Thursday, 26 May 2011

Eccentric Behaviour

I've been back outside, painting on Winfrith Heath this week.

I will write in more detail about this over the next few days. My initial thoughts however were about how exposed my particular position was to the wind and sun. Sometimes though you just have to do this – to be in the right place.

On my first day working on the painting I was discovered by a dog snuffling around in the grass, which began to bark. It's owner approached and asked what I was doing.

I replied 'Painting'.

He said 'Oh yes, my dog will bark at eccentric behaviour'.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Shipping, Literally

My visit to Geraint also provided an interesting postscript to my blogpost about the Sea Garden show at Gallery Tresco that I wrote about here.

Geraint had framed the paintings for that show well ahead of time, and had also constructed very sturdy packing boxes for them to ensure that they weren't damaged in transit.

He took a photograph of these, shown above.

The paintings were then driven to Penzance, thence onto the Scillonian III over to the Scilly Isles. The transfer from the main island of St Mary's onto Tresco would have used an even smaller local boat.

Clearly a lot of effort is involved in transporting the paintings there. It is certainly worth it for a show in such a unique and beautiful setting.


I went to visit my framer, Geraint Davies, in Frome last week – which is always a pleasure, both professionally and socially.

He had worked very hard on a frame for a painting of mine which has just been purchased by a former student of John Hinchcliffe, and I was there to collect it so that I can get it to it's new owner.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Life Drawing Classes

I recently discovered this engaging blog from an artist in Wales, about life drawing - a subject in which I obviously have a deep interest.

A recent post on the blog links to information about my Breast Cancer LIFE touring exhibition, but there is much else to read.

I particularly enjoyed reading about Hockney's thoughts on photography and art.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Gallery Tresco

I have just returned from another visit to Tresco, in the Isles of Scilly.

On Monday I attended the opening of an exhibition at Gallery Tresco, at which five of my latest paintings are on display.

It is a beautiful gallery in an amazing setting, with great light and character. The curator, Anna Parks, had done an excellent job of hanging the show.

There was a great turn-out at the opening, and my children thoroughly enjoyed playing on the beach immediately outside the gallery while I chatted to the visitors and islanders.

Monday, 2 May 2011


By Professor Simon Olding
Crafts Study Centre
University for the Creative Arts

Harriet Barber has produced a large body of work on the most demanding and deeply personal of themes. Her studies of women post-surgery are both a testament to her models who have been through the harrowing rituals of invasive care for breast cancer, and to her own treatment.

Central to this moving exhibition are two images: one, a large, ferociously-painted self portrait; the other a small and highly poignant pencil drawing. The range of emotion as well as scale between these two images is wide: unmediated anger, though the anger of life; and the gaze of dying. But if these are extremes, captured in the fleeting line and the energetic, loaded brush stroke, then what lies between is a lyrical and expressive outburst of confidence and energising personality.

Barber’s models take to their unaccustomed roles and poses with singularity and expressiveness. They have made the artist rethink the relationship between the artist as the controller and the model as the instructed. None of these women lie down meekly for the sake of the artist’s command. They loll, flirt, and lie luxuriantly and gracefully. The backdrops to the work are richly coloured textiles and intensely illuminated rooms. The women gaze back not with the bleak pain of wounds in their faces; but with a strong and intensely sharpened focus: a new focus on life, time and the need to take any opportunity with both hands and wring it for success.

Harriet Barber has built a growing reputation for her post romantic, plein air oil studies from nature: sea and beach scapes, river banks and the atmospheric rural outposts of Cornwall or Dorset. Nothing in her past experience as a painter has prepared her for this intensive investigation into psychological drama and the aftermath of gruelling hospital treatment. She has immersed herself in this project and become a stronger artist because of it.

Barber has not painted and drawn these expressive works solely for the sake of therapy, although there is medical evidence that, as the Director of the Winchester & Andover Breast Unit says, ‘the use of art has a very positive therapeutic effect which is difficult or impossible to achieve with other approaches’. She has done so to mark a distance from her own personal grief and the pain of the women who have faced their own dark journey of treatment. She has found a powerful narrative in their collective responses and their remarkable ability of self belief and the fight for life. This discovery imbues her work with lightness, colour and verve.

Barber has let her art go to accommodate these telling impulses. She has forsaken the more regimented past of her figure painting and the control and order of her Slade-trained work in this vein. In doing so she has paid her models and herself the service of honesty and openness. She has looked on these scars and found that they do not tell her about personality, courage or the impressive force of hope. Her paintings, pastel and oil studies leap out of the frame with energy, vibrancy and sometimes erotic vigour. They mark a harrowing rite of passage for herself and her models, but one that they have transcended together.