A Distant Isle; Wilhelmina Barns-Graham in Lanzarote

PRESS RELEASE                                                                                         

New One-Person Exhibition:
A Distant Isle; Wilhelmina Barns-Graham in Lanzarote
10 – 29 June 2019, Belgrave St Ives
Private View: 8 June 6 – 8pm

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s Lanzarote series is a remarkable and significant body of work from the latter part of the artist’s career, the extent of which is still to be fully assessed. This is the first exhibition to look solely at the artist’s response to the unique topography and geology of this volcanic island. Barns-Graham returned to Lanzarote annually over a 5-year period (1989 – 93) to work in this formidable landscape, the resultant paintings and drawings demonstrate the artist’s interest in natural structures and her deep-rooted analytical observational skills.

Timanfaya Mt. Fuego 1989  Acrylic on paper; 36 x 49.5 cms

Barns-Graham was born in St Andrews, Fife, on 8 June 1912. Determining while at school that she wanted to be an artist, she set her sights on Edinburgh College of Art where she enrolled in 1932 and graduated with her diploma in 1937. When Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, known as Willie, moved to Cornwall in 1940, the artist’s drawings and paintings started reflecting the patterns, natural and man-made, of place, be it of Cornwall, the Scilly Isles, Switzerland’s Grindelwald Glacier (1949), the quarries and ravines of Tuscany/Sicily (1953-1955) or the rocky edge of the Balearics (1958). Her (later) studies of Lanzarote are some of the finest examples of this geological investigation. In 1951 Barns-Graham won the Painting Prize in the Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall Festival of Britain Exhibition and went on to have her first London solo exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in 1952. Barns-Graham was included in many of the important exhibitions showcasing pioneering British abstract art in the 1950s and she exhibited consistently throughout her career, in private and public galleries. Important exhibitions of her work were held at Tate St Ives in 1999/2000 and 2005. The publication of the first monograph on her life and work, Lynne Green’s W. Barns-Graham: a studio life (2001; 2nd updated and revised edition 2011), did much to engage critical and public perceptions of her achievements confirming her as one of the key contributors of the St Ives School, and as a significant British Modernist.

01_Page26Wilhelmina Barns-Graham in Lanzarote   Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

Lanzarote is an extraordinary place. The island is dominated by evidence of substantial volcanic activity, the last eruptions being very recent in geological terms. Well-documented eruptions took place in the Timanfaya area between 1730 and 1736, when lava and ash covered around two-thirds of the island burying many villages and fertile agricultural land in the process. It is thought that over thirty volcanoes erupted at this time. A century later, in 1824, there was a further eruption in the same area.

La Geria (Vineyard) 1989  Acrylic on paper; 56.5 x 75.5 cms

Untitled [Red Chasm] 1994  Gouache on paper; 56 x 75.5 cms

Belgrave St Ives represents Wilhelmina Barns-Graham on behalf of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust. The artist established the Trust in 1987 and the trustees have continued to advance awareness of her life and work, while using her legacy to support young people and other individuals to fulfil their potential in the visual arts. Belgrave St Ives Gallery specialises in Modern British and Contemporary Art with an emphasis on work produced by artists associated with Cornwall from the 1930s to the present time.

A fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Geoffrey Bertram is available.

Lava Movement, Lanzarote
1993  Pencil and wash on paper; 21 x 29 cms

Untitled [Church, Masdache, Lanzarote] c1989   Oil pastel on paper; 57 x 77 cms

For further information and images, please contact Richard Blackborow:

Belgrave St Ives, 22 Fore Street, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1HE


tel. 01736 794888


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