A Tau shape, a stylised version of the Greek ‘T’, was the primary identifying mark within each painting. Firmly accentuated in black, these signs were not at all comparable to the dissolving heads and masks of the previous decade. Without any ascertainable meaning apart from their forceful presence as focal points in the composition, they also achieved a striking figure/ground contra by virtue of the more amorphous character of the field that supported them. No more than personal signatures in a sense, they nevertheless also suggested some of the attractions, and something of the mystery, of the hieroglyph. - S. BANN
One final development marks the conclusion of this phase of Beard’s career. Over the years 1987-9, he had made regular return visits between Australia, Europe and the United States. In 1989, he resigned from his position at Curtin University in Western Australia, and spent four months in New York. Over the years 1990-91, he spent the majority of his time living and working in New York. Not surprisingly, the change of location led him to create a series of major paintings. The sequence through which he expressed his new mood of confidence included The Lake (1990), The Novel (1990/91) and Tenor (1990/91). These were all works in which a similar device was used to focus and concretise the experience of space. - S. BANN
In November 1991, John Beard moved to Madrid to prepare a solo exhibition. Up to 1993, he would remain in the Iberian peninsula, spending most of the period in Portugal, although for six months he returned to Australia to take up an artist’s residency at the University of Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts. The initial group of paintings produced in these years followed on directly from the concerns that have already been discussed. Atocha (1992) reflected the move, in taking its title from one of Madrid’s main railway stations. Motetten il (1992) and Riff Raff II (1992) displayed a heightened sense of colour, no doubt result of Beard being exposed to the masterpieces of Spanish painting in the Prado.
It should be noted, at the same time, that in the case of the latter two paintings, the medium was oil and wax on linen. What emerged as his preferred technique in the previous few years would in fa remain to the fore in his output throughout the middle years of the decade. - S. BANN