English painter and printmaker. He studied at West Hartlepool College of Art (1950 -55) and at the Royal Academy Schools, London. He taught at Goldsmiths College, London, from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Influenced by the work the New York artists associated with Abstract Expressionism while still a student at the Academy Schools in the late 50s. Throughout his career his work has always been distinguished by his sensuous and physical use of paint – characteristics which he shares with the Abstraction as practised by other English painters such as John Hoyland, Albert Irvin, and Gillian Ayres – all of whom have developed from that period of American Abstract Expressionist influence.
In the late 60s and into the 70s Beattie was preoccupied with making paintings where there was no trace of the hand.The work was like ‘nature’ not so much in appearance but in the manner by which it was made, where gravity and the consistencies of paint were fundamental in the forming of the image. These works showed an acute awareness of the work of Morris Louis and Jules Olitski.
It was in 1987, in his exhibition at the Curwen Gallery London, that Beattie’s pictographic language began to evolve. This was followed in 1991 with a drawing Installation – Drawing on the Interior, at the Eagle Gallery London, consisting of 376 drawings. The work explored the emerging imagery, such as ladders, stairways, corridors tunnels, towers, doors, and ziggurats. Many of these images became subjects for paintings. Beattie has said of these images that they were not attempts to paint literal things, but were used as vehicles for conveying symbolic and metaphoric associations. The ziggurat triggered the Witness Series of paintings and a key work titled ‘Present Bound’. The image of the ziggurat in this painting is the only part of the work which is painted – the rest of the linen is left untouched.
The language of the paint defining the image suggests a narrative of vitality and life, while remaining separated and isolated from the surroundings. A metaphor perhaps for a human condition.
Beattie’s current paintings have the collective title of the Janus series. Janus the Roman God, originally of light, who opened the sky at daybreak and closed it at sunset. In time, he came to preside over all entrances and exits. He is often represented as having two faces, one in front and one behind, one to see into the future, and one to see into the past. In this series Beattie uses a stack of three units, sometimes four, to frame a series of horizons, often with perspectival suggestions of travel and journeys. However any resulting illusion of space is contradicted by the raw physicality of the paint. It has been suggested the framing units resemble rear view mirrors and windscreens. Beattie recognises and accepts these references simply because the view through the windscreen might be said to denote the future and the view in the rear view mirror, the past.
Work from the Janus series was shown at the Two Rooms Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand in 2008 . A more comprehensive showing of the series will open in September 2009 at the Purdy Hicks Gallery, London. An installation of large related drawings will run concurrently at the Eagle Gallery, London.