SPACE TO BREATHE to host the centenary exhibition of painter Sheila Girling at Bowhouse this Summer

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This summer, arts organisation SPACE TO BREATHE, in Fife, Scotland, will host the centenary exhibition of the ground-breaking British painter Sheila Girling (1924-2015) from 20 July - 5 August and 17 August - 1 September.

Over 70 of her large scale paintings and collages from the 1970s to the 2010s will be offered for sale in Bowhouse, Fife. The exhibition will showcase her enormous talent as a painter simultaneously embracing the freedom of American abstraction while remaining rooted in a distinctive British sensibility. Evident in all Girling’s work is her understanding of the power to express emotion and suggest form through the fortuitous juxtaposition and layering of colour.

The exhibition will include important sculptures by the internationally renowned sculptor Sir Anthony Caro, Girling’s husband and lifelong artistic collaborator. Girling described their marriage as “a 64 year conversation about art” and they both freely admitted her influence on his work. On occasion Girling chose or changed the colours of Caro’s sculptures and often painted them herself. It is an honour to exhibit these two individual yet deeply connected artists side by side, while focussing attention on the woman in this creative partnership.

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Girling’s work is a testament to an artistic life led at the centre of the British and American avant-garde art scene from the 1960s until her death in 2015. Her and Caro’s close circle included the seminal art theorist Clement Greenberg and artists Jules Olitski, Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler, to name but a few. Girling’s close friend Kenneth Noland encouraged her to switch to acrylic paint, which she did for the rest of her life.

Sheila Girling, After Africa, 1981.Sheila Girling, After Africa, 1981.
Sheila Girling, After Africa, 1981.

Sheila Girling, Au Bord de la Mer, 1978. Copyright Sheila Girling Studio/Barford Sculptures 2024

The exhibition marks the second year that SPACE TO BREATHE has held an exhibition in Bowhouse. Last year’s exhibition of contemporary nature photography attracted over 5,000 visitors in three weeks. The organisation is led by curator and art consultant Sophie Camu and her husband and photographer Alexander Lindsay.

They said, “We are thrilled to bring this museum-quality exhibition to Fife. Girling’s large canvases dazzle in their intensity and brilliance of colour and form. They are abstract and yet grounded in figuration, evoking the natural world while expressing the dynamic qualities of the medium itself - be it acrylic on canvas or paper collage. This will be a fantastic opportunity to engage with some of Girling’s most significant works and we look forward to welcoming those who may be familiar with her work, or who come to it for the first time this summer”.

A series of free art events, workshops and lectures will take place at Bowhouse during the show. Further details and the calendar of events will be announced in June.