Isis Phoenix Arts media article by The Resident – thank you Resident!
‘The Resident’ magazine article & interview by Victoria Purcell. Arranged and managed by Isis Phoenix Arts. Read the full article here.
Artist Bartholomew Beal is one of Britain’s brightest new talents. Here he reveals the creative ideas behind his striking work. Words: Vicky Mayer
Behind the doors of a nondescript warehouse in the London borough of Lewisham lies the studio of rising star Bartholomew Beal. Like the man himself, it’s filled with energy, and a body of work that art fans around the world are adding to their collections. Not bad for a 25-year-old who only graduated from Wimbledon College of Art three years ago. Here, he shares the secrets of his success.
Good painting needs confidence so I start my work on a small canvas then if I’m pleased with what I’ve got, I go for it. I come from a literary family (both my parents are English teachers) and find that literature helps me with a starting point. In the past I have created a series of paintings around The Wasteland and I’m currently using King Lear as inspiration. Literature always gives me an extra reason to paint and a good point to start at.
Most of my paintings feature bearded men. There’s something dramatic about them. Some of the world’s most famous men – God, Jesus, Dumbledore – all have beards and the men in my work have a sense of drama and history. By painting a man on his own, it’s up to the individual to decide what the story is and everyone has a different interpretation of my work. I love that and also the fact that starting with literature, each piece of work has an extra dimension to it.
My subjects are solitary and melancholic. Like a play, they always seem to be in the middle of the canvas. I have tried pushing them to the sides but it doesn’t seem to work. I love working with big spaces and smaller figures, so sometimes I make the figures smaller to make the painting even more dramatic.
I find my models everywhere and anywhere. Sometimes I stop people in the street and take a photo of them but I also go to the theatre a lot and often find someone with an interesting face in a play. I also use friends and family in my paintings too. I do paint women, but older men with beards seem to be my signature style.
I love big, bright colours and want people to almost step into my paintings. I think bold colours give my work real energy. They also give them individual character. My paintings have been compared to those of Francis Bacon, Peter Doig and even Rothko, which I love, as I really admire their work.
I also love Antony Micaleff, Adrian Ghenie and Nigel Cooke.
I was the youngest artist to exhibit at the Fine Arts Society with my show, A Heap of Broken Images, and I knew I had to produce a work of art that deserved the space they’d given me so I worked from early in the morning till late at night. I’m ambitious and I work hard but there’s still so much luck involved in the art world. Some of my best friends are artists and damned good ones; they just haven’t had a solo show that’s got them noticed.
When I’m not feeling inspired I go to galleries, watch rugby or throw a frisbee around but at the moment I am working really hard on new work for my forthcoming exhibitions. I have two shows coming up in London and I will also be exhibiting in New York in May. I haven’t been there since I was 16 and I can’t wait to return.