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.
Karen S. Chambers, Review Magazine, June 15, 1998