Fantastic artist’s date: Anna Barriball

Those of you who are Artist’s Way followers may have realised recently that I haven’t been talking much about Artist’s Way-related things on the blog recently. That’s because I rather fell off the wagon. My intention to do Walking in this World didn’t even last a week, my morning pages have been more sporadic than I’d like, and, most of all, I’ve been terrible at getting round to making proper time for my artist’s date.

However, I finally did it this week. I was meeting a friend and her daughter for coffee in Edinburgh and I thought: Right! I need to go in a couple of hours early and have an artist’s date!

I did manage very successfully to get into what I think of as the artist’s date mindset – chilled out, hyper-observant in an artistic/visual way (Woah! look at the metalwork on the end of that wall! I never saw that before! Look! A really great ghost sign!), not over-thinking things.

I wandered down to the Poetry Library to change my books (trying not to be too analytical about what I ended up with), spent much longer than I expected at the Fruitmarket looking at the Anna Barriball exhibition, then had a first quick look at the Red Chalk exhibition at the National Gallery.

The Anna Barriball exhibition was rather typical of the Fruitmarket exhibitions that I’ve seen – something that initially seems a bit weird but had a few pieces that I really liked. I like that the Fruitmarket tends to stretch the boundaries of the art I enjoy. Here’s a video showing some of the pieces:

The work was described as something of an intersection between drawing and sculpture. Many of the works are effectively ‘rubbings’ of doors, walls etc, done with a regular pencil, which must be massively time-consuming! This results in the paper taking on the shape of the object, which produces quite a curious effect. It definitely grew on me. I was amazed that it had actually all done by hand.

Other works are ‘found’ photographs that have been altered. I wasn’t wild on the ones with ink, such as the first one shown in the video. However, I was fascinated by the row of pictures in which only a tiny window was revealed (a picture of an actual window, I’m not being metaphorical!). I liked the similarity yet variety of the windows. And it made you wonder what else was behind the mount – what was the original context?

My favourite work was the video piece of the fireplace which is also shown briefly in the video. Barriball had put tracing paper over the fireplace to do a rubbing, but found that when she opened a door she got the fantastic ‘breathing’ effect where the tracing paper conforms to the shape of the grate and tiles. It also sounds a bit like breathing. Watching it was rather hypnotic. Every ‘breath’ is a bit different so you see a bit more or a bit less of what’s behind the paper. Lovely and serendipitous.

I think I’ll be trying to catch this exhibition again before it leaves. Strangely compelling.

About the author: Kate lives in Fife, Scotland and is currently re-learning creative writing after 15 poetryless and fictionless years. She blogs at Fantastic artist’s date: Anna Barriball was first published on March 16.

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