Barbara Hope Steinberg
Barbara Steinberg’s paintings are both monumental and compellingly strange. Charged with an energy drawn from the Western tradition of landscape painting that informs them, they speak to us with a contemporary directness. Bathed in intense crimsons, and quenched with midnight blue, their mysterious vistas seem to invite us in to places of shared memory.
The paintings speak to us of dreams, legends, and myths, of wild woods and pagan groves. They do not simply depict figures or places; rather, with the abstract, Steinberg is able to distil the energy of these primal myths into fresh forms. One might even say that nature itself is distilled in these works.
The pattern of nature and the seasons dictates Steinberg’s working practice: the cycle of the year is written into her paintings, and underpins the integrity of her abstract forms and vistas. She uses the winter months when it is colder and darker just to draw, to explore ideas. Her painting is begun each year only once the season changes in early spring, and there is enough sun to light the canvas.
Steinberg’s are lush, painterly works, through which natural light seems able to filter. She employs a palette of both earthy and icy, cooler shades, which give character to the mysterious places and figures that inspire them. Saturated with colour, intense and translucent, the paintings achieve great depth with a remarkable agility. Her use of light recalls Claude; the paintings’ suggestive formlessness shares characteristics with late Turner.
In the layering and contrast of tones, Steinberg creates frames, opportunities to glimpse. One is tempted to look in the works and through, rather than simply at, their surfaces. The paintings suggest places we never fully comprehend, and movement that is always alluring, but never quite caught. They draw us in to a world disrupted: unpredictable but exhilarating.
In the rejection of the plainly figurative, Steinberg shows us the places we see with closed eyes. Above all, she finds in the abstract a sort of universality of form and of content, which suggests the sense, perhaps the essence, of place. In their imaginary geography and their blissful swathes of light, her paintings suggest to us something new but somehow known about the very nature of landscape.
Barbara Steinberg was born in Philadelphia in 1943. From a very young age, she spent evenings and weekends studying in various art schools in the city, eventually being awarded both art and academic scholarships to Smith College in Massachusetts. Whilst at Smith, she won a scholarship to the Yale University Summer School of Art and Music. On graduating from Smith, she received a grant to study sculpture in England, first with Ralph Brown at the West of England College of Art, then privately with Michael Ayrton in London. She returned briefly to America, to teach sculpture and take a Master of Fine Arts Degree at California State University at Long Beach.
In 1970, she returned to live permanently in London. Since then, she has exhibited in many group shows throughout the UK, and has had several solo exhibitions, most notably at the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh, the Brewhouse Arts Centre in Somerset, and the Bridport Arts Centre in Dorset. Since 2007, she has been represented by the Signal Gallery in Hoxton, London.
After spending some twenty years making sculpture, Steinberg returned to painting. Very soon she eliminated the figure from her work, concentrating solely on landscape. These landscapes became increasingly abstract, as she searched for some kind of universality of form and content, beneath and beyond the transient effects of light and time.
In 2009, Barbara Steinberg's solo show, Panoply, was open to the public from 20 February 2009 to 20 March 2009. The show was featured by the Telegraph on-line 16/17 February 2009. In connection with the show, Barbara Steinberg's work was reviewed by Alison Oldham in the Ham & High, and in the March 2009 edition of Art of England.
On 29 January, 2010, a joint show, Mortal/Immortal, opened at the Signal Gallery, featuring Barbara Steinberg and Crawfurd Adamson. In the words of the gallery: "The combination of the two styles of work in the gallery are fascinating and illuminating for anyone interested in the art of painting - the restrained worldliness of Adamson's lonely figures juxtaposed with Steinberg's other-worldly and powerful imaginary worlds. What unites the two artists is the love of and absolute mastery of the art of painting." In 2011, Barbara's work was shown at the Affordable Arts Fair in Battersea.
Barbara has had two recent solo shows at Signal Gallery. These were Ancient Land in July 2012 and Age and Memory in July 2013.Both were widely reviewed and many people visited the Signal Gallery.
Her most recent solo show was at the Islington Arts Factory and featured work from 1982 to 2002.