Feature: Barbara Colbert

Evolve is the current exhibition at the Royal Derby Hospital as part of the Spring/ Summer programme for Air Arts. The dramatic work of Barbara Colbert features in the bright space of the Kings Treatment Centre at the hospital. 

Monochrome illustrator Barbara Colbert is based at Banks Mill and is part of this seasons Air Arts programme at the Royal Derby Hospital. Her work will accommodate the bright space and tall walls of Kings Treatment Centre at the hospital.

When you first view Barbara’s work the sheer scale of the drawings take you in; towering above you and dominating the space. The subjects of muscular figures and majestic animals, reinforce this grandeur as well as the dense charcoal strokes that make up the drawings. The deep tone of the charcoal initially creates a dramatic and gloomy mood. Spend time with the work and you’ll realise that it offers the opposite emotions; a layered story of thoughts, drama, life and time.

Barbara works in a Frakenstein like way, creating her drawings from segments of her personal life, interests, daily finds and journeys. Her passion for the Derbyshire landscape and the stories it evokes influences the use of a mythological style within the subject and structure of the work. They aren’t about fairy tales, instead the drawings allow you to question more than this initial presumption and to think about the composition and relationships of the figures and animals. The energy created in each scene invites you to be a part of the work; taking on the emotions of the subjects and being a part of the story. As a viewer you are taken in by this emotional connection but also relate to the drawings in a physical way. Movement is so strong in the work; within the subjects and in the line structure. The deep tonal charcoal strokes flow in a harmony of curves and waves making up the main subjects and blending into the background to form the layers of perspective. As your eyes travel along these lines you venture into new areas of the picture, new locations of the story and meet new faces along the way.

Daily journeys and personal beliefs naturally influence an artists work. Barbara’s realistic thoughts of life and its cycle resonate strongly within her work as well as offering a leveling harmony to those mythological themes. She ensures that this important aspect of her practice is delivered from initial sketches and planning through to the finishing touches of a final drawing. Her travels through Darley Park are essential for the growth of a piece. Drawing from life she takes natural objects and captures their development. Buds from shrubs open as she sketches, ivy untangles and dries as it accommodates itself indoors; the life of her subjects in and out of her drawings are continuously changing, living and growing.

These drawings take a while to get to know. Each time you view them, you will find something you didn’t notice before; a curled up leaf, another tree in the distance or a lonely toadstool. Acquaint yourself with these new features and add them to the big picture; a whole new picture; a whole new story.

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