Two artists who met at art school are exhibiting together in North Berwick. Kim Williams talks to the artists about how coastlines have inspired and influenced both of them and their work.
Renowned for its natural beauty and stunning coastline, East Lothian is a constant source of inspiration for artists and is often recreated on canvas, ceramic and paper. It is for this reason that two artists have chosen “Coast Lines” as a recurring theme for their work. Barbara Rowell (above left) and Ruth Thomas (above right) met while studying towards a BA in Art and Design at Edinburgh College of Art.
Last year Ruth initiated an innovative sketchbook exchange among artists based along the Firth of Forth and in her home region of New South Wales. These collaborative sketchbooks were exhibited in Australia and New Zealand as well as in North Berwick, during Fringe by the Sea.
Building on the success of this project, Barbara and Ruth have continued to collaborate in their shared studio at Fenton Barns where they focus on printmaking techniques for mounted works and artists books. They are delighted to return to Fringe by the Sea this year to show new work inspired by the marine environment and coastlines bordering the Firth of Forth and the Tasman Sea. This August, they’ll exhibit their work at theDEN Studio in North Berwick. This lovely little creative studio and curated store, just off the High Street, will be home to a stunning display of artwork, all inspired by the coast, yet in very individual ways. The exhibition provides a unique opportunity – a chance to meet and chat with the artists and to view and buy artwork directly from them, from affordable cards through to mounted original prints, tapestry weavings and artists books.
Dividing her time between Scotland and New South Wales in Australia, Ruth draws connections between the intertidal marine environments of these two geographically different countries. She says “I am inspired by the myriad of lines, patterns and formations found in the natural world but am increasingly concerned about the impact of human intervention.”
Ruth is interested in the minutiae of the shoreline. She explores the estuaries of the Australian and East Lothian coastlines, regularly foraging in rock pools, observing, taking photos and collecting broken shells, driftwood, old nets and pieces of beach plastic. Her work conveys the beauty of the sea environment as well as portraying the tension between human existence and sustainability.
For Barbara Rowell, inspiration comes from mindful observation of the world around her; whilst walking in nature or urban areas, from reading and research or from her travels.
She loves to experiment with different processes and media and for this exhibition she is focusing on the techniques of Japanese Wood Block Printing. Barbara explains “I was left a Japanese Wood Block Print by my Aunt and I became fascinated by it and wanted to learn more about this ancient technique”.
Her inspiration for this year’s exhibition is the islands of the Forth Estuary. Barbara adds, “I’ve looked out of my kitchen window on Craigleith Island for ten years and it’s a view that is firmly etched on my mind.” Her work portrays a highly stylised view with a traditional Japanese interpretation. And what’s more, Barbara uses the printing process to simplify the design and translate it into stunning abstract tapestry weavings which will sit side by side with the Japanese Woodblock Prints.