Abstract, Issue 7
Welcome to Abstract the quarterly WBG Trust newsletter. Find out what we have been up to and read about upcoming projects and exhibitions. See below for the full story.
Following on from previous touring shows from the Wilhelmina-Barns-Graham Trust’s Collection – Discipline of the Mind, first shown in 2009 and A Scottish Artist in St Ives, 2012, in October 2019 a new show – Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: Inspirational Journeys will open at the Granary Gallery, Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Similarly to the previous two exhibitions the aim was to curate a show which would focus on a specific aspect of her practice, but also include works from a wide time-span so different periods of her long career are represented. Inspirational Journey focuses on Barns-Graham’s trips into Europe over a 50-year period and the impact these journeys had on her work.
From her visit to Switzerland in 1949 to her final trip to Lanzarote in 1993 and other journeys in between to Italy in the 1950s, Spain and Orkney in the mid-1980s, works in the exhibition range from remarkable on-the-spot pencil drawings to bold and colourful abstract paintings. Another important element of the show is to foreground a very positive relationship with Europe and the possibility of inspiration though travel and cultural exchange.
The exhibition opens in Berwick-upon-Tweed on 25 Oct 2019 (until 23 Feb 2020), before travelling to the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol opening March 2020, The Atkinson, Southport in January 2021 and the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness in Summer 2021.
A New Acquisition
The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust is delighted to announce that it has acquired from auction The Toy Workshop, The Digey, St Ives, a pencil and crayon drawing from 1944-5. Long thought to have been a stand-alone drawing, it was with great surprise in 2007 that a painting of this image turned up unexpectedly, revealed among a number of rolled-up canvases transported to Barns-Graham’s St Andrews home, Balmungo House, after the clearance of her St Ives studio in 2005. Its’ whereabouts considered unknown, the painting had clearly never left the artist’s ownership. Mixed within a bundle of unframed canvases it became lost at the back of the studio.
For the Trust to now have both the painting and its preparatory drawing is a unique circumstance as there no other two such related works in the collection. The painting follows closely the overall design and details of the drawing – one can see sections of the underlying squaring up that she used to assist with the transfer of the image from paper to canvas – with only very minor modifications. Constructionally, the drawing has a strong diagonal emphasis that takes the eye into the far reaches of the room. The lines of sight are set by the angles of the items of furniture and objects. It is a triangular design, with the apex of the triangle being the corner cabinet, and the base aligned between the foreground corner of the table, left, and the back of the tilted chair, right. In the painting her use of red on selected objects further accentuates the way the eye is led around this triangular composition. A more detailed comparison between the two works can be read here.
A Journey Through Four Decades – Paintings by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham 1958-1998 at the Scottish Gallery 31 October to 26 November 2019
At the start of this year the Scottish Gallery exhibited drawings from Italy and South West Cornwall that reflected their first Wilhelmina Barns-Graham show in July 1956. This new exhibition is an overview of what happened in the following decades, presenting the main themes of her work from 1958 to 1998.
Attempting an overview of an artist’s oeuvre is always a challenge, and the more so with Barns-Graham as her art constantly evolved. When taken out of context the paintings she made throughout this period can sometimes appear to have little connection with what took place before or even perhaps immediately after. But seen as a whole it is possible to see her underlying thoughts and the logic of the directions that were taken.
The exhibition opens with her painterly abstracts of 1958 that were inspired by a visit to Spain, in particular Barcelona and the Balearics, before leading into the more formal abstract work of the 1960s and 1970s in which she combined a hard-shaped geometry in disorderly arrangements. The series Things of a Kind in Order and Disorder contains the diverse colour palette that she is recognised for, and the sense of movement of forms, either in tumble or flow, that engaged her for the rest of her life. These components – colour, form, movement – underpin her art and become expressed in a multitude of diverse imagery, leading to the dynamic Scorpio paintings of the 1990s which, in their freedom of expression, link back to those four decades earlier.
A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ https://scottish-gallery.co.uk/
St Ives School of Painting – Culture Camp 2019-21
The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust has agreed to help fund a new initiative, developed by the St Ives School of Painting, aimed at introducing art experiences to young people in Cornwall. Over 3 years Culture Camp aims to reach seventy 13-18 year olds who are at risk of not reaching their full potential in School and those who do not attend mainstream school for reasons such as school exclusion, behaviour issues, school refusal, or short- or long-term illness.
This project is a development of a successful earlier model, also funded by WBGT, but with a more targeted group of students to increase impact, working with partners such as Leach Pottery, Tate St Ives and Porthmeor Printmakers to widen the sense of a ‘mini foundation’. Unlike at school attendees will work with professional high quality materials and be taught by practicing artists and art professionals. This level of experience is not something state schools can usually offer to students and will deliver insights into the sector that would not be possible within the constraints of art provision in school. The project will deliver an exceptional experience to young people most in need of inspiration and life opportunities.
Squares in Movement: Wilhelmina Barns-Graham in the 1960s at the Penwith Gallery
The third in our series of annual Barns-Graham focused displays at the Penwith Gallery in St Ives, celebrating her life-long membership of the Penwith Society of Artists, is now open (until end of November 2019).
From the late 1940s and her ground-breaking series of works that drew inspiration from visiting the Grindelwald Glacier in Switzerland, and throughout the 1950s, Barns-Graham developed a painting practice which was increasingly abstract, but always inspired by the close observation of landscape and natural forms. In contrast, from around 1961 until the second half of the 1980s, her prime focus was creating what might be described as ‘purely abstract’ works; focused on form, movement and colour on the painted picture surface, with little or no obvious reference to the natural world.
Through the 1960s Barns-Graham often used groups of squares as the focus for her compositions in a series she called ‘Things of a Kind in Order & Disorder’. ‘Squares in Movement’ focuses on how within these works Barns-Graham utilises that particular shape to articulate rhythm and movement, as well as being the vehicle for the exploration of colour relationships.
Picture of the Month
Amanda Baron (https://www.amandabaronglass.com/), whose exhibition ‘An Observation’ was held at the Trust’s offices in August, chooses this edition’s picture of the month:
‘I love the oscillation Wilhelmina has created in this sketch by elongating pebble shapes through a formation of meandering lines. One can almost hear the rolling disarrangement of the stones as they are moved by tidal ebb and flow. I find the rhythm in this work calming.’
Where to see Willie
Willie’s work is being exhibited all over the country, with her work featuring in permanent displays and exhibitions, as well as loans from the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust.
There is still time to see the Manchester Art Gallery the exhibition ‘Get Together and Get Things Done’ (17 May – 29 Sept 2019) which features the painting ‘Protest’ 1966, on loan from Aberdeen Art Gallery.
In London, you can see our recent gift to the Tate, the large and bold ‘White, Black and Yellow (Composition February 1957)’ now on display at Tate Britain. The touring exhibition with ‘Linear Meditations’ is on at Hammersmith Hospital where you can see a selection of Willie’s line drawings.
In Oxford at Newham College the work ‘Purple Painting’ 1968 has gone on display, on loan from the Arts Council Collection.
Penlee House in Penzance celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Penwith Society of the Arts, with their exhibition ‘Creative Tensions: The Penwith Society of Arts 1949-1960‘ (14 September – 16 November). Featured will be ‘Box Factory Fire‘ doing a tour of the south west, as it was recently on display at the RWA in Bristol.
In St Ives the current display at the Penwith Gallery is ‘Squares in Movement: Wilhelmina Barns-Graham in the 1960s’ featuring a range of abstract works focused on form, movement and colour . Tate St Ives’ wonderful ongoing ‘Modern Art and St Ives’ display also includes three important works by Willie, including ‘Rock Theme, St Just’, 1953, donated to the Tate collection by the Trust.
In Dundee at the The McManus, three WBG works from their permanent collection are on display as part of ‘As We See It: Twentieth Century Scottish Art’. On throughout 2019.
In Edinburgh there is just a few days left of the exhibition ‘All That the Rain Promises and More…’ at the Arusha Gallery, featuring one of Wille’s mushroom paintings. At the Scottish Parliament you can see 5 spectacular, colourful late works on display outside the committee rooms which are publicly accessible.
At the British Art Fair in London from the 3rd – 6th October, two galleries will be showing Willie’s work – the Belgrave St Ives and Waterhouse & Dodd. Great to have WBG so well represented.
Our new touring exhibition ‘Inspirational Journeys’ opens at its first venue The Granary Gallery in Berwick-upon-Tweed on October 26th. It will then go on to the Royal West of England Academy next March.
At the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh ‘A Journey Through Four Decades – Paintings by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham 1958-1998‘ runs from 31 October to 26 November. This exhibition will present an overview of work from a 40 year period and celebrate Willie’s diverse artistic output.
We are delighted to be showing three of Willie’s pen and ink line drawings in ‘Lines from Scotland’ an exhibition by Fife Contemporary, curated by Amanda Game and on display at St Andrews Museum from 9th November until 22nd February 2020. The show then tours to Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries and the Gracefield Art Centre in Dumfries next year.