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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

Basil Beattie LARGE WORKS 1986 2009  

Bail Beattie Large Paintings and Installations

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