Barbara has an open studio from her home in Chorleywood There Are always some things you can try; mono prints, glass paint on tiles and painting also weather permitting you can sit in the garden and eat flapjacks, millionaire shortbread, drink tea, look at the flowers, listen to the birds and watch the butterflies.
"I love colour and line and the way it sings together.
I was born Barbara Hill into an interesting and extended family, many of whom were designers particularly jewellery designers and where painting and writing were normal things to do. I was a student - 2 years full time and one year part time at St Albans School of Art (where I drew the ‘Naked Civil Servant’ -Quentin Crisp). It was whist I was studying at St Albans that I went to the Bonnard exhibition at the Academy and had an affection for Nigel North a young man with red hair. It was the catalyst of these two factors that like Dorothy going from Kansas to Munchkin land my art went into full colour. During the part time year I lived and worked in London. I loved Bonnards sensuous use of paint on canvas. Influenced also by the strong images of Frances Bacon and the idea of portraying movement and change in art I did my ‘Bonnard paints Bacon’ series of people eating in Cafes round Belsize Park.
I was then 3 years at Falmouth Art School in the Fine Art Painting department working in many different media and gained Honours degree - I met so many interesting people and ideas during this time and made many life time friends Artists, Architects writers, composers, musicians, performers, philosophers, poets and film makers - all visited us at Falmouth. It was a beautiful place to be in. Jenny Lee was made the first minister for the arts at that time and with a Labour government generous to education and the arts we were not cramped for space or materials. When I went to Cornwall I changed from painting drunks on the Circle line to the cows in the meadows and from their black and white jigsaw patterns against the green fields I moved to making jigsaw paintings - objects - objects in boxes - objects that moved and changed. Cows even metamorphosed into dragons when no one was looking! My philosophies on life and art were deep in the work I did. Words and poems influenced the images I was making.
The next year I worked in Libraries part time and went part time to do lithography at Chelsea Art School Print dept. I saved money to travel.
I travelled to Canada where I taught printmaking and enamelling in Montreal and I met my future travelling companions. It was good to leave the expectancies that I and others had of me.
For a year I returned to England I worked in the family Engineering firm and also worked with Beryl Turpin enamelling on copper.
Again I set off travelling. I lived in Canada The States, Latin America and Hawaii, Sign painting, painting pictures, milking goats and designing. During this time most of my creativity went on the performance of survival. Always sketchbooks are filled and words remembered.
Motherhood interrupted the painting I returned to England with my wonderful son; and as paint was not safe with my child I bought colours in wool and I designed and made one off knitting items. My paintings walked around on people, liberated from the wall of a gallery. I had some stories on Playschool and taught art in primary schools - spinning colours and stories in jerseys - mobile art?
I joined the group Five Women Artists plus which has been a catalyst to creativity and an opportunity to exhibit with them in London.
My work is mostly figurative, though I have been doing non-figurative mono-prints layering colour and maybe leading to some bigger paintings. The work is painterly and about colour - influenced by Bonnard, Bacon, Buber, Beethoven, stories, poems, family, friends, cows, clowns, rainbows, dancers, theatre and W B Yeats.
I still do a couple of hours life drawing every week. So little time, so much to do! I do not have enough time to take my ideas in all the directions they want to go but I paint more and more. I like the physical thing about painting. Now my influences are often theatre and circuses and dreams as well as cows and colours. I have exhibited in the Covent Garden Music Festival, Wycombe Swan Art gallery, the Heifer Gallery, Islington and the Red Gallery in Marlow. I am part of the Bucks Visual Arts Group and exhibit through them at Aylesbury Museum Art Gallery and at my open studio every summer. I am a founder member of Bucks21 a group of 21 contemporary professional artists working in Buckinghamshire and exhibiting locally - you do not have to go to London to enjoy interesting quality art! I am a founder and committee member of the Chiltern Arts Forum, which endeavours to further the arts in the Chiltern Area.
I have been, as artist in residence, part of a number of projects sponsored by the art and leisure department of Chiltern District Council. I worked with the Signing Dance group and the Endeavour centre in Chesham working with a group of Adults with specific learning difficulties who produced a performance incorporating ideas from my work. I also drew and photographed them. I am one of part of a group of artists working on Art in the Community Projects in Chiltern district. Working with the community and with dancers, actors, poets, artists, sculptors, photographers and performance installation artists is very interesting. I like the opportunity to work like this with others. A series of paintings have come out of this work. I have also facilitated community art projects to produce public work of art working with youth groups, residents associations and special needs groups. - murals etc.
About the paintings.
The mythology behind the images of the painting is perhaps not important to know to enjoy the painting. Sometimes I wonder if we make up the stories to explain the paintings for other peoples benefits. We are people layered with images and words stories and beliefs. Some images pop into our work unexpectedly. Back in the 60s after an article in a colour supplement, certainly a clown did walk into my sketchbooks. At that time I was doing some images on postcards to be sent out in all directions - transitory and far reaching I hoped. I liked the image of the clown and woman. I have drawn clowns from life, from photographs, from videos and from imagination. What do they mean? - these happy sad people behind the paint and red nose? They have touched my heart with their mime and poignancy and their wonderful clothes. But is it also so many are behind a mask while I alone am naked to the world in an uncomfortable dream? Is it a Pieta with Christ the Clown? In the end it does not have to be any of these things. It is image and paint and colour and line. It came from inside me and now it has its own life."
FLOWERS AND GARDENS ETC.
Some paintings are deep with their own mythology others are just the colours and marks to capture a moment or as Wordsworth described a spot in time Flowers and gardens often feature. Gardens are a particularly British way of expressing personality creativity and obsession. Our private spaces under public gaze - Riotous colours, scents and a space to be - Our individual installations, always changing and growing; an open theatre, which is always part of their creators and a gift to any who see and enjoy.
COWS ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.
Red Cow, Golden calf, holy cow, their life is given to ritual and service and sacrifice. What do they think? - ruminating philosophers. The cows may be closet dragons struggling with their wonderful large bodies and hidden spirituality or maybe they are just fine shapes painted colour on colour.
I have painted a series of paintings of beaches. I love the pattern of colour- windbreaks - towels- and people basking in this public place, with their thoughts and picnics, loosing their inhibitions. They gaze at the sea, lie on the sand - together yet isolated from each other. A holiday, a pilgrimage to a timeless moment; a balance against the rest of the years workdays......
PERFORMANCE AND DANCE
There are a series of paintings done from drawings I have accumulated in sketch books at theatres and rehearsal rooms. I want to keep the vitality and spontaneity of the drawings in the finished paintings. I love drawing the moving dancers. At least when they are rehearsing they do repeat the moves and so I can get both legs and arms!
MONOPRINTS AND WORKS ON PAPER
I have been making pictures with various mono-printing methods to express the way that colour excites me. The way colours sing together with shapes and lines can evoke feelings and awake our sensibilities. With a variety of artists I have organised an exhibition of drawings – “Drawing Matters” in Whitechapel.