much up to the individual. Maybe a utopia will always be elusive but I think we have come so far already.”

His experience led him to extend his view to places many in the Western world typically view as cruel or heavy-handed. As one of the official artists of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he has been able to visit a country which can be restrictive in its access to foreigners.

“I’m really intrigued by Chinese culture,” he explains. “They are adapting themselves to circumstances their way and in another 10-15 years, we may witness a model state. I’m a confessed anti-communist because I don’t believe in their idiotic doctrines. China is far from becoming a democracy in the classical sense, but they are introducing a democracy of their own making.”

In addition to taking on an ambitious series of paintings and Chinese cityscapes commissioned by the Olympic committee, Billich is visiting Calgary for the first time. Having seen a similar performance of Billich’s in Brisbane, Australia, Artists of the World President Christopher Talbot sought to bring the event to Calgary.

“I left the casting to Talbot and I’ve met just one of the models,” Billich says. “They are the decisive factor, an artist has to be inspired by them and sometimes it’s a challenge. This life drawing is the basis of all art and I’m extending my workshop to the public. Every artist enjoys his privacy and it’s hard to do.”

Surprisingly, the availability of nude models in Calgary’s cowboy cultural climate wasn’t a hurdle in bringing Billich to the city. Instead his contemporaries warned him to take the show elsewhere.

“There were lots of detractors, some that called Calgary the backwater of Canada, asking me, ‘Why do you want to go there?’” he states. “So far I’m really infatuated, I’ve got the Canadian virus already.”

Billich will also be staying for a few days after the event to see as much of the city as possible. The home of the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’ will soon be immortalized with other prominent cities like Moscow, Paris, and Sydney in his cityscapes collection.

Skylines, nude models and all, Billich brings a wealth of experience and talent in a unique form seldom seen in our city.

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