The wealth of variety encouraged the eye back and forth across the surface of the works yet an overall reading was every so often interrupted by drawn elements that suggested recessional space. Beattie had given the room a metaphorical dimension – the viewer stood surrounded by an array of choices - a revelation of the dexterity and eloquence of mark making, in which a few strokes of paint could prompt complex emotional responses. It felt as if one might be standing inside the head of the artist, glimpsing the fluctuating, ever-moving, re-focussing of thoughts. Four years later in 1991 Beattie developed his ideas further in Drawing on the Interior – a large-scale installation conceived for the Eagle Gallery, for one of its inaugural exhibitions. For an intense four month period he worked on a sequence of nearly 700 works, made in Chinese ink on soft printing paper. Each was dated, with a view to hanging them chronologically as a vast visual diary. Once in the space, however, it became apparent that the relationships between the individual works produced their own kind of rhythms. 376 of the drawings were selected to completely fill the walls and were hung visually to encourage readings that went horizontally, vertically and diagonally. Reduced to the barest essentials, the weight of black mark on thick creamy paper gave the installation an almost diagrammatic quality. Falling towers, ziggurats, steps, ladders, doorways, stacked blocks, thresholds – the simple forms carried inevitable figurative associations. The work announced a final departure from a long held allegiance to the philosophies and practice of Abstract Expressionism from which Beattie came. Stripped of the seductiveness of paint – the images clearly spilled into the territory of semiotic language. They provided afterwards the components from which Beattie would produce the most forceful and successful paintings he has made, yet they hovered, subtle and individual – allowing no certainties of interpretation.
Ah, the tall towers! the ziggurats of certainty! leaning toppling derelictions diminishings desolations 3
1. Ken Campbell : Pantheon 2. Marcus Harvey: Turps Banana issue 8 3. Mel Gooding: Blocks 1991 (Eagle Gallery/ EMH Arts) 23
Bail Beattie Large Paintings and Installations