Barbara Rae: Return Journey (4 stars)

Welcome retrospective of the Scottish painter and print-maker

Barbara Rae: Return Journey

It could feel like a risk for a private gallery to devote its entire space, for the month of the Edinburgh Festival, to a single artist. This exhibition feels like a no-brainer. After several rooms of paintings spanning 50 years of Barbara Rae's career, you're left chiefly with one question: why is there not a bigger retrospective in a public institution?

Although it isn't arranged chronologically, the show does give the sense of the artist's journey. A scattering of early works from the 1960s and 1970s show flashes of colour emerging from dark backgrounds. By the late 1980s, colour is everywhere, strong, saturated shades, adeptly placed to riff off one another. Rae moves fluidly between painting and print-making, and combines the two. Forms that could be dismissed as simple gradually yield up more and more detail.

Almost always, the starting point lies in landscape. The palette will vary depending on the location – Scotland, Ireland, Spain, South Africa – and the time of day. Sometimes, Rae seems to combine in a single canvas the sense of looking across a landscape and looking down from an aerial perspective. At other times, she seems to cut a plane through the land itself, excavating layers of history, memory. Complex and bold and dancing on the edge of abstraction, Rae's paintings leave us in no doubt that we are in the presence of a major artist.

Open Eye Gallery, until 31 Aug, free.

Barbara Rae CBE RA: Return Journey

  • 4 stars

A record of time passing and a study of human habitation.


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