Four years after his first French solo show and many group shows, Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire is pleased to exhibit the experimental and formal work of British-American artist John Beech again. Here, the gallery revisits abstraction, the art field it has specialized in over the last 20 years, through the elegant and impactful mix of its various defining elements. For this show, John Beech has spent three weeks in Paris in order to create pieces made on site.
Each Photo-Paintings hanging on the walls combines two temporalities. First, there is the temporality of the photograph taken by the artist, and then the one of the pictorial gesture, which consists in adding another layer on the surface of the image. The photograph is therefore no longer meant to inform. On the contrary, it throws spectators off, and the content of the image (industrial volumes in urban spaces, dumpsters, containers etc.) is overshadowed by the space and volume of the paint itself. The mix of these two media creates a hybrid visual language which toys with our perception of images and the unpredictable nature of pictorial and screen printing intervention. The artist adds to the industrial process of screen printing by using tires, wire fences, and other manufactured items such as carpets or thermoplastic to blur the surface .
Whether in his photo-paintings, tape-drawings, coated-drawings, print-drawings or paintings, John Beech practices an intrusive form of abstraction through more or less wide colored flat tint areas, which sometime totally cover up the original image. This gesture is both ambiguous and disconcerting: the artist alters and disrupts the image’s readability, while at the same time recomposing its aura as a unique piece. Sometime, he goes as far as to entirely cloak the photograph to get a monochromatic surface: the image then only exists through the depth of its layered material. In his sculptures, abstraction is not simply represented; it is embodied through the volume of the industrial objects that the artist's sculptures reference (Containers, Rolling Platforms, Blocks etc.). By associating abstraction and figuration, and alluding to familiar shapes and multiple references, John Beech shows his capacity to renew abstraction. With the negation of frontiers between painting and sculpture, shape and color, volume and flatness, medium specificity is revealed as a relative truth.
This sentence by John Beech: “The connecting link between my approaches is an emphasis on the physical presence of the materials used, in works that shed new light on the overlooked objects and architectural elements of the urban setting” echoes Rauschenberg’s: “I don’t want a picture to look like something it isn’t. I want it to look like something it is. And I think a picture is more like the real world when it’s made out of the real world.”
While John Beech’s creations show a strong influence of art history and American abstraction, they also go beyond artistic categorizations. The utilitarian function of his assembled pieces or of the industrial objects he takes in picture highlight the relation of his work to our daily life. Walking in Rauschenberg footsteps, John Beech plays with the trivial nature of the material he uses. While he does reveal their creative potential, he also preserves their raw nature by consciously limiting his artistic intervention.
By reintroducing material and space inside the gallery, John Beech’s artworks and installations seek to interact with us by disrupting our common perceptions. They do not put distance or create a sacred aura around them. Instead, they stand out by their simplicity and modesty. This minimal presence gives rise to an eloquent and original artistic language. Beech’s approach could very well recall some of the views defended by Harald Szeemann during his historic exhibition entitled “When attitudes become form: live in your head ». The artist’s true conceptual freedom and minimalist approach delicately arise from his basic shapes and “trash” gesture.