Retrospective shows a life spent making art

Retrospective shows a life spent making art

Discover the work of one Australia’s seminal abstract expressionist painters in the new exhibition Barbara McKay: Sacred which will be opened by art critic John McDonald at the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) at 6.00pm, on Friday 5th July 2019.


McKay, who lives and works in Uralla, graduated from the National Art School in 1960, and has had a dedicated career as an artist that spans five decades. This is her first retrospective and visitors will encounter large scale abstract works that are deeply connected to the artist’s experiences of place and profound love of the Australian landscape.


“We are delighted to be exhibiting Barbara McKay’s first retrospective at NERAM,” said Rachael Parsons, NERAM Director. “We hope that the exhibition prompts a re-discovery of McKay’s work to a broad Australian audience. While there are many great highlights and moments of triumph throughout her career, Barbara has at times stayed under the radar despite her tenacious commitment to painting, talent and colourful history that includes working in London, New York and Malaysia, and forming a great friendship and correspondence with American art critic, Clement Greenberg.”


Clement Greenberg may be considered the most influential art critic of the 20th Century and is linked to the rise of abstract expressionism in America and the success of such artists as Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler. Greenberg met McKay in 1979 at an exhibition at the Central Street Gallery in Sydney. He singled out her painting Reflections and asked to meet the artist.  This encounter would initiate a 17-year correspondence between the two as well as provide McKay an introduction to the New York art scene where she would live and in work the early 80s.


“It is a fantastic story,” said Rachael Parsons, “but is only one small part of what has been a lifetime of painting, travelling, educating and working in the arts for Barbara. This exhibition tells the whole story of Barbara’s creative life, through her painting, and we hope that the audience will enthusiastically traverse the immense journey the exhibition represents.”


Since graduating from the National Art School, Barbara McKay has travelled extensively, living and working in London, New York, painting in Indonesia and Bali, and establishing a studio in Jakarta. She was hung in the Wynne Prize in 1974, 1975 and 1985 and has exhibited consistently in group and solo exhibitions in Australia and overseas. She has also worked extensively as arts educator at TAFE, University and in primary and secondary schools. In 2003 Barbara moved to Uralla and established a studio where she continues to be a prolific painter.


Barbara McKay: Sacred will be on display at New England regional Art Museum from Friday 5th July until Sunday 15th September 2019. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue which is available at the NERAM Shop.

Image: Barbara McKay Turn About 1986. Acrylic on canvas.