Basil Beattie attended the Royal Academy schools from 1957 to 1961. He lives and works in Mitcham, Surrey.
At the beginning of his career, Beattie became part of a collective of British artists whose works continued the legacy of Abstract Expressionism. A significant influence on his work was his exposure to the exhibition The New American Painting, shown at the Tate in 1959, displaying a passion for expansive scale, subjectivity and painterliness. These elements would persuade and mould the parameters of Beattie’s work in the 1960s and early 70s, but it was not long before he abandoned a purely formal approach and developed his own anxious, edgy form of painting, which has served to distinguish himself from many other artists working at the time.
By the mid-1990s, while form and process, application and material substance of the paint, remained key principles to Beattie, he began to employ new techniques of drama and subjectivity in order to develop a new form of allusive abstraction. The nature of this development is apparent in the emergence of a series of recurrent motifs in both his small-scale works and his vast canvases: thick painted arcs, linear brushstrokes, cell-like planes, and suggestive shapes. As writer and curator Paul Moorhouse writes, ‘often [Beattie’s] motifs appear intriguingly familiar: doors, ladders and towers are implied. Other shapes are more elusive, less recognisable. But always these elements are so strongly defined, and their presence so convincingly asserted, that the effect is of the protagonists enacting a visual drama.’
Nowadays, when Beattie talks about his role as a painter, he refers to himself as a 'sort of symbolist', one who alludes to but avoids making direct reference to human form in order to express subjective experiences. He considers his successful works to be those which have a kind of potency, hover in space and have a molten quality to the paint (as if it has reached melting point). These descriptions serve to highlight a certain elusiveness which Beattie considers to be essential to the making of successful work. Although the pictorial elements hold significant and undeniable psychological implications, Beattie's paintings gain further meaning through the masterful way in which he works and manipulates the painted surface.
Basil Beattie's works have been exhibited internationally. In 2016 he was the subject of a solo exhibition at Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art. Other selected solo exhibitions include Promises, Promises, (Jerwood Gallery. Hastings, UK), Basil Beattie Paintings from the Collections (Tate Britain, London, UK), Basil Beattie, IKON (Birmingham, UK); selected group exhibitions include Contemporary Print Show (Barbican Centre, London, UK), Jerwood Painting Prize 1998 and 2001 (Jerwood Gallery, London, UK and Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, UK in 2001), Thinking Out Loud (Camden Arts Centre, London, UK) John Moores Exhibition 15', 16', 17', (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK) and others. Beattie’s work can be found in numerous private and public collections including: Arts Council England; Contemporary Art Society, London; Deutsche Bank, London; Government Art Collection, London; NatWest Group Art; TATE London; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; Royal Academy Collection and the Jerwood Collection.