In search of a more sustainable way of painting, artist Barbara Gardner-Rowell discovered the cold wax medium which allows old canvases to be reworked into art with history.

Barbara set up her studio at Fenton Barns in 2016 and it has been a hive of industry ever since. She has an experimental approach and enjoys working with a diverse range of materials and processes. Her latest find is cold wax medium, a soft wax mixed with oil paint to create different effects on the surface of the work. Barbara explains; “I have always loved painting in oil, but I now struggle to justify it for environmental reasons. In search of a more sustainable way of working, I decided to rework some canvases that were stacked at the back of my studio, and discovered cold wax to be the perfect medium for doing so. It has qualities that allow me to cover light over dark, and incorporate layers, texture and incidental mark making.” 

Barbara loves the history that is attached to each work, as only she know the provenance of each layer that is concealed. The works deal with what is under the surface, both materially and metaphorically, with themes of identity, memory and loss which underpin her practice. The resulting large scale abstract paintings are filled with uplifting hues that draw the viewer in to their hidden depths. She is hosting an open studio event during Fringe by the Sea, which is an opportunity for visitors to meet the artist and view her large scale paintings. 

Also on show will be some of her tapestry weavings. A contemporary weaving can make a beautiful and unusual statement piece. Barbara developed her Design and Weave practice through experimentation with traditional sustainable processes, such as Japanese woodblock printmaking (Mokuhanga), natural dye pigments, and tapestry weaving. In 2016 she was awarded the East Lothian Visual Artists and Craft Makers Award which enabled her to purchase a large floor loom to upscale her work. Large scale works are best achieved through commissions, and Barbara would be delighted to discuss this process with visitors to her studio.


Unit 8, Fenton Barns Retail Village EH39 5BW
Open every day from 3 – 10 August, 1 – 4pm