Head, Man, Land

Art Life , Reviews May 18, 2004 No Comments

We went past a gallery on Liverpool Street just up the road from the super-swanky de de ce furniture shop. At least we thought it was a gallery – we couldn’t be sure because every other shop looks like a gallery to us – and we thought, hmmm, it must be new and we should go back and check it out.

Going back the next day we discovered the place was in fact Liverpool Street Gallery and we were seeing the last days of the John Beard show Headlands. Beard is what people call a “bald headed beauty” and his show was a literal interpretation of that notion. Now, sometimes we discuss here at The Art Life some heavy concepts and ideas that, to paraphrase Shuan Ryder, will twist your melon, but the Beard show went further beyond the land beyond beyond than we have ever experienced. Are you sitting comfortably?

Each painting in Headlands was either a painting of a headland (as in an isthmus or similar outcropping of rock in the ocean) juxtaposed next to a painting of the artist’s head. The pictures were rendered in various degrees of realism, combining what could be called impressionistic, ‘out of focus’ images with more abstract colour fields with traces of the images within. In the case of one picture, Beard had put his head and the headland together at a rate of 50 per cent, creating a head headland.

Back in February we mocked the Sydney Morning Herald art critic Peter Hill for making the observation that “[Beard’s] work has reached a greater balance between portraiture and landscape than any other artists I know…” but it turns out that that is exactly what the work is – half landscape, half portraiture. Before you ask, ‘what does that fact do for the greater good of humanity?’ (and the inevitable answer of ‘nothing’), we’d just like to point out that what Beard is saying is that the head land of the headland, is the land inside the head, that the perceptual apparatus of seeing the world is contained within the head, the head land. If you’d had a feather, you could have knocked us over! Talk about conceptual! Pffft.

Andrew Frost

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