The work of the late St Andrews-born artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham returns to her native Fife as part of a new exhibition at Tatha Gallery in Newport.
Vision in Time and Changing Light is a joint show with Aberdeenshire-based printmaker Hetty Haxworth.
It features Wilhelmina’s screen prints and etchings from the charitable trust she established prior to her death. The trust was set up both to preserve her artistic legacy and provide bursaries for art students.
Rob Airey, director of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust in Edinburgh, believes Tatha’s picturesque setting by the Tay is the perfect place to show “Willie’s” work.
He says: “Although the prints are totally abstract, she always looked to nature for inspiration.
“It also impacted the prints I chose for the show because, after I visited the gallery, I thought I needed some reference to the outside. There’s quite a few blue pieces, which I thought would work really well.”
The show was originally supposed to happen over a year ago and Rob is delighted people will be able to see the prints in person rather than in a virtual sense.
“I’m a strong believer of art being appreciated in the flesh rather than on a computer screen. When you reduce things to flat, cropped JPEGs it’s really just a reference to what it’s like. It’s nothing like appreciating the real thing.”
Wilhelimna was well into her 80s when she began making screen prints and the majority of these were devised and printed in Scotland. One of the works in show, Spring (1998), was made at Dundee Printmakers’ Workshop.
Who is Wilhelmina Barns-Graham?
Born in St Andrews in 1912, Wilhelmina knew she wanted to be an artist from a young age, but her parents did not approve.
After getting help from her aunt in order to follow her dream, she attended Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 1937.
In 1940, she became involved with the St Ives artists in Cornwall, where she retained a studio until her death.
Known for their progressive, abstract work, the group included Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Patrick Heron. Wilhelmina became a pivotal figure in the movement.
In 1960, she inherited Balmungo House near St Andrews from her aunt and began dividing her time between there and St Ives. She was made a CBE in 2001.
Wilhelmina died in St Andrews in 2004 at the age of 91.
Hetty ‘honoured’ to exhibit at Tatha
Tatha Gallery director Lindsay Bennett and gallery assistant Clare Mackie paid the Trust a visit as preparations for the show got underway.
Lindsay describes the trip as “incredible” and is pleased to be showing Wilhelmina’s stunning prints alongside work of contemporary artist Hetty Haxworth. Hetty has taken inspiration from her rural setting and the effects of changing light she saw while on her daily walks.
“This is the first time we have shown Hetty’s work in a show of this size,” Lindsay explains. “This show has allowed her to focus on something through lockdown.”
Based near Fettercairn on the Fasque Estate, Hetty says she is “so honoured” to be exhibiting alongside Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. Hetty would stroll round Fasque Lake each day during lockdown.
She says: “It’s all very new work I’ve done during or after lockdown. It’s all based on this lake, within five minutes’ walk from the house.
“It was great to go there and get a bit of peace. I spent a lot of time walking round it, making photographs, drawings and watercolours.”
The exhibits run from September 4 to October 2.
Hetty will give a talk at the gallery on September 16 at 7pm. She will also hold a monoprint workshop on September 20 between 10am and 12 noon.
Booking for these events via the gallery is essential.