Philippa Beale: Imagining Trees

29 October – 5 December 2020

Philippa Beale’s work never followed the mainstream concerns of her contemporaries. She wanted her work to be widely accessible, and developed her understanding of semiotics to promote a democratic spectatorship. Since the 1970s she has focused on the formal and structural aspects of images, while political concerns led her to develop a hybrid style, combining narrative with the concept of consumerism, highlighting the use of art social commentary; whilst projecting the idea of the artist as a social interpreter. Her silkscreened art apotheosised the ‘supposed’ banality of commercial culture found in advertising.

Badgeworthy Wood, Exmoor, Devon
Oil on canvas, 70 x 100cm

Born 1946 in Winchester, Hampshire, Beale began her career exhibiting with Annely Juda Fine Art. In 1978 “Collected from There” at Angela Flowers ran concurrently with “Collected from Here” at the Acme Gallery; and were subsequently shown at the Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh. She hit the headlines in 1980 in “Women’s’ Images of Men” curated by Sandy Nairn at the ICA, swiftly followed by “Baby Love” reviewed by Waldemar Januszczak in the Guardian shown later at Southampton City Art Gallery. In 1985 she exhibited “Children in Peril When Love Dies” as a giant billboard in the Old Kent Road and continued to exhibit her banal cultural icons “Rough and Smooth” at Angela Flowers’, and “His Ears are Small and Neat” at Akumalatory Gallery, Poland. As the 1990s progressed, Beale, devoted more of her energy to video-making, producing “11 minutes in Leicester Square” and “Art School,” both shown on the GMI giant video screen in Leicester Square. Developing archival sound and dialogue, she went on to produce “From Wilson to Callaghan,” Conceptual Art Practice 1964-79, screened at the ICA in 1996. That year Beale was also elected President of the London Group, broadening the concept of the Group to include installation and moving image.

‘On each side of the river stood the tree of life.’
‘And leaves of the tree are for the healing of nations’

Revelations 22.2 Oil on canvas, 187 x 137cm

In 2007 Beale had a retrospective “Blue Bird and Other Stories, Thirty Years of Conceptual Art Practice” at the LCC Galleries. In 2009 Beale moved to France and made a permanent installation at the Church of the Virgin in Vaux, Valence en Poitou. By the time she was asked in 2013 to exhibit in “Under the Greenwood, Picturing the British Tree” at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, trees had become her new polemic. In 2014 she was a founder member of the Arborealists Movement. In this exhibition, while each work is a specific scene, the works themselves still adopt a semiotic position in that they can stand for what the viewer decides. Experimental paintings and prints have been produced due to the COVID 19 crisis in confinement either in Margate or Vaux, Valence en Poitou, France.

A Walk in the Snow 1944: Dedicated to Henri Bergson, who rose from his bed during his final illness to register as a Jew in protest against the transportation of Jews from France
Oil on canvas, 130 x 188cm