Bar
By Carolyn Burchell

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Year
1996
Media
Acrylic and Gouache Mixed Media and Collage
Subject Matter
Urban and Architectural
Reg. Number
P735
Size
86.5 x 103.5 cm

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The work of Carolyn Burchell focuses on landscapes, often taking inspiration from her travels across Europe: this piece represents a bar in Spain and is typical of the artist's interest in urban scenes where a human presence is hinted at rather than made explicit. The artist states that she was "immediately attracted by the quirkiness of this image; its lived in quality, and the irregular pattern of the windows." The piece was created using a combination of media, utilising the reflective texture of gouache with the bright colours of crayon. The artist claims that mixed media and heightened colour was used "to describe the texture of the stonework." The work aims to express a sense of tranquillity coupled with a feeling of unease - the serenity of the urban landscape is accompanied by the eerie realisation that there are no people present in the image.

The piece contains an inherent tension between the exterior of the building, which is presented in a stylised yet recognisable manner, and the interiors, which remain mysterious in order to incite curiosity about what lies inside. The windows contain abstract shapes (bottom right corner), blocks of colour (centre and centre-right) and in some cases nothing at all except a dark emptiness (upper right and bottom left). The colour palette adds to this contrast, with a range of yellows and greens used for the exterior walls to contrast with the blacks, whites and blues which depict the interior. The proportions of the building are irregular, with each window a different size and shape. A few straight lines combined with the vibrant colour scheme lend the image a surreal feel.

"Whilst travelling in Spain I was immediately attracted by the quirkiness of this building; its lived-in quality and the irregular pattern of the windows. I would like the viewer to have some curiosity about what lies behind them. I enjoyed using mixed-media and heightened colour to describe the texture of the stonework."

Carolyn Burchell was born in Edinburgh in 1961 and studied at the Edinburgh College of Art from 1979 to 1984, where she won the John Kinross Scholarship to Florence. She has since worked with Artlink and on various mural and painting commissions. In 1987, she began teaching art as an Adult Education Tutor in Lothian schools. She has exhibited widely in both solo and group shows around the UK, particularly Scotland. She was a member of the Collective Gallery Committee between 1987 and 1991, and her work has been featured in many group and solo exhibitions in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham and across Scotland. Though her artwork is informed by the external environment, it is also deeply introspective and examines the personal and symbolic significance of landscape features and what they represent to the artist and the viewer.

Burchell is interested in the therapeutic aspect of painting and drawing and in how metaphor and symbolism operate in the works of particular artists. In this work she was keen to explore the sense of stillness or tranquility captured in a moment where weather and light can change in an instant.

“I am a painter whose work focuses upon landscape; the enclosure of urban park or garden and the exterior and interior nature of the forest, as well as the dream-like aspect of sea and coast. I am motivated by the need to express the moment as well as a sense of timelessness, and a human presence within the landscape.”

Art in Healthcare's blog entry about Carolyn Burchell