(they remind me of cloaked figures from a Romanesque frieze)... darkness hangs over them and surrounds them. And it is hard not to see the floating, gold and red shape in Imagine If again as a kind of figure of apparition, caught forever between revealment and disappearance. It is probably enough to say that the relationships between forms which appear active and mobile, and those which seem architectural, wall-like and static or blank suggest inhabited spaces. Painting deals with figures and grounds - as does sculpture - and this can never simply be seen as only a matter of purely formal abstractions. It is always a matter of figures and absences. The viewer, too, is an active agent. We project ourselves into the paintings, and re-invent the paintings with our own desires and memories. Basil Beattie almost seems to encourage this, leaving unpainted spaces, incomplete forms and openings, enticing the viewer to interject. Perhaps we too become figures in the paintings, and what we are offered is the haunting possibility of our engagement. A blurred presence blocks an archway in one of the most recent paintings, like a figure who stands in a doorway for an instant, momentarily blocking the light, and then is gone; a figure seen at the edge of a vision whose departure coincides with the moment we turn to look. The painter brings new forms into the world, or re-casts old forms in a fresh context, in order to describe what cannot possibly be said in any other way, - in order to remember and to express. Symbols change their meanings but remain symbols none the less. Painting is a symbolic art, and paintings are symbolic in that they envince the struggle to be.
Text originally published in: Basil Beattie Painting 1990-1993 Maak Gallery - Todd Gallery London 1993. 29
Bail Beattie Large Paintings and Installations