Nature’s Lines: New Work By John Beadle
The Bahamas has seen many art shows over the years, but rarely comes along an artist brave enough to present a body of work that defies convention. The Central Bank of The Bahamas opened the year with one if its most provocative exhibitions to grace its gallery. Bahamian master artist John Beadle’s recent work, ‘Nature’s Lines’ draws our attention to the natural beauty of a line we often disregard. In what many deemed a long awaited solo exhibition, the crowds that filled the space proved this to be true. Bahamians from all walks of life joined together on January 19th to be a part of Beadle’s monumental moment.
Although a heavy space, the gallery welcomes you with a certain level of stillness as the collection of lines creep along the walls of its interiors personifying the simplicity of nature. Intrigued by their movement you journey with them as they travel throughout the space guiding you through their palette of earthy hues which mimic red soil, limestone white, and blackened charcoal with hints of cobalt blue. The moment the light hits their surface revealing the unusual textures of their weathered material of jasmine vine, red mangrove root-wood, plywood and cooper casting shadows beneath; you realize that these lines have entered a world of three dimension. Beadle feels the shadows play a crucial part in adding another element to the work. “I think the shadow creates the space, it forces you to see a piece from a distance and even when you come to it, it forces you to recognize there is space between – a separation between the wall and the outer edge.”
Those who follow Beadle’s work know him to be an artist who uses unusual and sometimes salvaged materials in innovative ways so for them this exhibition comes as no surprise. In fact, a few may notice it bears a resemblance to some of his earlier work, ‘Fighting Hard, The Six of Us’ where he used short sections of vine material, attached to the surfaces of the assemblage and collage pieces. Beadle refers to the vine used then as “A gesture that emerged from the surface of the work. The aim then was to bring more dimension to the work… allow some aspect of the work to migrate off of the wall and into the viewer’s space.”
The lines in his current work intertwine imbuing fierce, volatile, and arbitrary tones yet as a collection they are not boisterous or overwhelming, but quiet in nature with a gracious zen quality. Inside your space you feel you can touch them and should touch them. You gravitate with a sense of curiosity, but out of respect for art you stand back and resist that impulse. Beadle is interested in how viewers interact with the line. He’s curious to see their first reaction and then their hesitation. “If the first reaction is to touch then there is that level of comfort. So it’s endearing somehow. The air around the solid, the negative space is a mutual space between the object and the viewer …allowing for a greater experience of the architecture of the object.”
Beadle often readdresses elements of his work. He feels it is important to make it relevant to his current creative practice as its about “bringing his history forward to some extent”. His present focus is concerned with the simplicity of the line and how space becomes an important role in the interpretation of the work. “This work is an attempt to liberate that gesture from all of the other elements that made those earlier works. My aim was to produce a line that did not work in service of anything other than itself… the line is the object. With this thinking, different kinds of lines became necessary; fine and fast, large and slow. Lines that would in a short travel, twenty four inches or so, go up and down, in toward the mounting surface and back into the gallery’s space. The line had to create its own space and occupy that space.” explains Beadle.
For many who visited the exhibition ‘Kind of Blue… Somewhat’ stood out as the focal piece. Perhaps its size or prominence of blue contrast against the bare wall is what drew them in, but for me it was its uncanny resemblance to Grand Bahama, the fifth largest island in The Bahamas. Relating the work with something I was familiar and finding a common factor to how the lines created fascinating shapes became an interesting way of interpreting this work and appreciating its sculptural form.
“My response to the material is as slight as possible… the aim is to allow the lines, textures, animation of the material and the space around to be the most important aspect of the work. My touch is necessary only to isolate what is already there so as to allow others to focus on that thing(s) that I am focused on. It is all about the line and how it exists as a sculpture. A sculpture that hangs off the wall.” Beadle explains.
Nature’s Lines lends itself to no conceptual interpretation, in fact it is the most simple work Beadle has produced, but he maintains that “Sometimes the work is not about anything other than the work.”
Article By Keisha Oliver