Basil Beattie

The Janus Series

October 23 – November 22, 2008


British artist Basil Beattie is amongst the most respected abstract artists worldwide and has been described as “one of the most significant of bridges in the generations of contemporary abstract painters” (Nick de Ville). His career spans the emergence of abstract expressionism in the UK in the late 1950’s through to a more recent emphases on the ambiguities of signification and ironies of reference that have dominated visual art practice since the 1980s. Beattie’s work was showcased in a Tate Britain display in 2007, which featured major acquisitions of his work made over the last 20 years, and his work is held in many public collections throughout UK.

Beattie’s works invest strongly in the physicality of the painted object, however the expressive gesture colludes with a range of visual references that can be understood as alluding to language. A signature aspect of his work is the use of recurrent pictographic ‘signs’, which draw on recognisable forms: tunnels, steps, ziggurats, ladders and doorways. With these he explores the formal propositions and technicalities of painting and the symbolic possibilities that arise through his use of motifs. Essentially ambiguous, these signs are – as the writer Mel Gooding describes them – ‘thresholds’ to an experience of the work that takes place in the subconscious.

Beattie’s exhibition at Two Rooms is the first showing from a major new body of paintings: The Janus Series. Epic in scale and uncompromising in their use of simple pictorial devices and subtly restrained colour, these complex and resonant works show new developments in his work. Poised in their potential readings between landscape vistas of horizon lines, train tracks or ploughed scrub fields and formal plays of line, space and recesses within the pictures’ surfaces; the meanings of these paintings reside ultimately in the physical reality of paint. Paint, in gobbets and drips that fall over the surface of the canvases, paint as articulate, eloquent graphic line, paint as mass and as absence. As their generic title suggests these works look forwards and back and are amongst the strongest and most resolute of Beattie’s career.

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