15 May – 13 June
Entry to the gallery is by membership
Exhibition goes live at 10am on 15 May
For advance information and a collector’s preview please register interest:
Over the last year John Beard has painted the Fovant Hills in Wiltshire for a new body of work to be shown in the Long Gallery at Messums Wiltshire. Four large scale paintings and a selection of smaller-scale oils and watercolours form a remarkable exploration light, colour, and the experience of southern Wiltshire landscapes.
At the start of 2020 John Beard was invited for a residency at Messums Wiltshire. He set up a studio in a nearby barn with a wall of floor to ceiling windows looking out towards the Fovant Hills. As an artist alternating between studios in Sydney and London twice a year, location had become less relevant to his practice. Yet in Wiltshire he found himself overwhelmed by the shifting light and everchanging landscape surrounding the studio. Despite arriving with no intention of painting landscapes, he soon decided that he couldn’t continue to ignore it.
Beard was concerned with the sensation of landscape, the shifting light, colours, and moods and what it is to look directly and unmediated at a view. The Fovant Hills are a strange view, the hillside a great band of shadow spanning the canvas. The paintings toy with abstraction with the sky, hillside and fields below captured in horizontal planes and washes of colour. Beard mixed oil paint with bees’ wax to make a transparent pigment. Traces of mark-making and under-paintings are visible below layers of translucent paint and the surface holds remarkable depth and texture. The colours are subtle and evocative, illuminated by the layers of tone below. He painted with brushes, dragged paint across the canvas with a wooden board, pressed it in with sheets of paper, poured it from pots and drew with his hands. This extensive arsenal of techniques reveals John’s extraordinary experience as a painter and the depth and breadth of his knowledge.
Beard describes himself as trying to reach a point where it looks as if the paintings have made themselves, that they are the inevitable conclusion of a year of looking slowly at this small corner of the landscape. And it is a thrilling conclusion; a remarkable body of painting and a testament to the greatness of art that comes from studied observation rather than a glimpsed moment. The show opens a month before our first artists-in-residence, the Australian filmmakers Sonia Leber and David Chesworth present their haunting exploration of Wiltshire landscape ‘What Listening Knows’. Together they build upon a legacy of extraordinary art born from the landscape of southern Wiltshire surrounding the gallery.