“Letting rip” is how Wilhelmina Barns-Graham described making her late work, with colour defining these energetic paintings and prints. As a founding member of the St Ives group, Barns-Graham is acclaimed foremost as a British Modernist, shaping the development of 20th Century British art together with Terry Frost, Barbara Hepworth and Christopher Wood. However, it was her late work which immediately connected with an even wider audience, who relished the ‘joie de vivre’, colour and energy created by the artist in the last decade of her life. These late paintings have become highly prized amongst Modern British collectors today and Bohun Gallery’s major exhibition marks a unique opportunity for these enthusiasts, with some of the finest images created by Barns-Graham during this richly creative decade.
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham was a master of her craft, an artist perfectly attuned to every nuance of each hue and tone. Furthermore, she had the unusual gift of synaesthesia. This meant that sensations she experienced were translated intuitively into specific colours with attendant harmonies and discords. Colour played a central role throughout her life but it is in these late works where it explodes with new invigoration, each brush mark saturated with a different colour.
A pivotal moment came in 1998 when she agreed to make screenprints with Carol Robertson of Graal Press. What started tentatively for the 86 year old artist turned into perhaps the most productive, creative period of her life and realised an exceptional body of work, with sixty five editions made within her final five years. Indeed, there was often cross fertilisation of ideas between her painting and printmaking. This hugely successful output, which one can define as a true collaboration between the artist and technician, proved to be an extraordinary finale to an extraordinary career.