Review: ‘John Beard: After Image’ paintings at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 20th May – 6th June, 2009


John Beard. 'Darwin' 2009


John Beard (Australian born Wales, b. 1943)



The final exhibition of the afternoon were the ephemeral images of John Beard at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne. This was an enthralling show that I enjoyed tremendously. Beard draws in a multitude of cultural sources for his paintings often referencing painters, scientists, animals and evolution. His work has an intimate sense of knowing, a meditative mediation on the essence of the object being painted, the very presence of the thing itself. The marks on the canvas may be intuitive but it is an informed intuition that results in works that hover at the edge of consciousness. As much as the works are after images, or ghost images, they are also about the persistence of vision, the persistence of the artists vision in addressing issues of collective memory and cultural history that draw emotive responses from the viewer.

These images may be ‘on the verge of disappearance’ as an after-image but they are also pre-images as well, conjured from the mind of the artist and layered with complexity, presence and holistic wholeness. Their seduction, if I may use that word, is that they draw from the viewer peripheral memories and emotions that flit at the edges of consciousness. As Portugese curator Isabel Carlos has noted, “… Beard recreates a ‘figural’ space where the essence of the thing represented lies beyond its singular physical evidence.”1

Beard’s fragmented surfaces form a rhizomic web of dissolved pixellation, their structure almost fractal like in their linked hyper-real intimacies. These in between spaces open up the possibility of subversive commentaries that, on one level, bring a sense of disquiet to the holistic presence of the work. As Mark Poster has noted of the work of Deleuze and Guittari and which can be aptly applied to the work of John Beard,

“Deleuze and Guittari configure the social as a complex of bodily intensities in a state of continuous nonlinear movement. The logic they present is multidimensional, shifting, discontinuous. They speak of strata, assemblages, territorializations, lines of flight, abstract machines, a congerie of terms that disrupts the function of concepts to control a field through discursive articulations. Their categories cut through the normal lines of comprehension, the binary logic that governs modern social theory to present a picture of reality from the perspective of a sort of primitive life force. It is as if the earth itself were to describe the changes on its surface in the course of human history, a vantage point quote remote from the ego of the individual or from the disciplined consciousness of the social scientist.”2

Nonlinear, logical, shifting territorializations in multidimensional environments that hover below the edge of consciousness, investigations into the binary of presence / absence in the dreams of the imaginary. Powerful and poetic these works irradiate the viewer with their visceral presence.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to John Buckley Gallery for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


  1. Isabel Carlos quoted in Wright, William. HEADLANDS: John Beard works 1993-2008. Catalogue essay
  2. Poster, Mark. The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990, pp. 135-137


John Beard. 'Gorilla' 2007


John Beard (Australian born Wales, b. 1943)


John Beard. 'After image' installation at John Buckley Gallery


Installation view of John Beard’s exhibition After image at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne


John Beard. 'Hand 6' 2009


John Beard (Australian born Wales, b. 1943)
Hand 6


John Beard. 'Head SP3' 2004


John Beard (Australian born Wales, b. 1943)
Head SP3



“Beard’s paintings often convey an overpowering sense of brooding stillness, but equally this volatile effervescence of light-reverberant phenomena, where head, headland, the Adraga rock, are no longer object so much as apparition, a painted parallel existence, a material presence invoking nature’s own organic processes …

There is a distinctive sense when encountering a body of John Beard’s works of entering into a site of composure, withheld, of images silently bespeaking truths both personal and historical; hovering presences each conveying some species quality of time-less recognition.”

William Wright 
from the catalogue essay HEADLANDS: John Beard works 1993-2008 [Online] Cited 29/05/2009 no longer available online


John Beard. 'Rose' 2007


John Beard (Australian born Wales, b. 1943)


John Beard. 'Einstein 2' 2009


John Beard (Australian born Wales, b. 1943)
Einstein 2


John Beard. 'Rembrandt' 2009


John Beard (Australian born Wales, b. 1943)



John Buckley Gallery

This gallery is now closed.


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1 Response to “Review: ‘John Beard: After Image’ paintings at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne”

  1. August 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Nice Post, I would like to share onother Artist Profile Robert J. Lang who has been an enthusiastic student of the Art of origami for over forty years and he is at the moment recognized as one of the world’s prominent masters of the art and shinning beacon.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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