Barbara Macfarlane is a painter of the land and the landscape. Her large-scale works, most typically done in oil and ink on huge folios of handmade paper, capture the essence of terrains both familiar and unexpected: from the rugged olive-clad hills of Les Baronnies, in South Eastern France, to grid-like matrix of Manhattan; from the wilds of the Hebridean shore to the busy archipelago of Hong Kong.
Having graduated from Exeter School of Art at the beginning of the 1980s, Macfarlane established her reputation with emotive paintings of the Sussex Coast, where she lives, and the austere French countryside that she knows and loves. She developed a painterly language of abbreviated forms and gestural marks that brilliantly conjures the drama of these wide-open spaces, with its contrasting elements of land, sky and water.
Over the last decade she has extended her range and her practice, Looking beyond conventional painterly solutions to recording the landscape she has adopted an aerial perspective, and a sense of bold abstraction, to create an innovative, and ongoing, series of city-scapes. Drawing on the rich traditions of cartography – and the bird’s-eye-viewpoint of aboriginal desert painting – she takes the familiar street-plans of the great metropolises of the world, and transforms them through colour and pattern into a telling evocation of place.
Macfarlane’s work is held in significant private and corporate collections in North America, the Far East and Europe. She has shown at the Royal Academy in London, and the Grand Palais in Paris, and recently collaborated with the clothing-designer Billy Reid on an exhibition in his New York flagship store.