A country chair and a white lace curtain, an open window letting in the sunshine and a tree in full bloom, this large oil painting invites you to step in and celebrate spring. The artist Barbara Balmer has placed the focus on a vase on the window sill and on the arrangement of large rose white buds about to burst open. She has captured the softness and subtle variations of colours of the petals which seem to glow in the sun light. From there the eye is guided towards a tiny figure in the tree, a blackbird. We can imagine it calling, cajoling, seducing.
Throughout the painting Barbara demonstrates her consummate mastery of paint. She has used a variety of techniques with great effect to convey closeness and distance, from the smooth and elaborate brushwork in the foreground to the meticulous stippling of the blossoms on the tree in the distance. The palette is muted. Large areas of grey contrast with blocks of sunshine and emphasise the delicacy of details in the flowers, the vase and the lace curtain. The scrupulous linear draughtsmanship keeps at bay the sentimentality that might otherwise derive from such an idyllic domestic scene. All these elements combine to give this painting a feel of serenity and a sense of otherworldliness and transcendence.
Barbara has been inspired by landscapes as much as by cosy interiors. She drew them first on site, making many notes and would paint the scene later in her studio. She has often worked with watercolours, a medium that does not tolerate mistakes and that she relishes for that reason, always aiming to achieve perfection with the first stroke, always using fine sable brushes and stretched paper whatever the scale. Whether oil or watercolour, her paint is invariably flat.
Born in England, Barbara Balmer has spent most of her life in Scotland and now lives in Lincolnshire. She trained in Coventry and Edinburgh Colleges of Art. When living in Edinburgh, she got to know Anne Redpath well. They were both inspired by their domestic environment, but each depicted it in her own distinctive way. A prolific artist who painted almost every day of her working life, she has had twenty solo shows and painted eighty commissioned portraits, many of children that she captured in likeness without idealisation. She has won many awards and travelling scholarships ï¿½ Italy was a revelation ï¿½ and is exhibited widely in public collections throughout the country.
With thanks to George Mackie for providing his most helpful information and insights and to The Open Eye Gallery of Edinburgh.