Arts diary: Interest in Barnes-Graham more than simply abstract
AN ABSTRACT painting of a Swiss glacier by the Scottish artist Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham was presented to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art last week by the trust that looks after her legacy.
Glacier Chasm captures the opaque blue hues of slab ice, and is part of a famous series depicting the Grindlewald Glacier. More to the point the gift, valued at about £150,000, and made to celebrate the centenary of the artist’s birth, is just the tip of an iceberg.
“Our proposition over the next couple of years is to donate up to 10 pictures to particular galleries and museums around the country,” says the chairman of the Barnes-Graham Charitable Trust, Geoffrey Bertram. The Art Fund, the national art charity, will act as the conduit. The trust appreciate that “public funds are few and far between”, says Bertram, and that what public galleries have for art collecting may be concentrated on high-profile purchases. “We want to bring as broad an audience to her work as possible.”
Barns-Graham, who was born in St Andrews on 8 June 1912 and died in 2004, was one of the group of artists, including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, who formed the St Ives school of British modern art. She moved to the town in 1940 and was particularly influenced by the Russian sculptor Naum Gabo.
For years her Scottish connections were a little overlooked. But the former Edinburgh College of Art student returned to St Andrews in 1960 when she inherited Balmungo House from her aunt, and from then on divided her time between Scotland and Cornwall. The trust, which has overseen the renovation of the house as a study centre, owns a collection including some 1,500-2,000 paintings.
The artist’s top prices at auction have not gone beyond about £60-£80,000, according to Bertram. But the glacier painting was the last in her own collection, with others in galleries from the Tate to the Southampton City Art Gallery. It’s hanging, rather nicely, in the Dean Gallery (make that Modern Two) cafe.
The gifts should help maintain Barnes-Graham’ profile, in a centenary year when there’s a continuous series of exhibitions, often selling her work. These include shows at the Watermill Gallery in Aberfeldy (wrapping up in early July), the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, the Fraser Gallery in St Andrews (running until the end of this month), the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh in August, three in England including one at Tate St Ives, and a last one at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh in November.
Makar mine a dram
Celebrations of a more earthy sort of centenary are underway at the Scottish Whisky Association, founded in London as the humble Wine and Spirit Brandy Association in October 1912.
Events include an exhibition in the Scottish Parliament’s main hall this November, called ‘Scotch Whisky: From Grain to Glass’. Last night, however, the focus was to be on Liz Lochhead’s new poem celebrating the water of life at a centenary launch at the Glasshouse Hotel in Edinburgh.
The Makar’s poem, aptly titled ‘For the Centenary of The Scotch Whisky Association’, is inspired by Robert Burns’s famous declaration that Freedom an Whisky gang thegither.
Fetching lines include: Distillations of history, language, weather in an usqueba o barley, burn, water, peat.
“It was a pleasure to trace the course of whisky-making from the rough to the smooth, and to try to evoke all the aromas, the colours and flavours of this subtle drink,” Lochhead says. “Writers and whisky have an even longer history than the SWA,” she added.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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