5 March – 3 June 2007
Tate Britain is mounting a display of the later paintings of Basil Beattie as part of the BP British Art Displays 1500–2007. The display celebrates the gift of two works from Peter and Maria Kellner to the Tate Collection and coincides with the launch of the film Basil Beattie: The Corridors of Uncertainty which can be seen at Tate Britain during the period of the display.
Basil Beattie (born 1935) is a unique artist. He has been described as ‘one of the most significant bridges between generations of contemporary British painters’. As a tutor at Goldsmiths College for over twenty years he has been at the heart of the debate about the principles and practices of art and exerted an influence over a younger generation of painters including Fiona Rae, Gary Hume and Alexis Harding.
Tate Britain’s display focuses on Beattie’s large-scale paintings of the last fifteen years. The selected works are all over two metres in size and include Present Bound 1990, and The Difference Between II 2005. In the earlier part of his career Beattie was much affected by American Abstract Expressionism and, in particular, the work of Mark Rothko and Willem De Kooning. Like another admired artist, Philip Guston, drawing re-entered his painting in the 1980s. The paintings of this later phase can be compared with those of younger artists, showing a new emphasis on the ambiguities of pictorial symbolism and ironic references.
Beattie uses a vocabulary of forms often in a way like pictograms. With them he explores both the technicalities of painting – expressive brush work, illusionistic space and surface finish – and its potential for evocative signification. Doorways, tunnels, steps, ladders recur. One critic has described them as thresholds. These paintings are works of great energy and beauty. They are also psychologically compelling.
Basil Beattie’s art explores the very fundamentals of what painting is and what paintings can do as means of expression. For this reason, he is one of the most respected artists among fellow painters. It is hoped this display will take his work to a much wider audience and appreciation.
BP British Art Displays 1500–2007 is supported by BP. BP has supported Collection Displays at Millbank since 1991, first at the Tate Gallery and then from the opening of Tate Britain in 2000 to the present. BP’s continued support, which was recently extended until 2012, allows Tate Britain to create a broad and dynamic displays programme which explores in depth British art from 1500 to the present.