Barbara Steinberg new collection of abstract paintings are solid, mature, yet strangely fluid. Her over 50 years of constant exploration in different media has succeeded in developing a language with reminiscences to L'Art Informel. Several layers of oils inform us of memories; of what it is left once we admire a view and close our eyes. Because, how much can we remember? Steinberg helps us to reach that conclusion. Her new show, titled Age and Memory, opens at the Signal Gallery on the 26th of July.
A Debatable Land by Barbara Steinberg
Barbara Steinberg has been active as a creative force for over fifty years now. In her long career, she has crossed paths with a number of important figures in the art world, including Frank Auerbach (for whom she sat) and Michael Ayrton (who she assisted) as well as witnessing various trends and movements - from Post Expressionism, Pop Art, Conceptualism and Urban Art. Through all of this, Barbara has always forged her own path, firstly in painting, then in sculpture. Over the past decade, she has returned to painting and this time round her work has a new intensity and depth. She is surely one of the most important abstract painters active in the UK at this time. Her work demands to be seen in the flesh, its beautiful vibrancy carrying all before it.
Steinberg explains about her work and career:
"Although I began as a painter, I spent twenty years making sculpture. When I returned to painting, I became immersed in landscape. At first, I was interested entirely in the immediate and transitory - the fleeting effects of light and colour at different times of the day and year. Gradually, I became absorbed in the similarities of patterns and forms that underlie all landscape, from the smallest pebble to the furthest star, in fire, water, and stone. What I do now is try to embody the experience of landscape, to paint, in effect, a meta-landscape. At the same time, I want the work to exist as pure paint on canvas. Consequently, my work has become more abstract. When and if it works, I hope it exists as another, parallel world, that has its own dynamic, but somehow reminds us simultaneously of the world of palpable physical experience and that of legend, myth, and dream."
Executed in the run up to her seventieth birthday this year, the artist says she found herself dwelling very much on thoughts about ageing and in particular, how this process affects and changes over time, recollections of the our earlier selves.
When we look back, Steinberg says, we see the past through many filters that have developed with years of experience. We are left with a very vivid impression of events and sensations, which is very much shaped by these filters. Some aspects of these memories, for example the facts, may become unreliable, but the artist believes that the more deeply engrained sensual memories, particular that of smells, but also of the visual and aural, come down through the years more intensely.
In the new work, a number of the pieces are framed with blocks of dark colour, giving the impression of looking through a window or a portal to something very distant and strange. All the works in the show do have a sense of perspective that draws in the audience and implies a narrative or the ghost of a narrative. While the works is definitely thoughtful and introspective reflecting the thought processes of the artist, it retains the signature bold palette that has always seemed so full of the unquenchable joy of living in the here and now.
Age and Memory - A Farewell by Barbara Steinberg