Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: On Growth and Form

An exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints 1950-2002

3 September - 6 November 2010, Lamb Gallery,
Tower Building, University of Dundee

Mon-Fri 09.30-20.30 Sat 09.30-16.30

Construction in Space by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

Construction in Space by W Barns-Graham (courtesy of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust)


D'Arcy Thompson's On Growth and Form had a profound influence on the work of St Andrews-born artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. As a child, she met D'Arcy (a family friend) on several occasions, and "many years later I discovered his wonderful enlightening book Growth & Form."

D'Arcy's work resonated with those painters and sculptors who were seeking to reconcile the new art of abstraction with the natural world. His application of mathematical laws to the shape and development of living organisms underscored Barns-Graham's own investigations into natural forms. His ideas on the relation between inner space and outer form were particularly important.

D'Arcy referred to the proportion of the "divine" or Golden Section in nature, where a system of numbers is applied to the ratio of growth. Artists used this system to divide the perfect rectangle with its various sub-divisions. This was a framework which supported Barns-Graham's images, but one on which she felt free to improvise with independent elements.

This exhibition has been curated by the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust and accompanies the larger exhibition Sketching the Universe: Artists' Responses to D'Arcy Thompson upstairs in the Lamb Gallery.

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