In 2015 internationally-renowned artist Barbara Rae CBE RA RSA began a series of journeys of discovery into the Arctic, following in the footsteps of her namesake, the Orcadian explorer Dr John Rae. The resulting new body of paintings, monotypes and intaglio prints represents Raes deep-rooted fascination with the topography and history of place. Rae joined her first voyage to the Northwest Passage travelling with One Ocean Expeditions in 2015. She returned in 2016 and 2017, drawn by her interest in the story of John Rae.
The exhibition draws parallels between Raes journey and that of John Rae and shows how their paths intertwined. From her starting point on John Raes home isle of Orkney, Rae travelled to Greenland and Canada, voyaging through some of the most inhospitable places on earth. The sketchbooks of both Barbara Rae and John Rae are being displayed side-by-side, forming congruent narratives in these remarkable journeys.
Whilst her paintings and prints are known for their rich, Mediterranean palette, Raes expedition to the Arctic has triggered a shift towards deep blues and opalescent silvers, but the intense bursts of colour for which her work is known remain resolutely powerful. The formidable unknown into which John Rae ventured on his Arctic voyage is seen in representations of fracturing ice and looming icebergs. Ice flows are translated into effervescent streams of colour and the scarce signs of life huts, boats and fish emerge in earthy browns and greens.The exhibition shows one of the foremost artists currently working in the UK to have chartered a new, painterly journey of exploration by looking back into history.
The exhibition premieres at the Royal Scottish Academy
before travelling to the Pier Arts Centre, Orkney, and Canada House, London, in autumn 2018. The exhibition is a collaborative partnership between the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) and the Royal Academy (RA), London, in celebration of the latters 250th anniversary year in 2018. The exhibition is funded by the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture with assistance from the Art Fund, the Morton Trust and Tony McLellan. The exhibition is sponsored by One Ocean Expeditions.
All paintings and prints on view are available for purchase. A price list and further details are available upon request. A beautifully-illustrated book, published by the Royal Academy, will be launched alongside the exhibition.
Director of the Royal Scottish Academy, Colin Greenslade, says: 'We are delighted to be presenting this show of new works by Barbara Rae CBE RA RSA. Barbaras journeys and the story of John Rae, all of which inspired the works, take us on a trip to the Arctic and enables us to see the effect that the light, the land, the history and traditions have had upon Barbara and her practice. We are also given first-hand accounts of the changes taking place in this beautiful, inhospitable and vulnerable region through her paintings, monotypes and carborundum prints. The story of these influences are reinforced with items from the University of Aberdeen Museums.
To stage this exhibition in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in their 250th Anniversary year is very exciting and strengthening partnerships with Pier Art Centre, Orkney, and the Canadian High Commission to the UK further reinforces our commitment to assisting Barbara show this important new exhibition which has been years in the making.'
Born in Falkirk, Barbara Rae studied painting at Edinburgh College of Art (1961-65). Travelling to France and Spain on a post-graduate scholarship, her early work drew upon trends of abstraction and mixed media practices in European art at the time. Since her first solo exhibition in Edinburgh in 1967, Rae has gone on to exhibit worldwide. She was elected Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1980 and became a full Member in 1992. In 1996 she was also elected a member of the Royal Academy of Art. She holds honorary doctorates from Napier University, Aberdeen University and the University of St Andrews and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art, London.