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John Bellany

John Bellany's Human Image

The exhibition John Bellany: A Passion for Life is on view at the National Galleries of Scotland through January 27, 2013.

For more than 50 years, Bellany has remained committed to painting the human condition in an era dominated by formalist abstraction, minimalism, installtion, and performance art. Alexander Moffat notes in a video interview for the exhibition, that at the beginning of Bellany's career:

"[in the]1960s, everyone's painting in a Pop Art way, there's still this kind of latter day Abstract Expressionism, and [Bellany's] coming back to Rembrandt and Brueghel and Goya, and creating a very telling human image using that kind of language." 

In a 2006 article, Dr. Janet McKenzie described the humanity present in Bellany's visual language:

"The characters in many of Bellany's monumental paintings sometimes appear to inhabit a timewarp; the boats and sea are, however, timeless images which Bellany presents as representative of dying values in the face of an increasingly impersonal life in cities. The sensual and immediate use of thick paint, vivid colour and frontal-tilting of the picture plane, make these images both immediate and utterly contemporary. Bellany's subject matter implies a questioning of many modern values where the family unit and communities are threatened by the pressures of globalisation. Roots, Bellany implores, are vital to living a full and intense life."

A video walkthrough of the exhibition, showing the range, scale, and intensity of Bellany's oeuvre is below.