– of a semiotician’s attitude to images and their collective emergence as a school of Semiotic Figuration has for him a repellent self-consciousness about it, hence his insistence on that ‘corridor of uncertainty’. This stricture could be most powerfully applied to the assumption by some that the painterly gesture is solely an over-coded sign of ‘authentic’ self-expression. Second and third generation artists within the canon of a semiotic figuration have themselves attempted to overcome the abiding image it projects of the artist as masterful pictureeditor. The most powerful tendency seen in the first wave of Semiotic Figuration throughout the eighties (Salle, etc.) was the impulse to provoke sensory overload and narrative block with a hetroclitic ‘Forest of Signs’, but subsequently a number of painters have come to prominence who have tried to be more sparing and specific in their handling of figuration. Most notably they have permitted references that echo bodily presence to enter their work. Beattie’s repertoire of elemental figurative forms make him an obvious link with the more considered and austere artists trying to develop painting beyond the established norms of a semiotic figuration. Further to the pleasure of his play with paint, it is the subtle interplay of modes of signing that marks out Beattie’s work as so distinctive. In his work the viewer can enjoy not only some of the most important cross-currents in recent painting, but also one artist’s complex and heartfelt responses to them.
Text originally published in Basil Beattie Marking a Year, Eagle Gallery 2005 ISBN 978-0-9554046-5-8 Extended by the author in 2009 102
Bail Beattie Large Paintings and Installations