John Beard (b. 1943, Aberdare, Wales) studied at the University of London (1965-6 and 1973-6) and the Royal College of Art (1979-81).
Beard’s artistic practice explores concepts of sight and vision, perception and illusion. The paintings’ surfaces, after first inspection and then upon closer viewing, evolve over time; subtleties come to light in the layers of waxy paint and forms materialise taking on new shapes and deeper meanings. From the mid 1990’s onwards, Beard’s work has been dominated by two complementary modes of subject matter – landscape and portraiture. During his extended stay in Portugal in the early 1990’s, he began to produce a series of paintings in which the majestic rocky outcrop of Adraga in a constantly shifting sea invariably formed the central motif. Through Beard’s unique rendition of objects and subjects, he questions the very notions of authenticity in painting and the representation of image.
Beard has held numerous solo exhibitions and participated in group shows around the world including HEAD On: Art with the Brain in Mind (2002), Science Museum, London; Painting the Century, 101 Portrait Masterpieces 1900-2000 (2000), National Portrait Gallery, London; and The Possibilities of Portraiture (1999), National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. The British-Australian artist’s solo exhibitions include Visao Fugitiva (2005-6), Gulbenkian’s Centro de Arte Moderna, Lisbon; an installation at the Art Gallery of New South Wales of selected works from Beard’s solo exhibition, After Adraga (1999), which has shown at the Tate Gallery, St Ives, UK (1998); and Heads Phase I and II (1999) as a Level 2 Contemporary Project, Art Gallery of New South Wales. Beard has also held solo exhibitions in India, USA, Spain and New Zealand.
In 2005, Beard was awarded a major grant from the Pollock Krasner Foundation. In 2006, he won the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Wynne Prize; the Kedumba Contemporary Drawing Award; and was invited to participate in the Australian Drawing Biennale, whilst also being made a Visiting Professional Fellow at the College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales, Sydney. In 2007, he won the Art Gallery of New South Wales Archibald Prize for Portrait Painting in Australia.
In 2009, Beard held a part survey exhibition – Headlands works 1993-2007 (curated by William Wright), Australian National University Drill Hall Gallery, and exhibited in Gesichslos-Die Malerei des Diffusen (Faceless – The Art of Diffusion) Kunsthalle Darmstadt, Germany (2009/2010).
From 2010 – 2012, Beard served as a trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.
A major monograph was published in 2011. As the first documentation of John Beard’s work, this definitive monograph provides a visual chronology of Beard’s work from 1978-2011. The book contains essays by Stephen Bann and Anthony Bond with an introduction by Charles Saumarez-Smith. Their sympathetic and comprehensive appraisal of Beard’s art is complimented by over 300 reproductions spanning the artist’s 40-year career.
Beard’s work has been collected by major Australian and international public and private institutions including National and State Galleries across Australia; the Gulbenkian’s Centro de Arte Moderna, Lisbon; Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris; and the Tate Gallery, London. John Beard lives and works in Sydney.