‘The physical act of handling oil paint and applying it to canvas was a sensual delight to him and if, at the end of a day’s work, he considered that he had produced ‘a beezer’ then for a few fleeting moments Paradise was within his grasp. As the chimera inevitably faded he would once more resume the challenge with the coming of the morning light.
This is the first exhibition of his work to be held since he died at the age of seventy one in the summer of 2013. He has left us a wealth of ‘beezers’ to behold and I hope that on visiting this selection of his work you will find more than a few of them here to enjoy.’ - Helen Bellany, May 2014
‘John Bellany is the most influential Scottish painter since the Second World War, re-establishing a narrative, figurative art at a time when Modernism and abstraction seemed invincible.’ - John McEwen
Born at Port Seton in 1942 into a family of fishermen and boat builders and steeped in Calvinism as a child, his art is profoundly religious in its intimation of morality and recognition of evil; facts reinforced in 1967 by a traumatic visit to the remains of the Buchenwald concentration camp. But Bellany's life voyage has proved every bit as perilous as the sea voyages of his ancestors.
Throughout his career he has painted elemental allegories encompassing the complexities of the human condition and anchored in the rich poetry of the sea; but after moving to London in 1965 to study at the Royal College of Art, his vision and iconography became broader. In the seventies when his personal life was in turmoil, he embarked on a near-fatal journey of self-destruction, which is reflected in the angst ridden images in his paintings of the period.
And in the Eighties he successfully underwent a liver transplant which inspired a remarkable series of pictures started, to the astonishment of his surgeon, within hours of regaining consciousness.
His towering example has inspired a new pride in Scottish artists; a fact duly recognised when he was awarded the CBE. His paintings are in the collections of major museums and art galleries throughout the world, including the National Galleries of Scotland, The Tate Gallery, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York.