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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

Basil Beattie LARGE WORKS 1986 2009  

Bail Beattie Large Paintings and Installations

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