Ben Brown Fine Arts, London, is delighted to announce the exhibition Frank Auerbach / Tony Bevan: What Is A Head?, featuring portraits by two of Britain’s leading figurative painters, curated by Michael Peppiatt. The concept for this show is based on the exhibition organised by Michael in 1998 at the Musée Maillol in Paris under the title L’Ecole de Londres de Bacon à Bevan, which traced the influence of Bacon, Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff on the younger generation of figurative artists working in London.
A generation apart, Bevan and Auerbach share a fascination for the conceptual and painterly possibilities of reinventing heads. For both artists, the head is the centre that controls everything we do, its mysterious significance laying in its endless sparring of juxtaposed natures: impulse and restraint, instinct and order, spontaneity and discipline. It is rife with contradiction and yet to both remains the prime vessel of human life.
But there is as much to differentiate them as to bring them together. In Auerbach, who grew up during the war, between layers of excavation we see the buried image rising through the paint to resume its fragmented presence. Bevan’s ‘Heads’ are also reconstructions, though more linear than painterly, approached through its working parts, its muscles and sinews. While Auerbach’s heads conjure up struggle, exhaustion, a fire burnt forever into the thick layers of paint, Bevan’s explore its inner structure as an unknown space, an experimental architecture. The differences and similarities inherent in the same subject set up a dialogue not only between generations but within the way we view painting, as an ever-evolving insight into the human consciousness.