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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

Basil Beattie LARGE WORKS 1986 2009  

Bail Beattie Large Paintings and Installations

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