Spens concludes: "This Seventieth Anniversary exhibition for John Bellany constitutes a fine tribute to Scotland’s best artist today as many would argue: and arguably too one of Europe’s greatest, particularly in his form of figurative expressionist. He well sets the bar higher for de Kooning, for example. He has confused the less capable critics for the best part of four decades, by going his own way, and not much influenced by galleries or critics en route (although John Russell early acclaimed his work). Today, posterity can truly regard him as a painter of exceptional talent, standing within a specifically North-European tradition. This exhibition consolidates that achievement as well as revealing the powerful Odyssey of his whole life."
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.
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.