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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

Basil Beattie LARGE WORKS 1986 2009  

Bail Beattie Large Paintings and Installations

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