as “an ungainly pile of the kind of perspectival diagrams to be found in the pages of an old-fashioned artist’s drawing manual”) and mostly redolent not of an agoraphobic landscape vista but, rather, a claustrophobic architectural typology. In 2005 I also characterized this typology as an ur-architecture, its components being corbelled steps, tunnels and corridors, gateways and the right-angled corners of floor and walls. But what in today’s context is most striking is how, in nearly all cases, the spatial implication of these elements relies on the way the minimal drawing of the architectural space is sprung off an insistently delineated frame. With hindsight we can see the degree to which the succession of frames can speak to us in terms of a succession of walked-through spaces, as though tramping through endless architecture. The appeal to a temporal understanding of traversing built spaces is there as a forerunner of the Janus series. Even so, it would seem to be more difficult to fathom the full meaning of the unit here, where it could be considered as a pictorial effect consequent on formal, organizational intentions, solely guided by the dimensional imperatives of the canvas’s field of play. The organization of frames is not as schematically insistent or as cinematic as it is in the Janus series, and it is the clarity with which the filmic time/space allusion is now acknowledged that marks a step-change in Beattie’s conceptualization. How to sum up the impressions gained from the developments to be seen in Beattie’s latest body of work? And how might they inflect our impression of his output as a whole? It seems less compelling now to see his work as an important contributor to an on-going narrative about contemporary painting, although that still remains. Rather the work stands aside from that validation, in a place that only a few artists have reached in their maturity, their creative forces far from expended, refined rather than diminished by time, and where it is the implacable mysteries of time and space – and their intertwining – that they are gifted to reveal as the work of art, despite painting’s apparent unsuitability for the task in hand, given its intractable obsession with its own materiality.
Bail Beattie Large Paintings and Installations