Tony Bevan's new paintings (showing at Ben Brown Fine Arts until 5.11.08) are monumental and direct. Yet his vertiginous towers of charcoal and pigment are not simply studio constructions: they are buildings of the mind, muscular expressions of a desire to rescue order from chaos. If his blackened marks, deeply embedded in the soft weave of the canvas, accumulate with repetitive power, they also serve to reveal the fragile apparatus of the psyche.
Like the red bridge in his most striking picture, they are held together by the empty expanse of canvas which surrounds and contains them, projecting into space a concentrated presence reminiscent of the approach adopted by Francis Bacon and Philip Guston.
Elsewhere in the show there is a noticeably lighter mood, particularly in his spare Chinese landscape forms, where a bodily presence is more playfully suggested. A carefully delineated hillside for example turns out to be the back view of a giant Buddha, his head - in contrast to the troubled and scarred visages of some of Bevan’s earlier paintings - serenely turned away from the artist’s (and our own) remorseless gaze.