This appeared in The Herald Arts section on 19/5/12
A Discipline of the Mind: The Drawings of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham
Perth Museum & Art Gallery
78 George Street, Perth
Until May 27
|Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Porthmeor Studios 1947 |
© The Barns-Graham Charitable Trust
The 10-day-long Perth Festival, now in its 41st year, kicked off in style two days ago (Thursday 17 May) with the English Touring Opera’s Barber of Seville.
Music fans can look forward to a jam-packed programme featuring a host of stellar names, including Nigel Kennedy, Jack Bruce, Chris Difford, Martin Taylor, Martin Simpson, Carol Kidd, Kassidy, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.
In art terms, there are also a smattering of stars of the visual variety scattered throughout the Fair City.
One of the biggest attractions is a touring exhibition of drawings by Fife-born Wilhelmina Barns-Graham at the city’s art gallery, curated by leading British art historian, Mel Gooding.
This year, 2012, sees the centenary of the birth of this slightly under-the-radar British artist from the St Ives Group. Up and down the country, there is a raft of Barns-Graham exhibitions taking place over the course of the year, leading to a reassessment of her legacy.
The Watermill Gallery in Aberfeldy is currently showing A Joy of Colour, a vibrant selection of Barns-Graham’s prints and some previously unseen original works.
A touring exhibition called A Different Way of Working leaves Inverness this weekend and travels to Wick, where it re-opens on May 26, while The Fraser Gallery in St Andrews – where the artist owned a second home until her death in 2004 – will mount an exhibition of her paintings, drawings and prints from June 9-30.
The centenary year ends with A Scottish Artist in St Ives at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre.
The St Ives group was a loose ensemble of artists who congregated in St Ives, Cornwall after the Second World War and included, Peter Lanyon (who was born in the area), John Wells, Patrick Heron and Terry Frost.
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham studied at Edinburgh College of Art in the 1930s and moved to Cornwall in 1940.Together with the likes of Lanyon, Frost, Heron, Naum Gabo, Roger Hilton, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, she worked at the epicentre of the British Modernist Movement.
This exhibiting pulls together over 50 works spanning Barns-Graham’s long career from the 1940s to the 1990s. The subjects she turned to time and time again include landscape, rock formations, glaciers, wave studies and abstract works.
According to Maria Devaney, Principle Officer (Art) at Perth & Kinross Council, Barns-Graham did not set much store by her drawings.
“She saw them as plans for bigger work, but at the same time viewed them as an expression of her thoughts. The phrase, ‘a discipline of the mind’ was a quote taken from her description of how she viewed drawing.”
Barns-Graham maintained her connection with St Ives until the end of her long life and after inheriting a house in St Andrews from an aunt, from the 1960s, she split her base between Cornwall and Fife.
Both coastal locations greatly informed her work. As this survey shows, she was fascinated by the recurring patterns in natural forms around the coast and water. Glaciers and ice held a particular fascination and the work on show here reveals a delicate beauty in terms of pattern and colour.
Aside from the graceful beauty of Barns-Graham’s work, there are several art treats to be savoured in Perth over the course of the festival, including The Perth Art Trail, which takes place next weekend and Introducing Fergus & Meg at the Fergusson Gallery. The latter exhibition will give a lift to anyone with an interest in the exuberant pairing of JD Fergusson and Margaret Morris, artists and lovers who shared a passion for each other as well as a love of dance and art.
The personal collections of both Fergusson and Morris are now held in this fine gallery and there is an intimate feeling of being invited into Fergus and Meg’s inner sanctum when you wander around the space.
One must-see section of the current display focuses on Morris’ unconventional childhood. Groomed for stardom from a young age, she was home-schooled and spent much of her young life touring with Shakespearian companies.
This display showcases over 30 childhood drawings from around the age of five to accomplished costume designs dating from her late teenage years.
Frames Gallery on Victoria Street also succumbs to the power of dance with its Festival exhibition, The Art of Dance, which explores all aspects of the dance through photography, painting and printmaking. This special festival exhibition features the work of Muriel Barclay, Peter Nardini, Madeleine Hand, Dave Hunt and Tim Cockburn, all of whom have a particular fascination with dance and dancers.
|End of the Glacier by Wilhemina Barns-Graham|
© The Barns-Graham Charitable Trust