JOHN BEARD

AFter the raft of the medusa

 

In collaboration with Bill Moseley, artist and master printer, the series includes two editions of photogravure copper plate etchings ( one in red the other in black ) and a unique state ‘ambrotype’ consisting of 24 glass panels. 

The full-scale copy, but stripped of colour and abstracted into areas of tone became a new way to rediscover Géricault's painting, like a memory or seeing something in the half-light so it becomes unfamiliar... and the sheer work of executing something of that scale, like a kind of meditation in itself, I imagine, imbues it with a certain gravitas... Christopher AllenNational Art Critic, The Australian

Every image, in fact, is animated by an antinomic polarity: on the one hand, images are the reification and obliteration of a gesture ( it is the imago as death mask or symbol); on the other hand, they preserve the dynamics intact… The former corresponds to the recollection seized by voluntary memory, while the latter corresponds to the image flashing in the epiphany of involuntary memory. And while the former lives in magical isolation, the latter always refers beyond itself to a whole of which it is a part. Event the Mona Lisa, even Las Meninas could not be seen as eternal forms, but as fragments of a gesture or as stills of a lost film wherein only they would regain their true meaning." Gorgio Agamben, 'Notes on Gesture' (1992)

 

As William Wright explained in 2014 “John (Beard) is a painter ... who you need to find…you need to discover. I have been watching over the years, you get this sense of looking ... over time, you see it takes on another dimension. John is an artist like that.”
Kon Gouriotis, Artists Profile magazine February 2016

A response from Barry Pearce, former Head Of Australian Art AGNSW

John's vision of The Raft of the Medusa allows one to inhabit the horrifying, almost uninhabitable Romantic grandeur of the great masterpiece and comprehend its powerful beauty better. No mean feat.

I recalled the Kenneth Clark passage regarding Velasquez when standing in front of your panels based on The Raft of the Medusa; thinking about Manet looking at Velasquez and how his revelation of the Spanish master's texture, yet reining in the energy of execution with hard borders had such a quintessential influence of the modern movement in France ( a bit like Delacroix's response to Constable I suppose).

I think in your own way you too are looking to unravel the mystery of these great masterpieces but you se- cure the vision through a delicate system of tessellated marks, a process of engagement in your own language which is totally legitimate. Further, you seem to transmute an overpowering Romantic statement into something intimate. Quite miraculous really, like climbing inside and being caressed and absorbed by Gericault's neurones. Kenneth clark regarding Velasquez....

Kenneth Clark......One should be content to accept it without question, but one cannot look for long at Las Meninas without wanting to find out how it is done. I remember that when it hung in Geneva in 1939 I used to go very early in there morning, before the gallery was open, and try to stalk it, as if it were really alive. (This is impossible in the Prado, where the hushed and darkened room in which it hangs is never empty.) I would start from as far away as I could, when the illusion was complete, and come gradually nearer, until suddenly what had been a hand, and a ribbon, and a piece of silver, dissolved into a salad of beautiful brush strokes. I thought I might learn something if I could catch the moment at which this transformation took place, but it proved to be as elusive as the moment between waking and sleeping. Kenneth Clark. Looking at pictures, London, John Murray 1960 pp 36-37 and sleeping.