Artist and Printmaker: Part Two
For the second instalment of our Printmaking Oral Histories series, Archivist Tilly Heydon has selected some clips from interviews with Carol Robertson and Robert Adam of Graal Press that took place in Autumn 2022.
Barns-Graham and Graal Press
In 1998, Barns-Graham began working with Carol Robertson and Robert Adam of Graal Press, based in Midlothian in Scotland. This was to be the beginning of a working relationship that lasted until Barns-Graham’s death in 2004, and beyond, when in 2006 Graal was asked by the Trust to produce prints from screens that had been made up by Barns-Graham and Robertson, but had not been editioned while she was still alive.
Carol Robertson worked with Barns-Graham on numerous screenprints, and Robert Adam worked with the artist to produce etchings, most notably another edition of Eight Lines II, 2001 and an etching called Six Lines, 2002. It’s interesting that parallels can be drawn between the nature of the working relationship between Robertson and Barns-Graham, and Rachael Kantaris (of Porthmeor Printmakers Workshop) and Barns-Graham. Both printmakers mentioned embodying the artist to a certain extent.
Painting and Printing as Celebration
In her eighty-sixth year when the collaboration began, Barns-Graham was in the midst of creating bolder, more colourful, and larger-scale works than ever before. Her work held a care-free essence, and promoted joy in colour and movement. In 2001, Art First would mount a show of Barns-Graham’s work and Rowan James, Barns-Graham’s art manager, organised a touring exhibition called Painting as Celebration. Both shows exhibited works brimming with vitality that could have been mistaken for being the work of a much younger artist.
The screenprints produced by Barns-Graham with Carol Robertson held much of this same vitality. In the clips below, both Robertson and Adam talk about the excitement and impatience that Barns-Graham was brimming with to produce new work.
Embodying the artist
In this first clip, Robertson describes how she would embody Barns-Graham (including her dress sense!) to enable her to effectively produce the prints that the artist envisioned.
A rush to work
In this clip, Carol Robertson describes how Barns-Graham was in a rush to get her ideas down on the screens. She persuaded Robertson that prints could be editioned after Barns-Graham died, allowing the precious time she had to be dedicated to cementing the waves of inspiration that were flowing.
Hunting for colour
One of the reasons the collaboration was so successful was because Barns-Graham and Robertson shared a sensitivity to colour. They could both understand when very specific colours would work together to make a print “sing”. In this clip, Robertson describes the difficulties that arose in sourcing specific colours.
Robert Adam talks about the process he used to make Eight Lines II with Barns-Graham. A further development of Eight Lines I, the etching made with Rachael Kantaris of Porthmeor Printmakers Workshop. Barns-Graham had a very clear vision for the print; she wanted the lines to be absolutely crisp and clean. This effect was very difficult to produce with traditional etching techniques and materials. Adam describes how he looked to working with other inks not usually used in the etching process to achieve Barns-Graham’s desired outcome.
From January 2024, you can listen to more clips from Carol Robertson and Robert Adam by downloading our Guide on Bloomberg Connects.