John Beard

John Beard was born in Aberdare, Wales in 1943. Beard studied at the University of London and the Royal College of Art, followed by a distinguished teaching career in England and Australia. In 1983, Beard arrived in Western Australia where he became Head of Fine Art at Curtin University in Perth. In 1989, he was awarded an Australian Council Fellowship and resigned from teaching in order to devote his full attention to his practice. He travelled extensively, living and exhibiting in New York, Madrid, Lisbon and London before establishing a Sydney base in 1997.

William Wright on John Beard’s work:

“Beard’s art is consistently subject to the transforming rigour of a perceptually intensive, intuitive working regimen: The painting’s surface both enables and embodies feeling. It is the place and source of contemplation; its site of existence. Beard’s work often exists on the imaginary cusp between what is and isn’t manifest, a fugitive zone.”

Beard’s work has been exhibited worldwide and is held in the collections of major international public galleries, museums and private institutions. His oeuvre has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Tate St Ives in the UK, The Gulbenkian Centro de Arte Moderna in Lisbon, Kunsthalle Darmstadt in Germany, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) in Australia. ‘Wanretganui Heads’ was also selected to represent the year ‘1998’ in The London National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Painting the Century: 101 Portrait Masterpieces 1900-2000′. Notably, he has been awarded the Pollock-Krasner Award (New York) and has won both the AGNSW’s Wynne Prize and Archibald Prize.


Curator Anthony Bond describes Beard as an important contemporary painter whose works “maintain a dynamic tension in seductive images that investigate the structures of representation.” Speaking to the relationship between Beard’s iconic self-portraits and his Adraga series (which focuses on an isolated rock off the coast of Portugal), Bond goes on to say “this rock, surrounded by sea in all its moods, seemed to entrance [Beard] for several years. In the ‘Adraga’ series, it first became clear that the rock had become a figure or a head. John makes no concessions to mimetic suggestions of anthropomorphism, it is simply the intensity of the focus on the singularity of the form that makes an inanimate rock into an identity. … In part, this is a kinaesthetic effect of light on the surface that requires the viewer to move with the work and the direction of the light. They are more alive to variations of lighting than most pictures I have seen.”

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