Here you will find some publications, videos and press releases of John Beardman.
Beardman’s works on paper are slow paintings. “Slow” might seem inappropriate given that at first glance they seem to be in the lineage of Abstract Expressionism. The paint is built up thickly; the color splattered, dripped, swiped over rough-edge drag paper. The palette is subdued, even somber, which encourages a closer inspection of the surface. It’s the surface that draws the viewer in for that closer look that reveals these are paintings made to be savored, not swallowed in one quick visual gulp. The fact that Swamp Sway, 1998, is signed twice on the bottom to negatge the signature now on the upper left helps to prove how well considered these paintings on paper are. The way that they are made is as slow as the paintings are to unveil themselves. Beardman builds up layer upon layer of acrylic, working in a way that belies its directness. He spreads the liquified color on beds of wax, often adding layers of mulberry or other rag papers, supersaturated with Rhoplex.
This is then collaged to paper and the latex skin sliced into and peeled back to reveal what has become the support of the now congealed color, sometimes the paper or one of the strata of paint. The cuts are always carefully delineated, and in the grouping selected by gallery owner Denise Bibro, circles and ovals are favored. For example, in Eastern Morn, 1998, an egg-shape is centered on a field of ivory with ink-like blacks beading up on the wax-like surface.
None of this is revealed in the first look, where references to Abstract Expressionism or the automatism of Surrealism or the immediacy of a Zen-inspired work comes to mind. It takes a moment to discern Beardman’s process and to enter into the dialogue that he is creating – between forms, between textures, between colors, between the viewer and the object.
When Beardman makes the cuts, he cannot be certain what they will reveal even though he has laid down the colors with intuitive deliberation. The fact that he opts for such precision in the flayed shapes is what makes this work engaging on an intellectual level. What engages the viewer on the purely visual level is his ability to create harmony in what could be a contentious and uncontrolled composition.
There is, however, a miscalculation in two works. The spring green of Swamp Sway and Flood Gates, both 1998, seems too frivolous. The her is out of key with the blacks and dirty whites of the compositions. It’s not that Beardman is insensitive to color. The regal reds and golds work well with the subdued tones in Wave Liner, 1997. And the azures and turquoises that dominate seven small untitled works, all 1998
The intimacy of scale of all of these works on paper encourages a closer look and a longer one. These paintings take time.
The painting process is addictive. A joy for some, painful for others. For John Beardman, painting is a near-compulsive activity which he does with great relish. He is an ebullient man producing a bounteous body of work that concerns nature without replicating it. His incident-rich canvases manage to retain their purity as abstractions while evoking a whole range of associations with nature. The paintings look like they were made by the forces of nature rather than by an artist's hand. Indeed, Beardman does everything he can to distance himself from the marks he makes with his hands by using intervening processes that alter them through reversal, overlay, stretching, tearing, and reassembly. He literally processes the paint skin itself, and many of the ways he does so go back to printmaking techniques he learned at the hands of a master, Stanley Hayter.
But his early experiences at Hayter's experimental Atelier 17 were far from his mind--or buried deep within it--when he developed his current way of working about eight years ago. He had been painting huge, roughly-textured abstractions, but was strongly attracted to the smooth, painting surfaces that his wife, Laura Kollins, got with wax encaustic. She suggested that he might be able to get durable versions of the fragile encaustic surfaces by casting acrylic resin on wax. Months of experimentation led to the process of pulling thin sheets, or skins, of hardened resin off the wax "beds," then affixing them like collage elements to the prepared canvas. Working blind--in that the first applications of resin were buried by later ones only to reappear when the skins were pulled off--and with blinding speed--to keep the gesture as out of control as possible--he found a way to maximize accident on every level and at every stage of the painting process.
Beardman's paintings are remarkably airy and lightfilled considering their many layers and the labor intensive method of their fabrication. Heir's Drawing, 1997, for instance, looks as though nature had washed over it leaving matter strewn about and randomly scrawled a myriad of lines on its surface, like tracks on an ocean dune. Yet it is firmly structured: each of its two halves being segmented from top to bottom into three aligned areas. Even when the whole surface is closed in with color and form as it is in Boudicea's Smoke, it seems very open and spatial. The layering process, involving as it does layerings of clear resin amid the colored, partly explains the air filled quality. The other source for it is the abrupt "jump cuts" where a sharp edge crosses a contrasting painterly passage "inexplicably" cutting it and opening up a spatial abyss.
The paintings in this exhibition run edge to edge, top to bottom. No more the vignetting of previous years. Their segmenting, tiering, banding, and gridding is late New York School, as is the use of acrylic resin and the whole idea of process and surfacing. But Beardman's automatist methods and the wealth of incident he "finds" in the process of creation is very much in line with the thinking of the first generation Abstract Expressionists. So too is his passion for the process of painting, and for losing himself, and finding himself, in it.
If the main and inescapable problem of these times is urban life, then John Beardman makes paintings at the outskirts of our current sociological and aesthetic geography. But he does so with a consciousness and a technique that is fully cosmopolitan in its preoccupations and intentions. Beardman's exquisite corpse is nature, which he builds with a vocabulary of gestural articulation that traverses along implicit renderings of the grid. Beardman's purist images float in a suspended surface of sensibility, as he captures the breath of larger events and describes them with kinetic strokes hatched from the confluence of physiology and memory.
Beardman first paints on beeswax [sic!] and proceeds to print sheets of imagery upon the canvas, often floating and affixing them over the bare surface--as in the ambitious 'Angler's Stone.' By reversing his image, Beardman can distance his expectation and confront the image with a fresher eye. The effect of this is two-fold: the painted object retains a matte surface, unburdening itself of cliched romantic associations; and second-separations of beaded paint over the wax produces a kind of "light writing" and an allusion to the quickness of the photographic record. This intention is reconfirmed by Beardman's use of razor-sharp horizontal or vertical divisions between sections that harken to the metaphorical convention of montage.
In pieces like "The Chinese Red Horse" and "Iron's anvil" the artist locates his gestural skies within a text-box format, surrounding them with large margins of pompeii red. This emphasis of format over the pictorial unity of an entire field locks his visual language into further alienation even as it evokes the weight of its anthropological subject.