Sun, rain, flowers at Humble House Gallery shares passion and beauty
Published: October 7 2019 – 10:30AM
Roger Beale worked as a senior public servant in Canberra until he retired 15 years ago to follow his passion as a full-time painter.
A couple of circumstances make his art practice different from that of countless others who have turned to art on retirement. The first is that painting has been his passion since childhood. Some of Beale’s earliest childhood memories are of his father, a competent watercolourist, regularly taking him to art galleries in Brisbane, where they lived. He started his art studies as a child with Betty Churcher, then at the Queensland Technical College with Melville Hayson, Jon Molvig, Roy Churcher and Andrew Sibley in Brisbane. However, he did not become a full-time art school student and instead chose studies at university in history, law and economics and a career in the public service. From his early years, Beale has had a fairly well-developed toolbox of art making techniques within the fairly traditional conventions of academic painting.The second peculiar circumstance is that Beale contracted polio as a child in 1948 and for much of his life has been confined to a wheelchair. This has meant that virtually all of his work adopts a perspective from a wheelchair and some of his larger canvases (the largest at this exhibition measures 167 centimetres by 127 centimetres) are a physical challenge for him to paint, necessitating the adoption of special aids such as extended length paint brushes that deliver less precise control. He primarily works from small sketches, made on the spot, and from his photographs that then serve as studies and aides-mémoire for the larger compositions.Beale has exhibited regularly for over 30 years in Canberra, Queanbeyan and Bowral – this time it is a big show with more than 50 works in a large Chinese furniture store in Fyshwick, where his show snakes around the shop and ends up in a dedicated gallery space upstairs. Much of the subject matter stems from his frequent travels in Mediterranean Europe and visits to the artist’s favourite beauty spots.
There is little doubt that Beale is committed to his craft and is passionate about his work and his sense of authenticity to the experience of the place is evident throughout the show. His sketchbooks are full of lively, spontaneous and competent drawings of places that he has visited and of people that he has encountered. The large academic paintings, typically featuring a carefully observed flowerpiece in the foreground with a dramatic sky and a scenic view as a backdrop, are competent, but a little dry. The Uplands Lisianthus (2018) largish oil on canvas is possibly the best of the crop with the old, lovingly observed tree behind the flowers echoing a Thomas Gainsborough-like sense of possession and authority. The strength of the picture lies in sensitive treatment of light hinting at the passing seasons and a certain transience of life in contrast to the permanence of the landscape.
- How the past influenced Roger Beale’s latest exhibition Sun, Rain, Flowers
- A portrait of the artist as a public man
For me, the strength of the exhibition lies in the pastel drawings, such as Lake George, morning rain (2018), where the manageable more modest scale permits an intimacy of touch. Many of Beale’s finest works could be described as mood paintings set within a romantic sensibility. At their best, they are highly evocative and lyrical and hark back to earlier traditions and conventions in art.
Roger Beale is a dedicated artist whose primary desire is to share his passion for art and for beauty.
Only Flowers by Roger Beale at Form Studio and Gallery is a celebratory show
Form Studio and Gallery. 1/30 Aurora Avenue, Queanbeyan. Until September 24.
Published: September 11 2017 – 12:13PM
The immediate impact on walking into Roger Beale’s latest exhibition is one of lushness, fecundity and abundance. This is achieved through a combination of commanding use of scale (in both large and smaller images) and a celebratory infusion of sensuous colour overlaid with a more than cursory nod to the moody landscapes of 19th-century Romanticism.
As the exhibition title states, the theme is “flowers”. The images, although certainly florally dominated, are concerned with more than surface appearance. As in 17th-century Dutch “flower pictures” Beale’s flowers are replete with subtle metaphoric allusions and implied symbols embracing the macrocosm and microcosm of the natural world (and beyond?). Beale’s pictures are also about the act of painting and his obvious joy in the bravura application of paint and the assured efficacy of his painterly gestures.
Beale employs a number of pictorial devices throughout his paintings. Chief among these is the placement of his floral protagonists. These are placed right at the front of the picture plane pushing into the viewer’s space in ways that demand interaction between image and viewer. The flowers (mostly single but sometimes in small groups) are positioned to the extreme right- or left-hand edge of the paintings. Their position allows them to usher us into the background landscapes. The introductory role is both attractive and meaningful and adds to the spatial depth that provides visual and thematic contrast between motif (the flower) and habitat. Allied to the role of “usher” the flowers are also spectators, as much considering the landscape they inhabit as viewers consider the totality of each image.
The backgrounds are contrasted with the flowers in (mostly) subtle ways but there are nevertheless clear demarcations between the dark moodiness of the former and the assertive vitality of the latter. Beale achieves this through his astute understanding of the way things on the surface are physically painted. His contrasts are evinced through such means as direction and depth of brush strokes as much as they are by marked tonal and chromatic placement. I see the artist’s vigorous painterly activity as pictorial equivalent of the the energies of the natural world.
The exhibition is an admixture of large and small(er) works. The larger works are both physically and aesthetically impressive. The quiet grandeur implicit in these is still held by the smaller examples and both reveal Beale’s control of scale and ability not to diminish visual impact through diminution of size.
While most of the exhibition is celebratory there is present in some works (eg, Catalogue 2 Magenta Perlagonium) a hint at the possibility of something darker. In these a quietly insinuative malevolence is intimated rather than stated and is evoked by dark and stormy backgrounds (Catalogues 4, 6, 7, 15 for example) or the insertion of a declarative black edge to an otherwise essentially white palette (Catalogue 2).
A charming inclusion is Catalogue 12 (White Tulips) a beautifully gradated tonal exercise, a paean to the simplicity of the quotidian and perhaps an acknowledgement to the joy that flowers carry with them. This is a strong exhibition that gives immediate pleasure but that also offers more to those that take the time to look beyond the surface.
Distant Voices by Roger Beale with Grahame Crocket at M16 Artspace
M16 Artspace, 31 Blaxland Crescent, Griffith. Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5pm. Until October 4.
Published: September 28 2015 – 5:24PM
This exhibition brings together the works of two close friends, Roger Beale and Grahame Crocket. It is weighed heavily in terms of number of works exhibited in Beale’s favour (51 works to Crocket’s 12). Beale has been showing his work for over 30 years. This is Crocket’s first public exhibition. Beale works predominantly in pastel, Crocket only in pencil. Their two very separate bodies of work are connected thematically through the depiction of places visited, observed and remembered.
Beale’s (mostly) small works share an introspective, meditative quality that pictorially draws on (among a range of others) the works of the 18th and 19th centuries European Romantics and particularly the German Romantics (notably Caspar David Friedrich). Although allusions to Romanticism are clear and indeed quietly celebratory of that visually diverse movement, Beale’s own painterly language is never denied.
Beale is obviously an inveterate traveller. His images range through Greece, France, Denmark, Holland, Spain, Germany, China, Thailand and Australia. Much of the imagery is concerned with those times of the day (and night) that are the most atmospherically evocative and pictorially rich. In Athens 7pm (2015), the foreground residential area below the Acropolis is densely vegetated. The organic forms of the green trees and other foliage offer a very effective visual foil to the linear geometries of the white, terracotta roofed
houses and other buildings. The latter are spread among the trees in a meandering line that moves the viewer through the foliage and up towards the ruins of the Acropolis. As the viewer moves around the Acropolis base the trees become denser and the loose diagonal of the right-hand mid-ground stands almost in silhouette, lit as it is by the brilliant golden bands of the setting sun beyond. This is a beautifully composed piece, a reverie of memories and place.
Beale capitalises on the varying atmospheric moods of different times of the day in others of his landscape works. These range through a number of topographies but are particularly effective in his depictions of Thailand and Denmark. Lop Buri Cane Harvest Sunset (2015) is visually rich and again characterised by a cleverly nuanced composition. Beale uses horizontals and diagonals offset by verticals and occasional composites of these to achieve layered pictorial fields that stretch back into the picture plane, moving the
viewer’s eye in an almost zigzag fashion through the landscape. The greens, browns and ochres of the foreground palette are balanced by the pale blue and shimmering pink-gold of the sky. The brilliant redgold branches of the trees in the right-hand centre, so beautifully illuminated by the rays of the setting sun, stand almost as if in prayer to the power of nature.
Denmark Morning Mist and Denmark Summer Storm (both 2014) exemplify the artist’s clear understanding of the aesthetic efficacy of the visualisation of cloudy skies. Constable’s numerous cloud studies may provide exemplars but Beale is able to imbue the skies in these two works with the evidence of his direct personal observation. These are dramatic and, as in the previous work, speak of the beauty that lies behind the phenomena of the natural world.
Beale’s interiors situate his viewers in the artist’s space. We are placed vicariously with him as he depicts the rooms and (sometimes) the occupants of those rooms that he has visited. The occupants may be people known to the artist but they are shown either with their backs to us or in profile and thus reinforce the active role the viewer is given in these works. Paris 5pm (2014), and Model at the Studio Window (2014) are eloquent examples of this aspect of Beale’s oeuvre.
While Beale uses pastels and oils and capitalises on the tonal possibilities these media offer, Grahame Crocket has elected to use the pencil as his preferred medium. In this choice he does not, however, limit his expressive capabilities. His charming images reflect his architectural background and hold a simple directness that is both effective and attractive. Crocket is a skilled draughtsman but does not allow objectivity to deny his pictorialisations of the bridges and other places or objects, a degree of warmth reflective of his own attraction to what is depicted in the exhibition. His sound and sensitive use of shading adds to the aesthetic resolve of his works.
Distant Voices is a visually rich exhibition that provides (for the most part) opportunities for intimate dialogue with the many works on display. I have included “for the most part” because the intrusive scale of the four floral images on the back wall of the gallery diminishes the otherwise quietly personal character that gives the exhibition much of its charm. However the range of imagery particularly as evinced in Roger Beale’s substantial contribution has allowed the artist to present aspects of his oeuvre, technically, thematically, conceptually and aesthetically. The stark contrast between the two ways of viewing the world speaks of the power of the individual “voices” on display and their ability to reach each