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B A S I L B E AT T I E TAKING STEPS

LARGE WORKS 1986 - 2009


B A S I L B E AT T I E TAKING STEPS

LARGE WORKS 1986 - 2009

Published by Catalogue Curated by

ARTNEWS CONTEMPORARY ART

Victor De Circasia

Publishers acknowledgements We would like to thank the folIowing authors and institutions for their kind permission to reprint texts and images: Texts Copyright © 2011 Emma Hill, Paul Moorhouse, Adrian Searle, Nick de Ville, Sarah Wedderburn Images Copyright © 2011 Basil Beattie Works reproduced from the folIowing installations / collections Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Cumbria; Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham; Arts Council England; Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery; Castlefield Gallery, Manchester; Curwen Gallery, London; Eagle Gallery, London; Government Art Collection, London; Maak Gallery, London; Northem Centre for Contemporary Art, Sunderland; Palace of Justice, Milan; Purdy Hicks Gallery, London; Royal Academy Collection, London; Sadler’s WelIs, London; Swindon Museum and Art Gallery;TATE London; Todd Gallery, London; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Photography credits: Peter Abrahams, Victor De Circasia, Jerry Hardman-Jones, Flavio Gallozzi, Colin MilIs, Anthony Stokes, Peter White (FXP). Artist’s Acknowledgements Many thanks to Catriona Colledge; Cathy Courtney; Mel Gooding; Rebecca Hicks; Vincent Jackson; Peter and Maria KelIner; Nicola Shane, Anthony Stokes, Jenny Todd, Angela e Giancarlo Zampollo. Copyright © 2011 ARTNEWS CONTEMPORARY All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publishers, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. Printed on acid-free paper. Composed by the ARTNEWS Publishing Services Litho Art New - Turin Printed in Italy - 2011 cover: (detail) Black Watcher 1993 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 274 cm. Private Collection ISBN 978-88-88932-11-8 All works are in the collection of the artist unless otherwise stated.

ARTNEWS CONTEMPORARY ART


This book is dedicated to my dear Gerda and to my three daughters Anna, Jane and Bella


This book exists because of the generousity and unstinted efforts of Victor De Circasia and Emma Hill


BASIL BEATTIE CONTENTS

LARGE WORKS 1986 - 2009

ILLUMINATED INTERIOR

[9]

PAUL MOORHOUSE

THRESHOLD. YIELDING DOOR. SMALLNESS STIRS

[24]

EMMA HILL

BASIL BEATTIE PAINTINGS 1990 - 1993

[29]

ADRIAN SEARLE

ANGEL ROW 1996 - 1998

[55]

BEYOND ABSTRACTION THE ART OF BASIL BEATTIE

[57]

NEW YORK BROOKLYN SERIES 1999

[77]

STACKS AND STEPS BASIL BEATTIE IN CONVERSATION WITH SARAH WEDDERBURN

[85]

ABOVE AND BELOW 2002

[94]

MATERIALITY, UR-ARCHITECTURE AND THE VISTA

[101]

THE JANUS SERIES 2007 - 2009

[113]

THE JANUS SERIES

[117]

NICK DE VILLE

BASIL BEATTIE

[142]

BIOGRAPHY

PAUL MOORHOUSE

NICK DE VILLE


6


BASIL BEATTIE: ILLUMINATED INTERIOR PAUL MOORHOUSE

The possibility of metaphor springs from the elasticity of the human mind; it testifies to its capacity to perceive and assimilate new experiences as modifications of earlier ones, of finding equivalences in the most disparate of phenomena and of substituting one for another. Without this constant process of substitution neither language nor art, nor indeed civilised life would be possible. (Ernst Gombrich, Visual Metaphors of Value in Art.1)

W

e do not live passively. From the earliest moments of cognition, the individual strives to understand the world. The infant responds to light. Soon, he or she returns the gaze of others.With growing movements, the child begins to explore, reaching towards unfamiliar things. One by one, each object must be touched, tested for pain or pleasure, and the resulting memory then added to a store of fermenting experience. Later, as reason illuminates a developing sense of the self, a person begins to take shape and to assume identity. The mission embarked upon at that time is, perhaps, one that never entirely ends. Relying on sensory impressions, a human being must each day locate their personal experiences within a universe whose nature and purpose remain forever unknowable and, at times, seemingly absurd. The prospect is both bewildering in its enormity and complexity and, yet, inescapably rooted in the subjective, the particular and the fleeting. An accretion of private perceptions describes an existence. A horizon beckons and we move, inexorably, towards it. Among contemporary artists, Basil Beattie’s work occupies a position rendered distinctive by its willingness to engage with this personal and universal condition. At some level, all art holds up aspects of experience for scrutiny and, in so doing, attempts to make sense of life. The range and quality of responses is as manifold and as variable as its infinitely complex theme. But within that plethora of activity, Beattie’s art stands out as a quiet but compelling voice within a 7


crowded market place. Seemingly wary of the authoritative gesture or emphatic statement, his paintings speak in other ways. They reach inwards, articulating uncertainty and fallibility, the difficulty of knowing and the need to know. Reluctant to declare, instead they probe, question and expose the disturbing ambiguity of things. In a world of material values, reliant on the predictable and the dependable, they are a reminder that such reassurances are illusory and that the confidence of knowledge remains a mutable ideal. A painting such as Trace, which Beattie made in 1996, intimates some of the uncomfortable truths entailed by this qualified view. Raw in execution, asymmetrical in arrangement and precarious in significance: the painting refuses to ingratiate. The allure of familiar aesthetic considerations has been discounted and there are no superficial sweeteners. Rather, the painting comprises a simple yet striking juxtaposition of different zones of activity. A horizontal area of unpainted canvas at bottom left abuts with a vertical passage of thickly applied black paint. Framed by these compartments, a textured rectangle of superimposed white pigment provides a focus of visual activity, movement and energy. As if incised into the paint, linear scars yield a record - or trace - of the artist’s hand as it moved across the surface, exposing the black paint beneath. Relatively simple to describe, the painting exists as a physical fact, the evidence of an accumulation of events that occurred in the isolation of the studio. But beyond its material appearance, Trace lingers in the imagination, its enigmatic significance murmuring like the disturbing whisper of some unpalatable secret. Its scratched lines not only traverse the surface of the painting. They also intimate an elusive implied meaning – evidence, perhaps, of the attempt to penetrate a veneer. Trace manifests a central characteristic of Beattie’s art, one arising from a vital fusion of his paintings’ assertive material presence and their evasive suggestiveness. Tellingly, this marriage of form and significance is realised not by reference to recognisable things but, instead, through a personal language of abstract shape and mark. In terms of its enveloping scale and avoidance of literal depictive means, Beattie’s early work may be traced to the impression made by 8

his seeing the exhibition The New American Painting held at the Tate Gallery in 1959. At that point Beattie was a student at the Royal Academy Schools, London, absorbing a traditional art school training and painting figuratively. As a consequence of seeing the Americans’ radical innovations, Beattie transferred his allegiance to a visual syntax of abstract form and painterly gesture. Indeed, so persuasive was the American painters’ example that the subsequent development of his art proceeded in that expansive vein. Beattie himself recognises that as late as the 1970s, there was ‘little distance’2 between his work and that of the earlier generation. However, while Trace retains an adherence to abstract form and mark-making, such later paintings are far-removed from the sensibility of such earlier artists as Rothko, Pollock, Newman or Kline. Those older artists define a triumphant chapter in the history of post-war modern art. Beattie, on the other hand, seems to inhabit another world. How is this difference to be understood? That question is posed by this book and the paintings reproduced within its pages, which cover the period from 1986 to the present, contain an intimation of the answers. Complemented by texts written by various commentators to accompany significant exhibitions of Beattie’s work, the story that emerges describes an artist who, from the mid-1980s, re-evaluated his work and reinvented his terms of reference. As the result of that redefined trajectory, Beattie may be seen today as a painter whose work has attained an entirely distinctive character: immune to the stylistic preoccupations of the present moment, but inseparable from the continuing relevance of painting as a contemporary art form. The turning point in Beattie’s artistic progress, which forms the beginning of the narrative that follows, was the artist’s remarkable exhibition held at the Curwen Gallery, London in 1987. Invited to exhibit there, the artist was wary of the relatively confined, well-like space. He responded by measuring this contained area and by making paintings that were not only tailored to its proportions but, in effect, made a virtue out of the constraints presented. The three paintings he showed, Threshold, Yielding Door I and Smallness Stirs, all made in 1987, occupied almost the entire wall space. To


stand within the area they defined was to be absorbed within an immersive visual experience formed by tactile, restless imagery. Each painting took the form of a cellular grid-like arrangement. Within that template, and working directly on the canvas, the artist improvised a bombardment of rapidly formed marks and shapes which occasionally coalesced into strange and sometimes familiar-looking images. In Threshold for example, a ladder and, elsewhere, a pair of towers can be discerned, both being motifs that would make frequent appearances in later works. The surface of each painting seems animated, giving rise to an impression of instability and endless, flickering energy. Collectively, the installation was deliberately calculated to provoke claustrophobia, the welter of images appearing overwhelming. A possible source of these developments was a personal experience, in itself unremarkable. The artist has related how, while travelling on a train through Holland one night, he observed the illuminated interiors of certain buildings, as if framed by their large windows. The succession of glimpses afforded on that occasion appears to have made an impression. Sensed obliquely and fleetingly, such cryptic images seemed replete with enigmatic significance. In particular, they signalled the rich, suggestive potential of unfamiliar visual situations grasped momentarily and incompletely. In another way, the paintings may also be seen as a response to an all too human predicament: the difficulty of choosing. In an image-saturated contemporary world how can any single motif be definitive? From a vast range of possible images, why prefer one to another? The ‘smallness’ that ‘stirs’ in the title of one of the paintings shown in the Curwen exhibition refers not only to the scale of the multiple, individual forms that, collectively, comprise each large canvas. The sense of diminution also suggests an ego – but one tempered by the acceptance of doubt. From the early 1990s, the grid-like format of the works exhibited at Curwen Gallery gave way to a ziggurat-like motif. This is the defining characteristic of the Witness series of paintings that he commenced in 1990. Echoing the earlier cellular arrangement, the first of these works, Present Bound 1990, invested an abstract structure with qualities that seem

more personal, almost anthropomorphic. Subtracting cellshapes from the all-over treatment of the surface, Beattie produced an image that, by virtue of its isolated situation, suggests a figure. This tesselated form recurs throughout the series. In each painting its position, disposition and situation are different, like a protagonist in a range of scenes and guises. In Present Bound the stark contrast between the sensuous, painted area and the raw canvas suggests an exposed, almost naked, presence. Subsequently, the same motif invited a range of physiognomic interpretations: respectively appearing upright, totemic, slouched, weary, vulnerable and anxious. With these successive manifestations, there is the sense of the artist inhabiting and exploring a range of different bodily states, each expressively distinct. The way that Beattie invests each abstract image with values that seem both human and vulnerable is the product of a compelling artistic sensibility. Assertive yet questioning, Beattie’s art evokes caution and uncertainty in a contemporary world that has grown wary of intellectual, moral and artistic authority. Supplanting those certainties, it asks: ‘What am I?’ At the heart of Beattie’s work there is an ever-present sense of going within, entering unfamiliar spaces and encountering ambiguous presences. The process of creating his paintings seems to involve a constant negotiation between the will to understand and the recognition that nothing can be known absolutely. In the imaginative spaces he creates, there is a sense of displacement. An ambiguous hinterland is articulated by disconnected forms. From these amorphous shapes, different elements begin to acquire recognisable characteristics. Some parts are reminiscent of doorways and windows. Elsewhere, there are ladders, towers and, later, arches, steps, barrelvaulted tunnels, horizons and perspective lines leading to a distant horizon. All come and go, interact, fall away. The world thus created is revealed as a strange and precarious place, dimly illuminated, elusive, leading nowhere. At the same time it is clear that none of this is the recognisable world that we know, or think we know. No decipherable narrative is offered. The fragmented perspectives are a jumble. The steps are poised in space. Rather, the quiet 9


dramas enacted in Beattie’s paintings represent not so much the literal space of the physical world as, instead, a private domain of invented images. The landscape they explore is internalised. In this respect, the motifs offered are a bridge to subjective experience, to psychological states and feelings that are no less intimately connected with the experience of being alive. Such motifs, and the relations between them, are charged metaphorically.To engage with them is to experience them expressively and in the imagination. They evoke and embody states of being that cannot be named, yet they seem weighted with immediate significance. The source of this vocabulary of forms was an extraordinary four-month outpouring of drawings made in 1991. From almost seven hundred works on paper made spontaneously, over three hundred were exhibited as a single installation at Eagle Gallery, London in the same year. As with the preceding Curwen exhibition, the sense of internalisation was intense, as if the viewer was occupying a contained world of pure representation. That event, and the images generated at that time, have sustained the development of Beattie’s work ever since. Exhibitions during the 1990s included those held at the Maak Gallery, London, the Todd Gallery, London and Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham. They revealed an artist in full flow, at once creator, explorer and protagonist within a personal pictorial drama. At its centre, there is the abiding presence of metaphor, luring the viewer into the situation of suggestive substitution, as each image unlocks another apparently unconnected object of thought. This ascent – or descent – through a landscape of implication found startling expression in the installation mounted by Beattie at Sadler’s Well Theatre, London in 2002. A long, stepped line of framed drawings was arranged so that it passed between the floors of the building itself. Using the connecting stairs, the viewer followed the images as the result of physical movement through actual space. It provided a moment when imagination and architecture seemed intimately connected. Paintings from Beattie’s most recent sequence of works, the Janus series, were shown at the Two Rooms Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand in 2009 and, subsequently, at Purdy Hicks Gallery, London. The defining characteristic of these 10

enigmatic works is a rounded, crescent-like form, almost like an arcade. Usually three of these shapes are stacked one above the other in a vertical formation. Also implying windows or perhaps a car’s rear-view window, frequently they contain a horizon-like shape to which the eye is drawn by deeply recessive perspective lines leading to a vanishing point. In a number of these paintings, the lines resemble train tracks. In many, the landscape is consumed by an oppressive, brooding darkness that seems less physical than psychological.The night they evoke is not so much temporal as expressive. Similarly, the horizon seems only tangentially connected with place. A horizon brings to mind a plethora of associations, being both a destination and a prospect. Connected with both is the question of what lies beyond.With an insistently repeated horizon, these are paintings that, perhaps more than any of Beattie’s earlier works, lead the viewer not only towards the ineffable but to the unknown.

(Endnotes) 1 In Ernst Gombrich, Meditations on a Hobby Horse and other essays on the theory of art, Phaidon, London,1963, Fourth edition 1985, p14 2 The artist in conversation with the author, 11 March 2011


1986 - 1991

11


Legend 1986 oil on canvas 259 x 366 cm

12


Threshold 1986 oil on canvas 259 x 305 cm. Private Collection

13


Yielding Door I 1986-87 oil on canvas 264 x 346 cm

14


Smallness Stirs 1987 oil on canvas 264 x 366 cm

15


Pathfinder 1989 oil on wax on canvas 259 x 366 cm.

16


17


18


Curwen Gallery London 1987 – left to right – Yielding Door I, Threshold, Smallness Stirs

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Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Sunderland 1988 – left to right – Legend, Zenith

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THRESHOLD.YIELDING DOOR. SMALLNESS STIRS. EMMA HILL

“A nigh perfect building, the Pantheon, allows the sun in its declination to pass an ellipse of light through the oculus … thereby describing an arc about the inside of the dome. This arc illumines and is changed by the local detail: the coffering and architraves from which the gods have fled.” 1

I

n 1987 Basil Beattie exhibited three large paintings in a solo exhibition at the Curwen Gallery, London. Before beginning the work he had measured a downstairs space and sized his stretchers to the maximum dimensions that could sit on the walls, a few inches clear of the floor. The canvases were the same height and when installed read as a kind of wrap-around frieze. Acutely sensitive to architectural parameters and how they affect the readings of paintings, it seemed a deliberate move on Beattie’s part to fill the room with a mass of painted hieroglyphs. The installation was urgent and claustrophobic, holding the viewer within an internalised, almost hermetic, space. The paintings bombarded the eye with sensation, erupting, as the artist Marcus Harvey would later describe ‘into skirmishes and boundary disputes’2 between gestures, layers, densities, textures, drips, erosions and absences of paint. Loosely suggested grids held ‘units’ of the surface, each of which was filled with different kinds of marks and signs. Calligraphic sweeps of paint suggested language characters. Simple pictograms read as ladders, towers or arches. Earthy colours coalesced at moments to suggest a primitive lexicon of pictorial imagery, both architectural and organic. 22


The wealth of variety encouraged the eye back and forth across the surface of the works yet an overall reading was every so often interrupted by drawn elements that suggested recessional space. Beattie had given the room a metaphorical dimension – the viewer stood surrounded by an array of choices - a revelation of the dexterity and eloquence of mark making, in which a few strokes of paint could prompt complex emotional responses. It felt as if one might be standing inside the head of the artist, glimpsing the fluctuating, ever-moving, re-focussing of thoughts. Four years later in 1991 Beattie developed his ideas further in Drawing on the Interior – a large-scale installation conceived for the Eagle Gallery, for one of its inaugural exhibitions. For an intense four month period he worked on a sequence of nearly 700 works, made in Chinese ink on soft printing paper. Each was dated, with a view to hanging them chronologically as a vast visual diary. Once in the space, however, it became apparent that the relationships between the individual works produced their own kind of rhythms. 376 of the drawings were selected to completely fill the walls and were hung visually to encourage readings that went horizontally, vertically and diagonally. Reduced to the barest essentials, the weight of black mark on thick creamy paper gave the installation an almost diagrammatic quality. Falling towers, ziggurats, steps, ladders, doorways, stacked blocks, thresholds – the simple forms carried inevitable figurative associations. The work announced a final departure from a long held allegiance to the philosophies and practice of Abstract Expressionism from which Beattie came. Stripped of the seductiveness of paint – the images clearly spilled into the territory of semiotic language. They provided afterwards the components from which Beattie would produce the most forceful and successful paintings he has made, yet they hovered, subtle and individual – allowing no certainties of interpretation.

Ah, the tall towers! the ziggurats of certainty! leaning toppling derelictions diminishings desolations 3

1. Ken Campbell : Pantheon 2. Marcus Harvey: Turps Banana issue 8 3. Mel Gooding: Blocks 1991 (Eagle Gallery/ EMH Arts) 23


Drawing on the Interior 1991 Eagle Gallery London Installation [Three hundred and seventy six drawings]

24


25


Maak Gallery London 1993 Installation – left to right – Imagine If, Present Bound, Witness IV, Witness V

26


PAINTINGS 1990 -1993 ADRIAN SEARLE

T

o stand and look at Basil Beattie’s paintings is an experience like the act of painting itself: it is a physical encounter-bodily, concrete and palpable, as well as being an event which takes place in the eye and in the imagination. The inescapable physicality of Beattie’s painting has been a constant throughout his career, as has been a liking for improvised composition and a raw, intimate touch. Yet this materiality is never heavy-handed, and a signal feature of these works is their orchestration of differences - between density and openness, between the wrenched, jerky handling of some forms counterpoised with a calligraphic, light touch, displayed at perfect ease with itself, elsewhere in the same painting. Sometimes weighty masses co-exist with what might be called the ghosts of forms, painted not with pigments but with clear varnish, which imprint the canvas with a kind of afterimage rather than form itself. Beattie’s judicious handling of these different approaches imbue his paintings with a particular authority. One can measure what is there on the surface against one’s own body, and recognise the disposition of the painted elements in terms of physical reach and actual distance. The space in the paintings is a matter of fact as much as it is an illusion of pictorial space; some forms tower above us, while others appear to have toppled and fallen, or are grounded on the baseline of the canvas. Space, especially in the newer works, is often quite literally left blank, - so much empty canvas between the painted forms. Yet space or volume in a painting is not measured in square feet of unprimed, virgin linen, or the mass and weight of a form calculated in pounds of pigment, or quantity of oil. One can say, about the forms in the paintings, that this is a square, or that here stands a lopsided, roughly drawn fragment of a grid; one can say that this part of the painting is black, applied over an underpainting in white, or that this area of dirtied Mars Violet has been brushed on, that these cloud-like grey 27


areas have been rubbed into the canvas with the artist’s hand. These are all matters of placement and emphasis, details, means rather than ends; they are fragments of the drama of composition. However accurate such observations might be they tell us nothing about meaning or subject matter, except as a narrative of forms. Basil Beattie, who left the Royal Academy Schools in 1961, began his career at a time when the scale, opticality, attention to materiality and the sharpened colour sense of American painting, from Abstract Expressionism to Post-Painterly Abstraction, were seen as the most radical and progressive new developments in post-war painting, and were a major influence on painters of Beattie’s generation. The critical writings of Harold Rosenburg, Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried (as well as British counterparts, like Andrew Forge) were percolating through the British art world. For those who rejected, on the one hand, the academicisms and moribundities of Kitchen-Sink social realism and the Euston Road School, and on the other, the heady seductions of Pop, territories which seemed already mapped out, occupied and claimed, the openness of American-style abstract painting provided an exemplar of a possible way forward. It took a long time for painting to disentangle itself from such a strong and seductive role-model. For Beattie it was clear that the lesson of a formalist approach to painting was learnt early on, but it was really only a lesson in grammar, a lesson in how, rather than what, to paint.What it left its adherants with, was a kind of Romantic belief in painting’s continuity, even though its rhetoric excluded any subject other than the painting itself. But Beattie’s paintings occupy mental as well as physical space, and their elements only exist as part of a structure, a structure which is itself an expression and a way of thinking, a way of being in the world. This structure impresses itself upon us - and is there to be wrestled with, just as the painter wrestled with the same elements as he worked. Looking, too, is a kind of work, an unravelling of experience in the present moment. If Beattie’s paintings have always been ‘difficult’: hybrid, too complicated, anxious or edgy (and for a long time, these qualities both distinguished him and made him a disquieting figure, an artist who never fitted in with 28

the suave mainstream of London art), it is because he wanted the paintings to be more than painting alone. There is what I would call a certain tremor in his work, the pressure of a kind of vital, seismic energy which destabilises his compositions and the forms within them, an un-nerving undercurrent which has now been given a concrete form. ‘Memory’, Paul Valery noted, ‘is thought’s body. Thought exists only when expressed; when expressed it is made up of elements of memory.’What is remembered, or memorialised here? Always, there must be the backlog of the artist’s experience as a painter, the history of his own development and struggle for identity. An artist’s individuality, maturity and power is attained after much has been assimilated, and even more has been rejected.The painter’s progress is a flight towards selfhood, a quality that must be achieved, - no artist springs from the ground, fully formed. The paintings contain within them the memory of the development of a language, a structure which orders experience just as it provides the framework for form, space and volume. It also structures behaviour, the way the artist handles materials and the decisions he makes. It is the structure of a mind. One might say that this is what a sensibility is. These paintings also contain within them other memories, other experiences. Nowdays when Beattie describes himself, he calls himself a ‘sort of Symbolist’, and it seems to me that his development has been charged with the desire to reintroduce that most fleeting of all forms, the human subject, back into his paintings. The Witness paintings and the related work Present Bound occupy the paintings as human presences, as disguised, muffled, compartmentalised, bound and divided figures. But they are not so much bodies as presences. The two forms in Squaring Up are at once like an object confronting its own shadow and a kind of fraught conversation. The disquiet in the painting might also have something to do with the stark black grille’s resemblance to the bars of a cage, or the grid upon which St Lawrence was martyred (‘Turn me over,’ he is supposed to have asked his torturers, ‘this side is done’). The repeated, rapidly drawn shapes in the painting Rivals are like two fallen figures, or a couple laying together


(they remind me of cloaked figures from a Romanesque frieze)... darkness hangs over them and surrounds them. And it is hard not to see the floating, gold and red shape in Imagine If again as a kind of figure of apparition, caught forever between revealment and disappearance. It is probably enough to say that the relationships between forms which appear active and mobile, and those which seem architectural, wall-like and static or blank suggest inhabited spaces. Painting deals with figures and grounds - as does sculpture - and this can never simply be seen as only a matter of purely formal abstractions. It is always a matter of figures and absences. The viewer, too, is an active agent. We project ourselves into the paintings, and re-invent the paintings with our own desires and memories. Basil Beattie almost seems to encourage this, leaving unpainted spaces, incomplete forms and openings, enticing the viewer to interject. Perhaps we too become figures in the paintings, and what we are offered is the haunting possibility of our engagement. A blurred presence blocks an archway in one of the most recent paintings, like a figure who stands in a doorway for an instant, momentarily blocking the light, and then is gone; a figure seen at the edge of a vision whose departure coincides with the moment we turn to look. The painter brings new forms into the world, or re-casts old forms in a fresh context, in order to describe what cannot possibly be said in any other way, - in order to remember and to express. Symbols change their meanings but remain symbols none the less. Painting is a symbolic art, and paintings are symbolic in that they envince the struggle to be.

Text originally published in: Basil Beattie Painting 1990-1993 Maak Gallery - Todd Gallery London 1993. 29


Spectre 1990 oil on canvas 213 x 305 cm

30


Figuring Out 1990 oil on canvas 213 x 305 cm

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Present Bound 1990 oil and wax on linen 213 x 274 cm. TATE London

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33


Witness 0 1990 oil on canvas 213 x 183 cm

34


Witness I 1990 oil on canvas 213 x 198 cm

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Witness VI 1992 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 183 cm. Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

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Witness III 1990 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 183 cm. Private Collection

37


Witness IV 1992 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 183 cm. Private Collection

38


Witness V 1992 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm. TATE London

39


Another Time Another Place 1991 oil and wax on flax 244 x 305 cm. Private Collection

40


Black Watcher 1993 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 274 cm. Private Collection

41


Door 1992 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 183 cm. TATE London

42


Night Shedding Light 1993 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

43


Maak Gallery London 1993 Installation – left to right – Rivals, Here and There, Black Watcher, Yielding Door III

44


45


Tell Me 1992 oil and wax on canvas 259 x 365 cm. Birmingham City Museum and Gallery

46


Imagine If 1993 oil and wax on canvas 259 x 305 cm. Arts Council England

47


Rivals 1993 oil and wax on canvas 259 x 366 cm. Private Collection

48


Here and There 1993 oil and wax on flax 259 x 305 cm

49


Yielding Door II 1993 oil and wax on flax 244 x 305 cm

50


Intimate Distance 1993 oil and wax on flax 259 x 305 cm

51


Two States 1994 oil and wax on flax 213 x 183 cm. Private Collection

52


ANGEL ROW 1996 - 1998


Hinterland 1995 oil and wax on cotton duck 259 x 365 cm

54


BEYOND ABSTRACTION THE ART OF BASIL BEATTIE PAUL MOORHOUSE

T

he four paintings in this exhibition represent the most recent developments in a career, which now spans more than thirty years. Basil Beattie is one of a small number of older British artists whose work has both continued and extended the legacy of Abstract Expressionism. In common with such artists as Gillian Ayres, John Hoyland and Albert Irvin, a decisive influence on Beattie’s career was exposure to the New American Painting, as revealed in the exhibition of that title held at the Tate Gallery in 1959. The American artists’ emphasis on expansive scale, painterliness and extreme subjectivity established the parameters for Beattie’s art and became its guiding principles. As the recent works reveal, issues of form and process remain vitally important for Beattie. In all four paintings there is an extreme and urgent insistence on formal composition, on the material substance of the paint, and on its wide-ranging means of application. In Another Place the central, rectangular area of the canvas has been defined by staining the surface with varnish and allowing this to cascade downwards in transparent veils. This passage contrasts vividly with the adjacent pair of columnar forms, which have been established by repeated arcing brushstrokes of thickly applied paint. The righthand side of the image comprises two abutting rectangles: simplified shapes whose visual presence derives from the seductive, tactile quality of the paint surface. By exploiting the contrasts between these different passages Beattie has invested the painting with a powerful, yet subtly orchestrated visual dynamic. The imposing physical presence of the work may thus, in part at least, be attributed to these abstract qualities of mark, shape, space and texture. In its investigation of the physical means of expression, Beattie’s art continues a central concern of the New York School painters. But in terms of iconography - the way certain forms express meaning and feeling - Beattie’s paintings represent 55


a significant development from the American artists’ work. The nature of that development is apparent in Lost to Sight. As in Another Place, the canvas is divided into distinct zones. On the left of the painting a dark column rises vertically within a constricting channel. Like the related column shapes in Another Place, this monolithic figure comprises a series of thickly painted arcs, here enmeshed to form a single entity. At its base there is a small, intimate, arched aperture. On the right of the picture linear brushstrokes describe a doorlike opening containing inward-pointing shapes suggestive of teeth or thorns. These two ‘figures’ confront each other across a yawning expanse of black space. In contemplating this image, as well as other recent paintings by Beattie, the viewer senses the peculiar individual character of each of these formal inventions. Some are bold and aggressive, others seem passive and fragile, even ghostly. Often these motifs appear intriguingly familiar: doors, ladders and towers are implied. Other shapes are more elusive, less recognisable. But always these elements are so strongly defined, and their presence so convincingly asserted, that the effect is that of protagonists enacting a visual drama. It is this suggestion of an enigmatic underlying narrative - alien to earlier exponents of painterly abstraction, but potent in Beattie’s painting - which sets his work apart. In this way Beattie’s art is founded on a paradox. Essentially abstract, it nevertheless resonates with references to the visible world. The key to this paradox is Beattie’s observation that his art seeks to ‘give an emotional and psychological weighting to formal strategies’. This aim, which realises its fullest expression in the recent paintings, has been a fundamental concern from the beginning of his work. During the late 1960s, Beattie made a number of large-scale paintings using paint poured and stained onto their surfaces. The resulting images - huge, wall-like edifices of colour were not, however, abstractions from nature. Rather than imitating the appearance of the natural world, these works were entirely abstract images whose qualities of vast scale and saturated colour formed an equivalent for similar phenomena in nature. Significantly, at this relatively early stage Beattie recognised in these paintings the capacity of abstract forms to express intimate experiences of a emotional and psychological kind. 56

This idea paved the way for Beattie’s subsequent realisation that abstract shapes and marks could express complex subjective experiences with greater potency if these formal elements took on some of the characteristics of recognisable objects. This notion is of fundamental importance in the development of his art. His approach rests, in part, on the theory that spontaneous, non-representative mark-making directly expresses subjective experiences. The artist’s inner life is encoded in the movement and substance of the paint. In this respect his paintings are, as he has explained, ‘process driven’. But, at the same time, Beattie’s art goes beyond ‘pure’ abstraction because it asserts that non-imitative images can communicate these experiences to the viewer in a more profound way when visual echoes of those images are to be found in the real world. To this end Beattie has evolved a rich vocabulary of formal inventions - pictogram-like abstractions - which recur throughout his paintings. The first of these, a ‘half-ziggurat’, originated in Present Bound 1990. The ziggurat form relates to the towers of ancient Babylon whose distinctive architectural shape comprised staged blocks rising to a point, each storey smaller than the one below it. This motif carries intense personal significance for Beattie. In his paintings it takes the form of individual cell-like shapes, painted broadly and in a raw, spontaneous manner, piled up in an isosceles triangle configuration. It was the central motif of the Witness series which occupied Beattie in the early 1990s and it reappears in Two of a Kind 1995, exhibited here. The image is a relic of Beattie’s earlier way of working, during the mid-1980s, when he compartmentalised the entire surface of his paintings into separate cells. Each of these cells contained individual ideographic shapes. Subsequently, Beattie broke down this all-over composition, preserving a few cell-shapes, which reformed themselves as a single figure. The half-ziggurat is a key example of Beattie’s ability to invest an abstract, formal device with physical and psychological presence. Typically it sits on the bottom edge of the picture space, an isolated figure within the surrounding space. Charged with anthropomorphic implications, the halfziggurat becomes a poignant expression of solitude. In Two of a Kind the half-ziggurat is presented within a darkened, somewhat sombre space. This is also occupied by a smaller


ziggurat motif situated within a brightly coloured mountainshape. By relating the figures in this way Beattie invites the viewer to respond to the formal aspects of this image, but also to construct a narrative around these elements. Some generic connection between the two shapes seems implied. A family resemblance is also suggested in which case a parentsibling relationship can be inferred. But which is the ‘parent’ shape: the larger half-ziggurat, or the smaller complete form? Other interpretations are possible. The half-ziggurat seems to contemplate its smaller counterpart and there is a suggestion that the two are either physically remote or separated in time. Family ties, separation, loss, longing, memory - all these readings, and others, are generated by an image rich in human implication. Numerous other allusive abstractions inhabit Beattie’s paintings. In particular he is fascinated by the way references to man-made objects can act as vehicles for human values, investing the drama of the painted surface with a profound sense of human drama. Rectangular door-like spaces, inviting or resisting entry, are a recurrent image. Often these implied apertures offer glimpses of something intangible or half-recognised: usually in a separate space and out of reach. In Hinterland, scale, texture and colour are asserted to an extreme degree. Confronting this work, the viewer is made aware of the vast shapes, which define the central ‘door’ area. At the same time the thick, warm coloured paint - clogging the weave of the canvas, and stretched like a taut skin across its surface - saturates the senses. The resulting sense of claustrophobia is relieved only by the door motif, seen in this context by Beattie as a kind of ‘lung’ offering visual and psychological relief. The painting is a forceful demonstration of the extent to which materials, process and imagery are all essential and inseparable elements in his art. Acknowledging this fact, he has stated: ‘I am not just creating an image, I am constructing an experience’. Beattie’s paintings represent his endeavour to give tangible form to intangible experience - to make real and communicable, that which is ephemeral and private. Halfapprehended memories and associations, fragments of ideas, fleeting sensations and emotions - these are his source material. His art identifies the process of painting with the mining of this repository of existence. His method relies

on metaphor and a belief in the expressive capacity of the gestural mark. By these means, subjective experiences are made tangible but never entirely explicable. Compellingly allusive and powerfully resonant, ultimately his work remains enigmatic. In this respect Beattie has cited the importance of Jung’s observation: ‘Only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life. Non-ambiguity and non-contradiction are one-sided and thus unsuitable to express the incomprehensible.’

Text originally published in: Basil Beattie New Paintings Angel Row Gallery Nottingham 1995. 57


Another Place 1995 oil and wax on cotton duck 259 x 365 cm

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Two of a Kind 1995 oil and wax on cotton duck 259 x 365 cm

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Lost to Sight 1995 oil and wax on cotton duck 259 x 365 cm

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Give and Take 1996 oil and wax on flax 213 x 274 cm. Private Collection

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Ins and Outs 1996 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

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Trace 1996 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

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Odds and Evens 1996 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

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Furthermore 1998 oil and wax on flax 213 x 274 cm

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Betwixt and Between 1998 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm

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Through the Night 1998 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm

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Loose Ends 1998 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm. Government Art Collection London

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Falling Out 1998 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

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Four Way Split 1998 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm

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From Beginning to End 1998 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

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Mark This Place 1998 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm

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Over and Above 1998 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

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Todd Gallery London 1996 Installation - from left to right - Inside Out, From Beginning to End, Mark This Place

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NEW YORK BROOKLYN SERIES 1999


Double Take - New York Brooklyn Series 1999 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm

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Hide and Seek - New York Brooklyn Series 1999 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm

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When Here Becomes There - New York Brooklyn Series 1999 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm

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Trapped in Flatness - New York Brooklyn Series 1999 details oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm

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When First is Last and Last is First - New York Brooklyn Series 1999 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm

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STACKS AND STEPS 2000 - 2001


Never Before 2001 oil and wax on flax 259 x 305 cm. Royal Academy of Arts London

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STACKS AND STEPS

Extracts from Basil Beattie in conversation with Sarah Wedderburn, in front of Never Before 2001

BASIL BEATTIE IN CONVERSATION WITH SARAH WEDDERBURN 2001

B.B. S.W.

I suppose I’ve always thought of the left hand side of the painting as being the past, the beginning if you like. And presumably you begin there, do you?

B.B. S.W.

I do – I begin from the bottom in this step-like structure Are you left handed?

B.B.

Yes, so that’s the natural angle really. The natural beginning. The odd thing is that if I was drawing, the natural slant of a scribble, for instance, would perhaps begin at the top but when I paint a structure like this – this step-like structure – I always feel going from bottom left to top right is a more natural dynamic somehow. Is there some element of ‘action’ that’s important in the process, a sense that you’re starting somewhere and you’re getting to another point. Is there a time factor – an urgency while you are doing it?

S.W. B.B.

S.W. B.B.

S.W. B.B. S.W.

Not really. I may be a bit breathless by the time I actually finish the top step! The thing that I know I want to do is the bottom rectangle. The bottom step if you like, is associated with and touches the bottom edge of the canvas, and that is like the earth. Then there’s a point at the top where the step does not touch the edge at all – or the sides. So it’s like a stairway that’s unfinished or doesn’t go anywhere. There is a sense of ascending – and perhaps descending – but more ascending, because the bottom step is lined up with the bottom edge of the canvas. I suppose I am fascinated by all the everyday things that we are familiar with, like doors and windows and stairways and corridors. They all seem to have symbolic possibilities in a way but are also ambiguous. You can associate them with opposites: you can associate a corridor with escaping to safety, or you can see it as a way of becoming imprisoned or claustrophobic. So there are all kinds of double associations. If you use such elemental combinations of shapes, what you are doing is expressing symbolism very strongly, but you are also leaving its interpretation completely open.You are not saying this is about anything? No. I wouldn’t want to fix the meaning. I have to leave it almost to someone else to interpret. But I can’t ignore these things, because I am not interested simply in the formal element. I’m interested in the formal dynamic.This stairway is, I find, an extraordinary dynamic. I like the idea of things being rooted on the earth, and things being free of the earth, suspended, floating, balanced or poised. In the past you have talked about things in your pictures being suspended on the edge of something that might happen. Yes. There is a kind of drama – a sort of narrative that’s hinted at perhaps. Do people talk about ‘signifiers’ when they talk about your work? Does that come up? One of the most compelling things to me about the Lacanian idea is the sense that you can have things that are incredibly potent psychological signifiers, but which remain essentially ambiguous; they absolutely have to, in order to have meaning. That’s how their power works. 83


B.B.

S.W. B.B.

S.W.

B.B.

84

I find in making a painting, if you become too conscious of insisting on the meaning, you fix the painting and it looks very laboured and in fact doesn’t contain the meaning. The painting has to hover somehow. It has to be potent. I don’t quite know what I mean by ‘potent’ but it is something that you recognise. Either you know you’ve judged it well, or you haven’t judged it well. I think potency has to do with making the work very general in the symbolic sense but very specific in the painting sense. The images are generalised. I would not want anybody looking at the paintings that include corridors or passages to think that they are about architecture, they’re not. These things come about not through me looking out at the world, and then saying: “That looks an interesting motif, I want to go and deal with that in a painting.” These references come from wanting to create a kind of charged psychological and emotional state that may have parallels, certainly in one’s own experience, so that these things, these motifs are ‘used’ really. But often I’m faced with a painting that I think would work, that has all the ingredients in terms of the motif, the architectural motif if you like. But the work does not accomplish anything – it isn’t there. It is only there when the reference that may have an emotional charge to it, plus the dynamic of the language, the process, combine. In some of these step paintings the paint is molten in that it looks as if it’s something solid that’s reached melting point, rather than just drippy paint. The rigidity of the structure, combined with the formality and the idea of identical steps or stairs, is interplayed with this so-called ‘molten’ effect of the paint hanging on the surface, referring to an earlier state of ‘run-ability’ or ‘drip-ability’! And you couldn’t achieve that except with paint could you? That’s why I still paint. You can take the ideas out and one could make films and all kinds of things, but I personally wouldn’t want to do that. What I would lose would be these things associated absolutely with the process of painting and the extension of the language of painting. I’ve got coming into my mind the game ‘peep-bo’ that people play with babies, where you look at them and look away, and then you reappear, confirming that you are still there.You can look away from this and see the thing in your mind in terms of structure but it’s in looking back that you understand its reality. It’s in a sense more abstract than abstraction, because it seems to refer to something very deep in one’s mind and in one’s body and in the way one feels. And that sort of stuff is essentially moving inside us all the time and can’t be halted. I don’t know if it’s the same thing, but if you were to describe a painting to someone you could only get so far.You could describe the painting but you couldn’t describe the experience of the painting.You could talk about all the things that come to mind but there’s a difference between the reproduction or description of a painting and the actual painting. I can start a painting that has all the ingredients but it can just sit there on the canvas looking dumb, not doing anything. It makes me realise that what I am trying to make is dependent on what’s there but what happens takes place in the intervening space between me and the actual painting. What I am trying to do is to make the experience concrete.


That Irresistible Climb 2000 oil and wax on flax 228 x 305 cm

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Stairing Up 2000 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm

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Promises Promises 2000 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm

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Again and Again and Again 2001 oil and wax on cotton duck 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

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White Stack 2001 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

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Seven Steps to Nowhere 2001 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

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Playing Up 2001 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection

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ABOVE AND BELOW 2002


Above and Below Installation Sadler’s Wells Theatre London 2002 93


Beyond Yonder 2002 oil and wax on canvas 229 x 366 cm. Collection: Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

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Five Steps to Nowhere 2002 oil and wax on canvas 229 x 366 cm

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Breathing Deep 2002 oil and wax on canvas 288 x 265 cm. Sadler’s Wells Theatre London - TATE London

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Corridors of Uncertainty 2005 oil and wax on canvas 244 x 213 cm

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Marking a Year Childers Street London 2005 Installation - from left to right - Never Before, Beyond the Blue Yonder, All Ends Up

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MATERIALITY, UR - ARCHITECTURE AND THE VISTA NICK DE VILLE

S

ince the late eighties Basil Beattie’s paintings have been organised, at first tentatively, then with increasing insistence, around a number of pictographic signs which, almost entirely, have their origin in the archetypal components and bounded volumes of built space. Beattie gave very public notice of the arrival of these motifs in the exhibition of over three hundred drawings at the Eagle Gallery in 1991. These drawings showed an artist exploring something inimical to the strict tenets of the tradition of abstract painting out of which he came: a range of simple forms with figurative associations. Subsequently these forms have comprehensively invaded the painterly syntax of his work. These elements of figuration are suggestive of a kind of ur-architecture. Prominent in the drawings of 1991 were stairways, steps, ladders, ziggurats, doorways, and vertical wall-like surfaces tipped away from the picture plane. The stacks of corbelled blocks in particular have remained an enduring element of subsequent work. In recent paintings such as The Difference Between II (2004/05) and Once Upon A Time (2004/05), they suggest ascent but never a destination, never touch the top of the canvas. More complex ciphers for recession, depth and space also appeared at this time: diagonal striations that intimate vistas of landscape and multiple portals/corridors, or what Beattie calls ‘cells’. In paintings such as Furthermore (1998), Held Within (2004/5) and Beyond the Blue Yonder (2004/5) the field of the canvas has become increasingly subdivided into these cells, which in their suggestion of rooms, striated tunnels, corners of rooms and passageways in turn propose an ungainly pile of the kind of perspectival diagrams to be found in the pages of an old-fashioned artist’s drawing manual. There is a sense in which, because of their archetypal nature – a hand-print was another motif that crops up at this period, these motifs could be seen as an extension of the gestural traces inherent to the code of painterly abstraction that prior to the late eighties 99


had constituted the sole image-making resource of Beattie’s work. Yet in the extension of gesture into figuration which occurred in his work around 1990, there is inevitably a point of disjunction that haunts abstraction, one that was perhaps agonised over most famously by Philip Guston. Guston has left vivid testament of his sense of being marooned between figuration and abstraction: ‘I would one day tack up in the house a bunch of pure drawings, feel good about them... And that night go out to the studio to the drawings of objects – books, shoes, buildings, hands... The next day, or day after, back to doing the pure constructions and attacking the other. And so it went, this tug of war...’ In some ways Beattie does not have Guston’s predicament, because stand where he stands when he is painting and the painted surface is not significantly representational. It is as though he is crawling over the representation so close-to it is entirely a field of painterly effects. Here one finds oneself in the company of the ‘other’ Beattie, the one who had long been widely admired for his handling of the abstract dynamics of painting. At this distance we are insistently reminded of his lineage as a painter coming from the tradition of painterly abstraction. In Beattie’s Yorkshire-inspired terminology this is where he – and we – can experience the ‘corridor of uncertainty’, Geoffrey Boycott’s cricketing expression for a particularly good length ball bowled on the off side. Here, in Beattie’s meaning of the term, the illusionistic becomes ‘diffused’ and ‘camouflaged’ since at this distance his paintings are overwhelmingly surface and surface effects. Beattie’s choice of terminology for the process he is engaged in echoes that of Guston. For Guston the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ is ‘the narrow passage from a diagramming to that other state – a corporeality’, and adds, ‘In this sense, to paint is a possessing rather than a picturing’, Beattie too insists that the meaning of the imagery be inseparable from an heightened process of making. He talks of ‘building the experience’, of being immersed in a process that gives substance and meaning to images that would otherwise lie ‘dormant’ on the canvas. At the distance at which he works the scope of the painting extends well beyond the artist’s field of vision and at that distance he describes the painterly structures he is producing as ‘fibrous’, ‘muscular’, ‘incised’, ‘speedy’ and ‘distinct from questions of metaphor, the symbolic, illusion 100

and allusion’. Within what we might call the working arena of the production of the painting we find ourselves primarily involved with the vigorous sense of assurance with which Beattie deploys the plastic possibilities of paint: the absence of paint, the skin of paint as it passes from the thickest of impastos to the most transparent of varnish stains. Despite the sense of command, we are ready to acknowledge that one of the pleasures of his handling of the paint is the astringency of his response to paint’s materiality: the balance he strikes between a kind of northern asceticism and a voluptuous revelry; his deliberate, blunt way with a restricted range of sombre earth colours. Nevertheless, when we retreat to a position more compatible with the public sphere of viewing, from where it is possible to take in the painting its entirety along with its gallery/ museum hang, we are required to acknowledge that the effect of the appearance of figurative motifs in his work has been to reassign the place of the painterly mark within its overall schema (this is to acknowledge the sense of hierarchy that the heterogeneous nature of his painting language induces), since the painterly mark is forced into a more diversified relation with language, or at least signification. For Beattie the pivotal act in this reassignment of the painterly mark is the autographic hand prints and dragged hand prints that appear in paintings like Give and Take (1996). The appearance from time to time of these hand-prints in his paintings – a kind of archaic signature – is the re-enactment of the genesis of identifiable acts of signification out of gesture. The architectural pictographs take the move towards pictorial signification one step further. As a consequence, there is in Beattie’s paintings a profound sense of an artist plunging – perhaps reluctantly – into language. Or perhaps, it would be more appropriate to imagine that the pictographs have tumbled into his paintings as though he lost the struggle to keep them out.Yet he does make an assiduous attempt to keep out autobiography, and the anecdotal detail that Clement Greenberg epitomised as the ‘fragmentary silhouette of a teacup’. Rather, Beattie attempts to hold his pictographs in the archaic moment when representation coalesces out of gesture. They are the trial components of a language of building at the birth of the possibility of signification, and it is in keeping with the physicality and materiality of his work


that they should hint at a language of shelter and dwelling which is thoroughly secular in outlook. Beattie takes uneasily to heart Edward Tufte’s assertion that painting like any other communication device ‘is entirely a progress of methods for enhancing density, complexity, dimensionality’. Therefore, for Beattie, the emergence of the complexities of notation in his work is a kind of unwished-for ‘fall’. Complexities proliferate within the process of painting because painting employs – to express this by way of analogy – the techniques of ‘small multiples, parallel sequences, details and panorama, a polyphony of layering and separation, data compression into content-focused dimensions and avoidance of redundancy’ which Tufte ascribes to systems of dance notation. Just as dance notation requires extraordinary acts of interpretation to determine the essential nature of dance, so in Beattie’s estimation does the viewer in capturing the imaginative engagement over time that leads to a painting’s production. His 2002 exhibition at Sadler’s Wells was important for the opportunity it gave him to reassess the significance of the vertical subdivisions or ‘zones’ that had been a distinctive feature of a number of earlier paintings, for instance Tell Me (1992). The vertical hang of three very large paintings which the Sadler’s Wells space permitted (in which all three paintings could be viewed from all three levels) brought to mind the zones into which early renaissance altarpieces were often divided. He began to think of the painting as being constructed to the rules of a private game, where the left-hand side of the canvas could be the past and the right-hand side the future, and where an underground scene could be placed above the sky. In this game there was always the pursuit of reasons for making choices. His aim was to release himself from what he saw as the overly ‘analytical’ cast of recent painting. He saw the differences, juxtapositions, competing structures and references – ‘zones’ – that were becoming an increasingly prominent aspect of his paintings as indicating disjunctions in time, resulting in paintings that were not only spatial conglomerations but temporal ones as well. These zones, then, were not to be seen as formal divisions of the painting, not a motivation arising from what Beattie thinks of as ‘design’, but rather a ‘poetic’ way of thinking the painting ‘beyond its simple appearance’. Beattie’s adoption of the bounded volumes and archetypal

components of built space as a means to re-evaluate the traditions of painterly abstraction gives his work a very special place in contemporary British art. The quality of signing without falling into the recognisable genres of figuration marks him out as one of the most significant of bridges between the generations of contemporary British painters. The evocation of the semiotic, distant and thunderous, produces the sense of pleasurable dislocation when looking at his paintings, rending them impossible to appreciate through the terms of painterly abstraction alone. This development has placed him in provocative relationship both to the painters of his generation who, like him, have a strong allegiance to the tradition of painterly abstraction, and to painters of younger generations whose allegiances to the vocabulary of abstraction are more dispassionately rooted in a semiotics of style. We can now see that Beattie’s 1991 Eagle Gallery exhibition of drawings was the announcement of the moment when, for him at least, the agency of Abstract Expressionism finally gave out. However, his response to the gradual, inexorable reframing of painterly abstraction that gathered pace throughout the eighties was almost entirely unique among his generation. Although within the tradition itself the writing had been on the wall a long time (who, for instance, could not sense that something was afoot in the exuberant fireworks of Gary Wragg’s exhibition at the Acme Gallery in 1976?), Artscribe with James Faure Walker at the helm continued a spirited defence of an unreconstructed post-Abstract Expressionist painterly abstraction well into the eighties. So what had overtaken abstract painting? Well, its historicisation is a familiar enough tale; a process inextricably bound up with the rise of semiotics that gave artists the intellectual tools to convert its visual vocabulary – and much else – into a set of stylistic signs. During the eighties the normalisation of the notion that ‘there is no object which is not illuminated by linguistic and semiotic theory’ also induced a tremendous change in artists’ attitude to figuration in painting. So it is scarcely surprising that parallel to the processing of Abstract Expressionism into a semiotic notation there was a great blossoming of figuration inspired by the insights arising out of semiotics. To be sure, the impression Beattie’s paintings give is that the adoption by a younger generation of British painters – almost en masse 101


– of a semiotician’s attitude to images and their collective emergence as a school of Semiotic Figuration has for him a repellent self-consciousness about it, hence his insistence on that ‘corridor of uncertainty’. This stricture could be most powerfully applied to the assumption by some that the painterly gesture is solely an over-coded sign of ‘authentic’ self-expression. Second and third generation artists within the canon of a semiotic figuration have themselves attempted to overcome the abiding image it projects of the artist as masterful pictureeditor. The most powerful tendency seen in the first wave of Semiotic Figuration throughout the eighties (Salle, etc.) was the impulse to provoke sensory overload and narrative block with a hetroclitic ‘Forest of Signs’, but subsequently a number of painters have come to prominence who have tried to be more sparing and specific in their handling of figuration. Most notably they have permitted references that echo bodily presence to enter their work. Beattie’s repertoire of elemental figurative forms make him an obvious link with the more considered and austere artists trying to develop painting beyond the established norms of a semiotic figuration. Further to the pleasure of his play with paint, it is the subtle interplay of modes of signing that marks out Beattie’s work as so distinctive. In his work the viewer can enjoy not only some of the most important cross-currents in recent painting, but also one artist’s complex and heartfelt responses to them.

Text originally published in Basil Beattie Marking a Year, Eagle Gallery 2005 ISBN 978-0-9554046-5-8 Extended by the author in 2009 102


MARKING A YEAR 2004 - 2005


Beyond the Blue Yonder 2004 oil and wax on canvas 275 x 230 cm. Private Collection

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All Ends Up 2004 oil and wax on canvas 275 x 244 cm

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Never Ending (Diptych) 2004 oil and wax and graphite on canvas 213 x 376 cm

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Without End (Diptych) 2005 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 396 cm

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The Difference Between II 2005 oil and wax on flax 275 x 244 cm. TATE London

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THE JANUS SERIES 2007 - 2009


Paintings from the Janus Series 2009 installation. Purdy Hicks Gallery, London.


The Sight of Night II - Janus Series 2008 oil and wax on canvas 198 x 183 cm. Private Collection 114


THE JANUS SERIES 2009 NICK DE VILLE

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ver the past two decades Basil Beattie has been developing the arc of his work with great consistency. It is perhaps something of a surprise, then, to find that his new series – the Janus series – unfolds new possibilities of interpretation and critical understanding of the paintings spanning the past twenty years. Something obvious but overlooked has to be woven into our appreciation of his work. The Janus series was commenced following Beattie’s acquisition in 2006 – for the first time – of a permanent studio, integral with domestic accommodation.The circumstances of a permanent, ‘untried’ space in which to work, where he was living only a step away, offered Beattie a peerless opportunity to look back, to reassess his own traditions and ‘launch’ the space with an ambitious body of new work. Janus, one of the most important gods of the archaic Roman pantheon, received from the god Saturn the gift to see into both the future and the past; he watches over change and transitions, beginnings and ends. A god of many other attributes, he is the keeper of gates, bridges, doors and doorways, covered and arcaded passages. The attachment of Janus to this series of paintings could be ascribed to Beattie’s impulse not only to look back but also, despite a career of many decades, to look forward. However, it would not be appropriate to oversimplify his motives; just as Janus is a god of many attributes, so we should expect a complex heterogeny of Beattie’s work. So what preliminary characterization can be made of this evocation of Janus? It is a conjuring of painting’s dualities, a balancing of its oppositions, the crafting of yet one more ambiguity, all held in a constellation of eclipsing binaries, where each binary is inseparably essential to his art. The Janus series is painted on portrait canvases, 213 cms by 198 cms: large, but not as large as the monumental series that preceded it. Each painting is a kind of vertical triptych consisting, almost without exception, of a stack of three notional landscape ‘windows’ or ‘frames’. The image within 115


each ‘window’ consists of a schema derived from the elements of Albertian perspective with a horizon line, vanishing point and recessional vectors, elements that Beattie describes as having “simple, linear origins”. Each subsidiary part of the triptych, then, consists of a frame and, within it, the perspectival armature for a landscape vista, which, together, Beattie terms a ‘unit’. The elements of the perspective schema are present in different configurations from unit to unit, but the intuited sense of a featureless, barren plain stretching to the horizon remains a constant. But what has to be stressed about this description is the extent to which the evocation of landscape is entirely a conceptual construct derived from an interpretation of the perspectival schema: in effect we are presented with the ideogram of landscape in the Western tradition. It is entirely our familiarity with the schema as the armature of illusionistic space and recession, breaking the picture plane, which is responsible for the suggestion of a vista before us. In a complimentary way, the fact that each of the three units that make up the painting have a widescreen aspect-ratio similar to Paramount’s Vistavision cinematic projection system intensifies the evocation of vista. The conceptual elements of the notional landscape – horizon, vanishing point and recessional vectors – are worked through in what can best be described as a meditative assemblage and disassemblage of the perspectival elements, as though Beattie were testing the threshold at which illusion begins to take hold. The components of these elemental vistas emerge out of, and are worked into, what Beattie terms ‘floats’ of colour. As is to be expected with his paintings, the applied paint lies emphatically proud of the surface of the canvas; there is an unwavering insistence on paint’s materiality, its stuff-ness. And again, the elemental nature of the recessional plain is reinforced by a restricted palette that favours the archaic pigments, such as those of Umbria and Sienna, and only occasionally are these kinds of earthy colours played off against areas of brighter hue, very occasionally the kind of intense, jarring colours derived from industrially-produced synthetic pigments. As though a learnt habit of the abstractionist, Beattie ensures that the insistent materiality of the floats of paint is a counterpoint to the illusionistic potential of the perspective schema. Indeed, the first impression is that he intends that the two readings 116

should simply dissipate one another. Beattie makes no bones about the fact he is deploying the “known, familiar means” inherent to the logic of painting. To make this even clearer, the contradictory play between the notional transparency of the drawn perspectival elements and the opacity of the paint surface that he renders them in can be said to be a founding cliché of the condition of contemporary painting. Beattie is never less than realistic about cliché. He characterizes painting as “the ancient tradition of spreading stuff on…”. The description is left incomplete in acknowledgement that the description is in itself a cliché. Beattie plays this duality out in every aspect of the float of colour, ensuring that it falls short as it approaches the insistent framing of the windows of the paintings’ triptych structure. The resultant remnants of bare canvas between the vista-image of the float and the framing device are the most declarative of the range of painterly means Beattie uses to disrupt the illusionistic mechanisms inherent to landscape painting. Putting aside the matter of how the formal and technical elements of this illusion/materiality, transparency/opacity duality operate for a moment, there are clearly a series of other figurative associations that strike the viewer. The chief one is the intimation that the frame of the window might be a windscreen (its proportion and curved corners suggest this, as does the low horizon line), and the viewer is sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, looking out over the skeleton of a flat landscape, desert-like in a primordial sort of way. The shape of the frame has the equal capacity to suggest the car’s rear-view mirror, so we are able to imagine ourselves looking forwards and/or backwards with barely a perceptual flicker: the landscape can be thought of lying in wait to be traversed in the future, or as having been already traversed in the past, futures past. With these new figurative suggestions in mind the viewer can no longer have an entirely simultaneous experience of the triptych. Rather, we are reminded of that genre of early renaissance painting where several important moments of narrative – often involving a journey – are presented within a unified ground. An aim of such paintings is to depict the same principle character, or characters, portrayed in two or more sets of circumstances in different parts of the same landscape. In other words, the Janus series seems to require we place a second understanding


alongside the interpretation already offered in this essay. That first interpretation, we should recall, was dominated by space, its representation, and its suppression by opacity and materiality. A second understanding based on the play of time is not an entirely unheralded theme in Beattie’s work. In my discussions with him in 2005 about earlier paintings he noted how he thought of the juxtapositions, competing structures and references that were becoming an increasingly prominent aspect of his paintings as indicating disjunctions in time, resulting in paintings that were not only spatial conglomerations but temporal ones as well. But the Janus series can more pointedly be understood in relation to the stilled moment of narrative that a single frame of film represents, an allusion to cinema that is intensified by the likeness of the aspect ratio of the frames to widescreen projection systems such as Paramount’s VistaVision. Via this allusion each painting in the series becomes three or four stills taken from a notional cinematic journey.The atmospherics of these cinematic stills differ, as night follows day, or storm follows benign weather, meaning that they do not signify for us as a meditation on sameness and repetition, but as a way of distinguishing moments in the chain of time. The journey is of unknown duration; unlike the example of the renaissance painting evoked earlier, it is not a journey with a discernible goal, and there are no clues through which a meaningful narrative of journey can be constructed. It is an interminable passage across a relentless landscape of primal components. What is Beattie’s response to this allusion of journey? “I like the connection to driving” and to “intimations of travel”. But he warns us not to be too literal in our interpretation: “I’m not making pictures of places, I’m more interested in human experience – in the journey as a powerful metaphor, that might also be a cliché”. Not least it must be a cliché because in an existential sense the journey’s only destination is death. The issue of metaphor is one that preoccupies Beattie, and he extends his thoughts on cliché by insisting, “metaphors themselves suffer from a kind of exhaustion if identified too explicitly”.Yet he seems to have come to an accommodation with both metaphor and cliché. (They are, as for all artists and poets, important elements of his stock-in-trade). And for the latter he seeks a form of redemption: Contemporanity is characterized by “an acceleration of clichés” is how he

sees the dilemma. Even new art forms, like video, “gain a lot of history in a very short time”. The solution: “the process of making somehow has to have a way of putting a richness into the baldness of the cliché”. Here again we are returned to the first tug-of-war we identified at the centre of Beattie’s practice: to one side the physicality of paint – pigment and oil ground together like a primeval clay – and an intuitive mark-making untrammeled by the imperatives of representation, and counter to that, metaphor, allusion and the grand narratives of language. Now, on our second glance, we see his interest is not in having these two readings dissipate one another, but in setting the scene for, and playing their part in, a larger scheme of intentions. That larger scheme is what Lawrence Gowing (speaking of Matisse) described as “the reconciliation which is only within the reach of great painters in old age”. It is to harnesses together the two principles of artistic expression, the Dionysian and the Apollonian, in a policed truce. This is to ascribe to the Dionysian all that pertains to spontaneous abstract markmaking and the gestural immediacy that characterizes the play at the surface of the painting. In counterpoint to this stands the weight of the Apollonian where time/space has become a prominent motif alongside all that which Beattie ascribes to metaphor and allusion. This is to argue that his extension of the Apollonian principle has required him to exercise a heightened sense of how the other forces at work in the painting balance that principle. In making this claim it is necessary to admit that to refer to only the three dualities of illusion/materiality, transparency/opacity and time/space is but to sketch the reconciliation of forces at play in the Janus series. However, with reference to the latter duality, it should be noted how much of a surprise it is to find it successfully attempted in painting, albeit via an allusion to film, since it is well rehearsed in critical theory how the time/space image is the natural territory of film and video. One way to fill out further my sketch of the reconciliation that Beattie has achieved in the Janus series is to look back at the balance of forces at work in paintings that precede it. It is clear that in earlier works ‘units’ are organized in different configurations, and to different effect. They are scarcely ever regular (in 2005, writing an appreciation of Beattie’s works at the time of the Marking aYear exhibition, I described them 117


Drawing in the Night - Janus Series 2008 oil and wax on canvas 198 x 183 cm. Private Collection 118


as “an ungainly pile of the kind of perspectival diagrams to be found in the pages of an old-fashioned artist’s drawing manual”) and mostly redolent not of an agoraphobic landscape vista but, rather, a claustrophobic architectural typology. In 2005 I also characterized this typology as an ur-architecture, its components being corbelled steps, tunnels and corridors, gateways and the right-angled corners of floor and walls. But what in today’s context is most striking is how, in nearly all cases, the spatial implication of these elements relies on the way the minimal drawing of the architectural space is sprung off an insistently delineated frame. With hindsight we can see the degree to which the succession of frames can speak to us in terms of a succession of walked-through spaces, as though tramping through endless architecture. The appeal to a temporal understanding of traversing built spaces is there as a forerunner of the Janus series. Even so, it would seem to be more difficult to fathom the full meaning of the unit here, where it could be considered as a pictorial effect consequent on formal, organizational intentions, solely guided by the dimensional imperatives of the canvas’s field of play. The organization of frames is not as schematically insistent or as cinematic as it is in the Janus series, and it is the clarity with which the filmic time/space allusion is now acknowledged that marks a step-change in Beattie’s conceptualization. How to sum up the impressions gained from the developments to be seen in Beattie’s latest body of work? And how might they inflect our impression of his output as a whole? It seems less compelling now to see his work as an important contributor to an on-going narrative about contemporary painting, although that still remains. Rather the work stands aside from that validation, in a place that only a few artists have reached in their maturity, their creative forces far from expended, refined rather than diminished by time, and where it is the implacable mysteries of time and space – and their intertwining – that they are gifted to reveal as the work of art, despite painting’s apparent unsuitability for the task in hand, given its intractable obsession with its own materiality.

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Drawn In Drawn Out 2009 Eagle Gallery London 120


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The Approaching Night - Janus Series 2008 oil and wax on canvas 198 x 183 cm 122


Touching Distance - Janus Series 2008 oil and wax on canvas 198 x 183 cm 123


No Know Way - Janus Series 2007 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm 124


The Permanent Way - Janus Series 2007 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection 125


Night Embrance - Janus Series 2008 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm 126


In the Middle of Nowhere - Janus Series 2009 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection 127


Beyond the Farthest Point - Janus Series 2008 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm. Private Collection 128


Trail Blaze - Janus Series 2009 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm 129


Night Shade - Janus Series 2009 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm 130


Back of Beyond - Janus Series 2009 oil and wax on canvas 213 x 198 cm 131


Drawn In Drawn Out 2009 Eagle Gallery London 132


Painting from the Janus Series II 2010 Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Cumbria

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over leaf Drawing Installation 2010 Painting fron the Janus Series II Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Cumbria

Painting from the Janus Series II 2010 Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Cumbria

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Never Ending (Diptych) 2004 Without End (Diptych) 2005 Justice Palace Milan 2010, Hall della Corte d’Appello Civile

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BASIL BEATTIE


BASIL BEATTIE

BIOGRAPHY

1935 Born West Hartlepool 1957 - 9 Royal Academy Schools, London 2006 Elected member of the Royal Academy of Arts, London

SOLO EXHIBITIONS 1968 1971 1973 1974 1978 1979 1982 1984 1986 1987 1990 1991 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 2000 2001 2002 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

2010 2011 140

Greenwich Theatre Gallery, London Mayfair Gallery, London Consort Gallery, London Hoya Gallery, London New 57 Gallery, Edinburgh Newcastle Polytechnic Goldsmiths’ Gallery, London Minories Gallery, Colchester Bede Gallery, Jarrow Gray’s Art Gallery, Hartlepool Curwen Gallery, London Curwen Gallery, London Drawing on the Interior Eagle Gallery, London Castlefield Gallery, Manchester Maak Gallery, London *, Todd Gallery, London * Ikon Gallery, Birmingham New Town Gallery, Johannesburg New Paintings Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham * Todd Gallery, London Path Galerie, Aalst, Belgium Todd Gallery, London * Reg Vardy Arts Foundation Gallery, Sunderland Galerie Renate Bender, Munich Todd Gallery, London Storey Gallery, Lancaster That Irresistible Climb Advanced Graphics, London Works on Paper 1980-1990 Curwen Gallery, London Above and Below commissioned by Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London in association with the Eagle Gallery, London Stacks Atkinson Gallery, Millfield Marking aYear Childers Street, London in association with the Eagle Gallery, London * Drawings Two Rooms, New Zealand Basil Beattie BP New Displays, Tate Britain Basil Beattie Two Rooms, New Zealand Paintings from the Janus series Purdy Hicks Gallery, London * Drawn In Drawn Out Eagle Gallery, London Paintings from the Janus series II Abbot Hall, Cumbria Onword and Upword, James Hyman Gallery, London

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 1958-61 Young Contemporaries Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 1961 FourYoung Contemporaries Paris Gallery, London 1965 John Moores Exhibition 4 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool * 1966 Belfast Open 1967 Survey ‘67 Camden Arts Centre, London 1968 Four British Artists Gelsenkirchen, Germany Poet’s Choice AIA Gallery, London Royal Academy Bicentenary exhibition, London 1969 Big Paintings for Public Places Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester/London Group Exhibition 1970 Large Paintings Hayward Gallery, London London Now in Berlin Germany 1971 Big Paintings for Public Places Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Four Painters Museum of Modern Art, Oxford Art Spectrum Alexandra Palace, London 1974 First Contact (Industrial Sponsors), London Hoya Gallery, London British Painting Hayward Gallery, London * 1975 Drawings Hoya Gallery, London 1976 AIR Gallery, London Colour Southern Arts Travelling Exhibition: Southampton Art Gallery;Winchester School of Art; Worthing Museum and Art Gallery; Portsmouth City Museum; South Hill Park, Bracknell; Salisbury Museum and Library 1977 SmallWorks Newcastle Polytechnic Gallery 1978 A Free Hand Arts Council Travelling Exhibition 1979 Drawings Studio School, New York 1980 Hayward Annual Hayward Gallery, London 1981 Atlantis Gallery, London 1982 Hayward Annual: British Drawing Hayward Gallery, London */London Group Exhibition The London Suite Anne Berthoud Gallery, London 1984 European Painting Trier, Germany British Art Show Arts Council Travelling Exhibition 1985 The Joy of Paint Bede Gallery, Jarrow Curwen Studio Publications Curwen Gallery, London 1986 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition


1987 1988

1989 1991

1992

1994

1995 1996

1997

1998

1999

(invited artist), London Impressions of a Town Bede Gallery, Jarrow John Moores Exhibition 15 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool * Eight by Eight Curwen Gallery, London Presentation 1988 Curwen Gallery, London The Presence of Painting Mappin Gallery, Sheffield Three British Painters Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Sunderland Chicago Art Exposition - Curwen Gallery, London John Moores Exhibition 16 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool * The Abstract Connection Flowers East, London Chicago Art Exposition - Curwen Gallery, London Basel Art Fair - Curwen Gallery, London Goldsmiths’ College Centenary Exhibition Goldsmiths’ Gallery, London Small is Beautiful Flowers East, London John Moores Exhibition 17 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool * Gillian Ayres, Basil Beattie, Brian Fielding, John Hoyland Pomeroy Purdy Gallery, London Painting and Sculpture Maak Gallery, London Paintmarks Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge Lead and Follow:The Continuity of Abstraction Robert Loder Collection, Atlantis Gallery, London * Cologne Art Fair - Maak Gallery, Todd Gallery, Bodo Niemann Gallery Credo Purdy Hicks Gallery, London British Abstract Art: Part 1 Painting Flowers East, London * Monoprints Artspace Gallery, London Green On Red Gallery, Dublin Ace! Arts Council Collection touring exhibition: * Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne; Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston; Oldham Art Gallery; Hayward Gallery, London; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield; Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham; Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast. Harlech Biennale Harlech yellow Todd Gallery, London John Moores Exhibition 20 Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool * Frankfurt Art Fair - Galerie Renate Bender Jerwood Painting Prize 1998 Jerwood Gallery, London * Cologne Art Fair - Galerie Renate Bender Thinking Aloud Camden Arts Centre, London;

2000

2001

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

2008

2009 2010

Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Cornerhouse, Manchester Small is Beautiful Flowers East, London; Flowers West, Los Angeles Works on Paper West Beth Gallery, New York Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Regrouping The Nunnery, London Eagle Gallery, London British Airways Terminal, JFK Airport, New York Five British Abstract Painters Flowers West, Los Angeles Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Recent Acquisitions 2000 Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery Master Class: Basil Beattie, John Edwards, John Hoyland, JohnWalker Galerie Alain Le Gaillard, Paris and Stephen Lacey Gallery, London Retroperspective I Eagle Gallery, London British Abstract Painting Flowers East, London * Drawing ecArt, London Tradition and Innovation City Art Gallery,York Monoprints Art Space Gallery, London Jerwood Painting Prize 2001 Jerwood Gallery, London * Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Three Artists from Hartlepool Gray’s Art Gallery, Hartlepool Three Big Paintings Sarah Myerscough Gallery, London Square Root Sarah Myerscough Gallery, London Viewpoints Eagle Gallery, London Drawn to be Alive Hales Gallery, London 20 X 5 Drawings Eagle Gallery, London Eagle Gallery, London The Spiral of Time OHOS Gallery, Reading The Spiral of Time APT Gallery, London * Basil Beattie & Ian Tyson Eagle Gallery, London Painting Two Rooms, New Zealand Rabley Drawing Centre, UK Prints / Publications Eagle Gallery, London Exchange Dublin / London Paul Kane Gallery, Dublin In Drawing Purdy Hicks Gallery, London Eagle Artists: Part One Eagle Gallery, London Invisible Cities Jerwood Space, London * The Justice and Its Symbols Palace of Justice, Milan * Purdy Hicks Gallery, London Spoilt for Choice Kings Place Gallery, London

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COLLECTIONS INCLUDE: Arts Council England Birmingham City Art Gallery BUPA Contemporary Art Society, London The Creasey Collection of Contemporary Art, Salisbury Deutsche Bank, London Government Art Collection, London NatWest Group Art Collection Northern Arts (Commission for Enamel Mural) Swindon Museum and Art Gallery TATE London Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

1996

1998

AWARDS / PUBLICATIONS 1976 1986 1989 1991 1999 2006

Major Arts Council Award Athena Awards prizewinner John Moores - 2nd prizewinner Blocks - artist’s book with Mel Gooding published Eagle Gallery / EMH Arts Nordstern Print Prize, Royal Academy The Corridor of Uncertainty (DVD) - directed by Emma Hindley Eagle Gallery / EMH Arts with the support of Peter and Maria Kellner

1999 2001

RECENT BIBLIOGRAPHY 1992 1993

1994

1995 142

Basil Beattie at Todd Gallery David Lillington, Time Out (25/3/92) Paintings 1990-1993 Adrian Searle Maak Gallery and Todd Gallery, London - catalogue William Feaver, The Observer (28/11/93) John McEwen, The Sunday Telegraph (12/12/93) Sarah Kent, Time Out (29/12/93) Lead and Follow:The Continuity of Abstraction Kapil Jariwala / Rebecca Fortnum, catalogue ISBN 1 898 669 03 1 A Brush with the Unexpected Tim Hilton, The Independent on Sunday Hermetic Society Giles Auty, The Spectator(20/8/94) Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, Off toWork They Go Adrian Searle The Independent (30/8/94) British Abstract Art: Part I Painting Bryan Robertston Flowers East, London - catalogue Critics Choice John McEwen,

2002

2005

2006

The Sunday Telegraph (14/5/95) New Paintings Paul Moorhouse Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham - catalogue Ace! Hayward Gallery, London - catalogue Tim Hilton, Independent on Sunday (29/9/96) Around the Galleries Sacha Craddock, The Times (29/10/96) Ace!, Hayward Gallery, London, Sarah Kent, Time Out (6/11/96) Basil Beattie Sue Hubbard, Time Out (13/11/96) Portraits of Places Mel Gooding, NatWest Group, London - catalogue Pinstripe Medicis John Windsor Independent on Saturday magazine (30/5/98) Basil Beattie Lynn MacRitchie, Jerwood Gallery, London - catalogue Jerwood Painting Prize Tim Hilton, The Independent on Sunday (4/10/98) Basil Beattie John McEwen, Todd Gallery, London - catalogue Ur-Architecture and the Sign Nick de Ville, Contemporary Visual Arts (21) That Irresistible Climb Mel Gooding Advanced Graphics, London – exhibition text British Abstract Painting Matthew Colliings Flowers East, London - catalogue Basil Beattie Norbert Lynton, Jerwood Gallery, London - catalogue Scrape it off and start all over again John McEwen Sunday Telegraph (16/9/01) That climb Robin Dutt, RA Magazine, no. 72 The Significance of Symbols Pryle Behrman, Printmaking Today (summer) Basil’s brush with the process of painting Helen Smithson Highbury and Islington Express (6/09/02) Basil Beattie: Above and Below Laura Gascoigne, What’s On (18/09/02) Change and Decay John McEwen, The Sunday Telegraph (6/10/02) Contemporary Market Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph (4/11/02) Marking aYear Nick de Ville, Eagle Gallery/EMH Arts, London catalogue ISBN 978-0-9554046-5-8 The Naked Art Richard Dyer, OHOS Gallery, Reading – exhibition text Art on a Broad Canvas Charlotte Cripps, Independent (2/01/06)


2008 2009

2010

The Spiral of Time Martin Holman, APT Gallery, London - catalogue Basil Beattie Jane Ross, The Week (15.12.06) Exchange Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times (9/04/08) Basil Beattie:The Janus series Emma Hill, Eagle Gallery/ EMH Arts catalogue ISBN 978-0-9554046-9-6 Galleries Magazine, September – Nicholas Usherwood Basil Beattie Jane Ross, The Week (12.09.09) Back to the Future RA Magazine, Autumn 2009 Basil Beattie; Ian McKeever Alexander Adams, Burlington Magazine, CLI November Paintings: Mysteries and Confessions Tess Jaray Lenz Books ISBN 978-0-9564760-1-2 Marcus Harvey interviews Basil Beattie Turps Banana No. 8 Adventures in Art Sue Hubbard, Other Criteria ISBN 978-1-906967-21-5 The Radicals Matthew Collings, Modern Painters, September 2010 *exhibition publications

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Basil Beattie LARGE WORKS 1986 2009  

Bail Beattie Large Paintings and Installations