On our Cornish Peninsula a unique exhibition, ‘A Distant Isle’, closes. It hails from Lanzarote.

We are sitting in the heat of the day, by the doorway of our gallery, enjoying the last hours of the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham exhibition which we have held in conjunction with the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust. Visitors are diving in to catch it too. Here’s a corner for you to enjoy with an extract from the essay that accompanies the catalogue.

A Distant Isle installation photograph by Andy Hughes. Provenance: The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

A Distant Isle installation
Photograph by Andy Hughes
Provenance: The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust
Left to right:

W. Barns-Graham 'Maquez' Acrylic on paper; 38 x 56.5 cms
John Milne 'Resurgence' Bronze; 45.5 (H) cms
W. Barns-Graham [Red Chasm] Gouache on paper; 56 x 75.5 cms
John Milne 'Poseidon (JM95)' Cold cast aluminium; 68.5 (H) cms (incl.base)
W. Barns-Graham 'Lanzarote, nr. Tias' Pastel on paper; 49 x 69 cms

A Distant Isle, Belgrave St Ives 2019. Provenance: The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

A Distant Isle, Belgrave St Ives 2019. Provenance: The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

A Distant Isle, Belgrave St Ives 2019. Provenance: The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

The green doors of  the above picture, ‘Lanzarote, nr. Tias’, state that this home belongs to a farming community. In the image below, ‘Salt Pans No.7’, blue doors mark a fishing community’s home.

A Distant Isle, Belgrave St Ives 2019. Provenance: The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham TrustW. Barns-Graham ‘Salt Pans No.7’ Acrylic on card; 20 x 25 cms. Provenance: The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust

The full exhibition is available here to view and there is a fully illustrated catalogue available for £10 (includes package and postage).

Extract from the catalogue introduction by Geoffrey Bertram April 2019

The exhibition marks the thirtieth anniversary of Wilhelmina (Willie) Barns-Graham’s first visit to the island of Lanzarote, in February 1989. She had been invited by a friend with whom she stayed, the villa situated on the east coast north of Arrecife, Lanzarote’s main town. Willie needed the break; she was exhausted. During the latter months of 1988 she had been working on an exhibition of new paintings for the Scottish Gallery in London, and on a major retrospective that was to open at Newlyn Art Gallery in June. It was thought she would benefit from the warmer, drier climate, on which she concurred, noting in her diary that Lanzarote was “very health giving – no aches and pains worth mentioning”. The visit was a huge success, leading to her making four further visits, the last in 1993.

Anyone who has been to Lanzarote appreciates what an extraordinary place it is. The island is dominated by the 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 and buried many villages and fertile agricultural land in the process. It is thought that over thirty volcanoes spewed forth at this time. A century later, in 1824, there was a further eruption in the same area.

Willie marvelled at the black rock formations and strange conic hills. One of the main roads wends its way up the centre of the island curving through the La Geria region, “…magnificent. Plenty of subjects + v. difficult” (see La Geria, Lanzarote, page 33). This is a route to Timanfaya, the area of Montagna del Fuego (mountain of fire); she notes “…on right hand side the lonely black mountain with red pink abstract lines and shapes…” (see Timanfaya Mt Fuego, page 7). On her third trip she writes “we set off for La Geria where I meant to look out some fields always inspired me for abstract but light was wrong + began pencil drawing on white paper of hill + some volcanic shelf shapes foreground”. Her only complaint of La Geria was the wind; “wind awful”– “always windy” which could make it difficult to work, on occasion further complicated by the intense heat and brightness.

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