Selected Works 1992 – 2002

Annandale Galleries, 1 May – 22 June 2002

The Book of Beasts 2005
Chinagraph, graphite and pastel on paper
194 × 120cm

‘It’s like literature; there are so many different forms of literature structured from shifting around twenty-six letters, and the human body is really the alphabet that I am working with… – Godwin Bradbeer (from the interview with Mark Pennings 1999)

GODWIN BRADBEER has been drawing the human body as a primary subject for over twenty five years. Working in chinagraph, pastel and graphite on paper, often on a monumental scale, his work is by turns elegant, fragile, disturbing and sometimes erotically charged. The four metre high “Innocent” diptych is the culmination of the series of manifestations on childhood. Though started as a ballerina reminiscent of Degas the figure is an emanation rather than a costume. A modesty amidst Bradbeer’s severity. Static rather than active, inward rather than outward, this exquisite work is more a sister to Giacometti than to Degas. The IMAGO series from the previous year are by contrast monumental heads and could well be imagined as dust jacket images for a Samuel Beckett novel. At roughly 160 × 150 cm the heads are not so much a description of the human face as of the human condition. What at first glance are subtle changes between the surfaces of different works, become grand gestures with further contemplation. The fragmentation on other works and even the depiction of skeletal elements show the artist is exploring external appearances ad inner emotions with equal vigour. Kafka’s beetle in the play ‘Metamorphosis’ comes to mind as we are born hard on the inside (bones) and have soft outer shells (flesh) - the opposite of the beetle - and spend much of our lives hardening out outer shells in self defence as out insides - our spirits - grow softer and weaker if we are not rigorous in our journeys. We are all trapped to some degree and the key to real freedom is to discover the boundaries of the inescapable facts of life and death and then to embrace that knowledge and progress.

Godwin Bradbeer’s work is a study of self and a diary of his own progression in life within a tight visual container. Like a Rebecca Horn, a Bradbeer is easily recognisable. His signature is based on the body as a vehicle and drawing itself as the subject matter. Although accidents are embraced, the works are carefully executed over long periods of time and are of the mind as well as the body. Each work brings a summary of what has gone before in remarkable images, which, once seen are not forgotten.

Bill Gregory, March 2002