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In the frame | Tony Bevan

Tony Bevan is one of Britain’s leading contemporary painters, following in the path of celebrated ‘School of London’ artists. Ben Brown, Founder of Ben Brown Fine Arts in London and Hong Kong, takes us through what makes his work so important

Tony Bevan art work

TONY BEVAN IS known for works that are raw, confrontational and filled with a psychological intensity.

The paintings are incredibly powerful because they are not just physical representations but manifestations of the bits you don’t see – he is famous for his portraits and self-portraits, which are like examinations of the internal structures inside the head, both physically and emotionally.

Bevan began at the Bradford School of Art, before moving to London to study at Goldsmiths College and the Slade School of Fine Art. Since the 1970s his work has been exhibited widely.

In the US, he held his first solo show at L.A. Louver in Los Angeles in 1989, and since then has shown at places like the ICA and the Whitechapel Gallery in London, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Institut Valencia D’Art Modern in Valencia.

His work is in prominent collections around the world, from the National Portrait Gallery and Tate in London to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA.

Bevan was elected a Royal Academician of the Royal Academy of the Arts in 2007, an accolade currently shared with such other great names as Anthony Gormley, David Hockney, Dame Paula Rego, Ron Arad and Sir Frank Bowling – past RAs have included the likes of Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer.

Tony Bevan
Tony Bevan
Tony Bevan
Tony Bevan

When we began discussions with curator Michael Peppiatt around the current exhibition, it was a no-brainer to have Tony Bevan’s work in dialogue with Frank Auerbach’s.

Michael first interviewed Auerbach back in the 1960s and has curated several ‘School of London’ shows around Europe – and in the most recent of these, in the 1990s, he extended the usual cast to include Bevan.

The current “What Is A Head?” show, which includes a dozen ‘Heads’ by each of the two artists, takes that exchange to a new level of intensity.

This year will be Auerbach’s 90th birthday, and Bevan’s 70th, and in many ways they represent two distinct, pre- and post-war generations.

Auerbach’s thick strokes of earthly colour are on the surface very different from Bevan’s linear style and stark tones.

However, both painters’ work presents a similarly intense – although stylistically opposite – approach that is both challenging and rewarding.

Bevan’s heads have a powerful style that is identifiable from a distance.

They are radical explorations which draw you around the mazes of their forms and keep us questioning the physical and psychological implications of what is being represented.

The market has been steadily rising since we first started working with Tony in 2004 and I continue to buy works for my personal collection as I believe he is one of Britain’s most important living painters.

'Frank Auerbach / Tony Bevan: What is a Head?' is on at Ben Brown Fine Arts London until 30 April 2021. For more information on the works by Tony Bevan, visit benbrownfinearts.com

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