Mark Cousins
Like A Huge Scotland

In May 1949, Scottish painter Wilhelmina Barns-Graham climbed onto the Grindelwald glacier in Switzerland. The afternoon changed her life.

Inspired by Barns-Graham’s own moment of inspiration, renowned film maker Mark Cousins has made an immersive, multi-screen installation in which to enfold the viewer in an angry elegy to a retreating glacier and a passionate tribute to a great artist. Images of the glacier, massively enlarged details of the cycle of paintings Barns-Graham made in tribute to it, and a complex sound design by Ania Przygoda of internal glacier noises and music by Linda Buckley combine to reimagine the impact of the glacier on the artist.  

Cousins has made the work for, as he says, personal reasons: ‘I feel infected by the work of Willie (as she insisted on being called). When the Barns-Graham trust kindly let me see her notebooks I slightly felt as if I was looking in a mirror.  She spoke what you could call a private language of form, of grid, of maths, which is my language too. She was synaesthesic, and she was drawn to the almost cubist aspect of the natural world. Though we are different in many ways, there’s a kind of brain suture. Beyond personal reasons, there’s the fury at the fact that, because of the climate emergency, the glacier has retreated by a mile and is almost gone. And there’s my feminist determination to lend my voice to those who say that Willie’s work has been undervalued. Finally, there’s the new developments in brain science and research in neuroarthistory’.   

Before the installation, the film will be edited by Mark Cousins and editor Timo Langer working collaboratively and interactively over zoom. Everyone is welcome to watch the process on the Fruitmarket’s YouTube channel. 

The installation will be accompanied by a small selection of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s paintings, watercolours and drawings inspired by the glacier, kindly lent by the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust.

Mark Cousins received funding for Like a Huge Scotland from Creative Scotland’s Open Fund.

Download the Exhibition Guide

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham
Creative Scotland

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