Art Ltd. Magazine, May 2012
She Misplaced My Hurricane Blueprints
Jeffrey Beauchamp at McLoughlin Gallery
San Francisco, CA
by DeWitt Cheng
Years ago, talented young painters were warned by wise, old teachers against "facility," against making handsome paintings without struggle; we who lack the handicap of virtuosity should cast a sympathetic eye, therefore, on the beguiling, beautiful oils of Jeffrey Beauchamp. A skilled realist, he became dissatisfied some years ago with the "blandscapes" he was doing and loosened up his style with what he has described as "busting out" brushwork and a "caveman dance" process, of making gestures guided by intuition and improvisation, in the abstract expressionist style. His turbulent landscapes all but fly apart through sheer bravura, but somehow remain legible and coherent, due, no doubt, to his apprenticeship in realism in the late 1980s, when nothing could have seemed more demode.
It was a self-guided study, of course. Beauchamp ensconced himself in the school library, studying Turner, Monet and Lorrain, emerging only to explore northern California's "amazing garden," hiking and painting with a friend. His work thus derives from both tradition and nature, and oscillates between realism and abstraction, but in an odd way: the modes are not fused, as in Cezanne or the Bay Area Figurative painters, nor are they confined to separate bodies of work, as in Gerhard Richter (whose soft-focus realism Beauchamp explored for a period). Rather, they are presented simultaneously in parallel, in the same paintings, as double images. As we change focus from depth to flatness and back, the hazy, golden-hued landscapes dissolve into energetic calligraphy, and vice versa, with each aspect canceling and superseding the other, like the complementary but incompatible partners in optical illusions: duck and rabbit or goblet and profile. Despite their humorous, absurd, enigmatic titles (some bearing excruciating puns), Beauchamp's small landscapes like If You Give Me Bach That Handel I Can Finish Making the Schubert (Classical Landscape) (2010), The View That Startled Grieg (2011), Hideout of the Daisy Chain Gang (2011) and In the Missing Manor (2012) reward serious, sustained looking. Other collage-like works that juxtapose unrelated nudes, cartoon figures, friends and family members, though sumptuously painted, are literal and literary by comparison.
Art in America, January 1992
Jeffrey Beauchamp at Susan Cummins Gallery
Mill Valley, CA
by Bill Berkson
Jeffrey Beauchamp is a 27-year-old painter from New Jersey. He started out as a graphic artist and film animator and turned to painting landscapes three years ago while an undergraduate at the San Francisco Art Institute. This was his first solo show. One thing his landscape pictures express is a fascination with a Euro-American art form that could be identified fondly as Old Brown Painting. That is, the pictures make you consider the odd assortment of epoch-making talent and specialty acts that dramatic, chiaroscuro-based nature painting has borne along its 500-year spillway since the High Renaissance - Leonardo together with Rembrandt, say, or Corot and Ryder, and then Arthur Rackham, Maxfield Parrish and (for the caramel gleams of their enchanted-forest sequences) the 1940s Disney animators.
Beauchamp, for his part, doesn’t comment on this flow so much as dive in imagination-first to find his own fresh impetus within it. He’s a natural painter, and thus his reliance so far is on his own instinct for the peculiarities that a developed genre’s givens can convey; the mixture of dereliction and hope evoked by sunlight glimpsed through wrenching marine clouds (The Hellespont), or something pending at the edges of an otherwise restful glade (The Decision). His teeming skies and semideranged foliage may be, as he says, pulled from his head, but they also come from the objective repertory of painterly means outside him, and sometimes refer recognizably to the life of the California coast near Fairfax, where he lives.
Beauchamp is a naturalist for whom every twist of cloud or leaf is potentially magical. His images are spooked. Nature is a blandishing, sly impersonator, and all textures signify theatrically. The action, set mostly against summery heats and shades, radiates from the middle distance. There’s a sense of some things turning to catch the light and of others cryptically burrowing (usually around the lower third of the canvas) to avoid it. Daylight is cast as a relief from chthonic tensions, but it’s also a device for searching out those tensions amid the literal and metaphysical darkness of the pictures’ other major forms.
It’s hard to stay more than a couple of feet away from the surfaces of these medium-sized paintings, so thoroughly does Beauchamp pack his spaces with clues to tease out the viewer’s tolerance for anecdotal reverie. Under close inspection the merest daub can detain the eye into suspecting some untoward event or, at any rate, into noticing some unsettling instance of exotica tossed upon familiar ground. In Chaleur Park, two shade trees framing a gaseous incandescence have rough-hewn profiles the likes of which might be found in the famous monster grove at Bomarzo. Beauchamp’s private grotesquerie carries more than a whiff of the sinister. The incredible roses in Rose Portal resemble giant, loosely bunched, mutant grapes; one of them, blown from the arbor to lie at the base of a megalithic throne, looks bloodied, like the skull hidden in the bushes of Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (the Brussels version).
Among contemporaries, Beauchamp’s nearest precedent would be Odd Nerdrum. They both work in a key of disturbance and enigma when lushly depicting bare reaches of the physical world. Yet Beauchamp isn’t up for salvaging the epic dignities of humanism at large. He seems bent instead on keeping alive the remaining fraction of consciousness that can read the imprints of nature as somehow needfully analogous to our purposes and fears. Though his places are ostensibly unpeopled, they bear the proof of being looked at with human eyes.
KQED FM, August 1993
West Coast Weekend / Roving Painterly Eye
with Meredith Tromble
Meredith Tromble: I went running this weekend over in the Oakland hills in that beautiful park up there, and as I came to the end of my run I looked out over this great valley and I thought about how often I’m driving around or running around and see some spectacular landscape moment out the window and think ‘you know I ought to really come back later and look at that’ and of course I hardly ever do. But I did see a show of landscape paintings this week that could potentially bring that moment into my home. It’s the paintings of Jeffrey Beauchamp which are at the Susan Cummins Gallery in Mill Valley.
Host: Now, landscape painting is a tradition that goes back in painting ever since visions were first put on cave walls...?
MT: Well, actually, landscape painting as we know it is a little bit more recent tradition- if you think of those cave paintings the animals and the people don’t really have the kind of constructed space around them that you can walk into...
Host: Yeah, they’re on stone walls.
MT: Well, that you can visually walk into, O.K.? Which is one of the things I loved about these paintings...for example, there’s a painting called “The Red Tree”. Now, the tree of the title, the trunk is nestled against the right edge of the canvas. This is a very lively tree. If you look down at the roots they look like the arms of an octopus kind of clutching the earth.. And then the branches loop over in front of you, making this kind of intimate screen between you and this very pale valley which is dropping away in the distance. It’s just a wonderful place to spend some time.
And as I looked at this painting and tried to see how it was painted I realized that one of the things that gave it a special quality was that he had painted the sky and the tree together. Now, it would have been easier to put down, say, a blue color for the sky and painted the branches over it because, you know, you see all these little bits of sky through the branches. But he brought them up together with these little dabs of color and it’s something that you wouldn’t notice unless you really looked ... it gives the whole thing a kind of unified feel. I think this was one of the things that made his paintings stand out to me.
There are so many paintings inspired by where we live and many of them are quite good observations. But what Beauchamp does which is special, I think, is poetic... He makes the visual forms rhyme. You have the roundness of the earth, the roundness of the foliage of the trees, the roundness of the clouds, and he pulls these all together in a way that isn’t quite obvious but gives a kind of underlying pulse or rhythm to the painting that you can feel.
Host: So the paintings stay in your mind more than, say, that brief glimpse of the trees when you’re running.
MT: Well, they give you that same sense of looking into somewhere special: a place where you could feel quiet around you. There’s no people, no buildings, no cars, so he’s edited out all the distractions. So it kind of extends that moment you fantasize you might have with the landscape where it’s extremely...where it puts you into a state of mind, perhaps not always peaceful but intensely alive.
Host: You mentioned something about broccoli?
MT: Well, actually, there was one painting... this was a wonderful show there was just one painting where I thought he slipped a bit. The clump of trees that were the subject reminded me of nothing so much as a clump of broccoli stuck to a hummock out in the distance.
Host: Well, you know, I’ve thought that myself as I drive through some of these California landscapes.
MT: Well, maybe this is actually something that you see! But I thought to myself when I saw that it showed how delicately balanced all the other paintings were and how much I was taking for granted the way that he’d composed these things.
Host: These are the paintings of Jeffrey Beauchamp which, doesn’t that mean “beautiful field”?
MT: I think it does, very appropriate, huh?
Host: So has it changed the way you look at the hillside, the landscape?
MT: It has reminded me to look which I think is more important. As I say, this place really is so beautiful and a lot of the time I don’t really appreciate it...so, that’s what I got out of this show.
Host: Meredeth Trombull, our roving painterly eye. Thank you.
Pacific Sun, August 2004
12 People to Watch on the Arts & Entertainment Scene
by Kristen Bartus
Jeffrey Beauchamp is the kind of guy you want to root for. He’s creative, yet grounded; well-read and jovial; confident without being egotistical; and a handsome, charismatic fellow who is simultaneously a self-deprecating family man. Most importantly, he’s paid his dues.
The Fairfax-based professional painter, who will turn 40 on August 19, has been cranking away to refine his craft since he graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1989.
Originally from Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, Beauchamp attended Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, after high school. While at Clark he became interested in filmmaking, and thanks to his writer dad’s New York advertising world connections, Beauchamp got a chance to experience real life behind the camera. His dad helped him secure work as a crew member for production companies filming TV commercials.
Beauchamp’s work on the production crews disillusioned him about the film-making process. The commercials were uncreative, wasteful and too many people had a hand in them. He still had an interest in filmmaking, but thought maybe he should go to art school first to study the old master painters because they could teach him how to create great lighting.
A relative novice at age 23, he struggled at SFAI to get the training he felt he needed. His painterly, 19th century style just wasn’t what the faculty was interested in at that point. So he turned to the masters.
“When I was at the Art Institute, my favorite place to go was the library,” he reminisces. “They have this incredibly diverse collection of art books—everything from current catalogs to magazines to my favorites, which were all these old monographs and books on painters.
“That was a huge inspiration for many years,” he continues, “the history of art.”
Beauchamp also found inspiration in his art school buddy Alan Crockett, who is now an associate professor of art at Ohio State University. Crockett was a bit of a wild man technically, doing things with paint that Beauchamp had never even considered. The duo started going out on plein air excursions and had a blast.
“It would become this adventure,” Beauchamp remembers fondly. “We’d hike and carry paints and go to the top of Mt. Diablo or wherever. It was all new to me. The whole Bay Area was just this amazing garden.”
When Beauchamp left SFAI, his focus was primarily on traditional landscape painting. He had received a boost of confidence at his senior show when some faculty members actually purchased his works for their personal collections. Shortly thereafter, he hooked himself up with the Susan Cummins Gallery in Mill Valley. His first show at the gallery garnered a great review in the January 1992 edition of the magazine Art in America.
“The trouble was, after my first show, I got this big review and they [the paintings] were selling–and I kind of froze,” Beauchamp explains. “I was pretty young still. I wasn’t even 30 yet and I thought that I had to keep doing the same thing in order to keep selling, to keep getting attention from the critics, whatever. So I kind of stopped growing.”
He tightened up, which was evident in his second and third shows at the Susan Cummins Gallery. He felt that those paintings were overly tidy, too glossy and looked more like illustrations. But he had to keep working through his frustration—he had a wife (Emma, a fellow student at SFAI), a baby and a house to take care of in Fairfax. He would also hold painting workshops, take commissions and work odd jobs to make ends meet, but his true passion was his own painting. After a few shows, Beauchamp started to relax again in his work. He went on to participate in numerous Northern California group exhibitions as well as exhibit solo at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland, Oregon.
Then, a few years ago, he began to loosen up in a “big” way. He had been commissioned by a friend to paint a larger piece than he was used to painting, “For whatever reason, I started jumping around and doing this sort of caveman dance while I did it,” he says. “It was very unlike my process before that. It was extremely physical and abandoned, kind of like a satyr.
“The results were incredibly exciting for me to see because it was my signature, it was my mark, but large.”
Around that same time, Beauchamp moved on to the Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco. Although gallery director Lisa Dolby Chadwick didn’t usually show traditional landscape painting, he persuaded her to give his work a try. Since he began working with Chadwick, Beauchamp’s work has evolved a great deal.
“I was trying to make stuff that I thought would sell because of financial need and all that, but they weren’t selling so great and they were a drag to do,” he says of the classical landscapes he was doing during that period. “So at some point I said ‘screw it’ I started busting out with these real loose brush strokes.”
“In preparation for his first solo show here [in March 2004] his work really exploded,” Chadwick says. “There was a lot more movement in his paint handling and the brush strokes themselves are actually more visible. I think what he is incredible with is his sense of color and the color dialogue within his paintings—and his ability to paint in extremely confident and original landscape, which is rare.
“He’s really found his voice within these pieces,” she adds.
That show of giant abstract expressionist landscapes sold out (prices range from about $2800-$16000). Beauchamp was even able to take his wife and kids on a trip to Hawaii, which was a nice way to show his wife appreciation for all her years of supportiveness.
“I’ve tapped into a real mother lode, a big vein of potential work,” Beauchamp says as he looks toward the future. “I’d like to work even bigger than I’m working now. I have that in me for sure, the energy of the larger paintings kind of flies off the edges.”
He’s currently looking for a gallery to represent him in L.A. And five years from now, he may just want to see what New York thinks of his work, too.
With a young, smart, straight shooter like Chadwick (she’s only 37) by his side, Beauchamp seems to be on the road to success. She frankly points out that fame is virtually impossible to predict in the arts (Writer’s note: I recently saw a letter from the 1950’s in which MOMA declined a work by a young artist named Andy Warhol), but believes that Beauchamp has great potential. “He’s so young, he’s just got a very bright future,” Chadwick says. “He’s had so many exhibits and he’s always pushing himself and he’s very intelligent and extremely talented—so I think he’s got the perfect combination."