A Look At Nature’s Lines
It’s been some time since Bahamian master artist John Beadle has held a solo show — so long, in fact, that he can’t quite place his finger on when it might have been, if ever.
Yet Beadle has always exhibited his work in group shows at different local galleries, utilizing materials in innovative and unexpected ways, letting such every day materials take on a life and voice of their own to bridge the gap between what is and what could be.
Such is the emotional tone of this long-awaited solo show, ‘Nature’s Lines’ which opened at the Central Bank of The Bahamas this past Thursday evening.
As the name suggests, Beadle’s pieces have a connection with nature — the material he utilized for this body of work is nothing more than wood: plywood, jasmine vines and found or salvaged dead wood.
Even the colors are earthy, invoking rich red dirt, blackened charcoal and chalk-white limestone – with a flash of blue for blue’s sake.
Such a space seems to be a tribute of sorts to the simplicity of nature, for Beadle allowed these pieces to speak for themselves in many ways, only serving to highlight their natural lines — wood grain or rings — with certain deliberate applications of color.
“I didn’t make the line — I didn’t even want to try mimic the line,” explained Beadle.
“My first impulse was to make these objects and create drawings of objects I wanted to do. But I knew my lines wouldn’t have been as organic as the lines being made by just the vine, so I didn’t want to try doing that.
“I think it defeats the purpose of creating a line from an object that already is of nature and then try to mimic that — I think it would be a mediocre copy of what already exists.”
Yet the show isn’t entirely muted.
Instead, Beadle’s whimsical pieces skim the border between two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality by inhabiting both worlds. The lines he creates snake along the wall and then jump away from the surface, twisting to life with both a fierceness and playfulness and creating a third dimension of lines — shadows.
“I think the shadow is important,” said Beadle.
“I think the shadow creates the space, it forces you to see a piece from a distance and even when you come to, it forces you to recognize there is space in between — a separation between the wall and the outer edge of the object.
“I think that’s important because if I’m talking about drawing a line in space, then we feel the space, the space is present.”
Indeed this move doesn’t serve to highlight the lines themselves but rather the physicality and function of space — viewers are somewhat thrown for a loop in this classic breakdown of the fourth wall. Unlike Beadle’s previous work seen at Doongalik Art Studios during Transforming Spaces 2011 where he encases specimens of bugs made out of electrical pieces in safe and tidy glass enclosures, these pieces break away from their cage, springing into the open in unpredictable shapes and shifting perceptions, invading the space of the viewer.
Yet Beadle maintains some semblance of a barrier between nature and viewer with his use of color, painting these twisted vines solid whites or blues, sometimes exploring a spectrum of this palette in one single sweep, giving them even more depth. Such a move, said Beadle, allows viewers to approach the pieces without the prejudices of wood.
“I want you to wonder what it is and enjoy it before you realize it’s wood,” explained Beadle.
“I think that separation allows far greater engagement in the first instance that wouldn’t happen if the wood wasn’t painted, I don’t think.”
In this way the pieces are allowed to function simply as collections of lines — they become simply marks in a space, and that simplicity in itself earns curiosity and awe and pleasure.
“Sometimes the work is not about anything other than the work,” Beadle pointed out.
“The importance of the line to me is not that it’s a line that describes the space or to articulate a perimeter of an object; it’s a line that moves into space and the lines becomes not a device that describes something but acts.”
Such a blank slate without a point of critical reference or outward evidence of materials can allow viewers
to respond emotionally as they follow this exchange between controlled and chaotic, space and object, nature and man.
“I hope viewers get an appreciation of something different,” said Beadle.
“We say we like something just because we like it. When someone comes back and asks you to explain why you like it, we get apprehensive and it gets kind of difficult to explain that, only because we don’t have the language to explain it.
“I would hope the viewers come and say they like the piece but they don’t know why yet — I think that’s more important than anything else.”
The Nassau Guardian
Arts & Culture Section
Published: Saturday, January 21, 2012