Mardi Barrie (1930-2004)
Edinburgh-based postwar painter and teacher who was widely acclaimed and collected throughout her long career.
Born in Kirkcaldy on the east coast of Scotland, Mardi studied at the University of Edinburgh and the then-independent Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) from 1948 to 1953, beginning with studies in philosophy and English before graduating with a diploma in drawing and painting. At that time, she was associated with the modern artistic sensibilities of ‘The Edinburgh School’, a highly influential group of artists studying and teaching at ECA, often very influenced by the experience of the two world wars. She was also studying at the time when the newly formed Edinburgh Festival also brought international artists and ideas to Scotland.
Representational and abstract
As a painter, therefore, Mardi’s work was seen as experimental. She preferred thick oil paint and the practice of drawing natural settings in situ before painting them in her studio.
Known primarily for her landscapes and seascapes, a prominent characteristic of Mardi’s work was the bold use of a palette knife that allowed her to be both representational and abstract, portraying both what she saw in the scene and what she thought and imagined. Her paintings appear free in style with a mixture of strokes, swathes and streaks, but still retain a sense of strong composition and careful use of colour.
In 1961, Mardi mounted her first solo exhibition of landscapes at Edinburgh’s Douglas & Foulis Gallery. The event included 52 paintings, and was extremely well received by contemporary critics.
The Scottish Gallery soon developed a strong working relationship with Mardi, promoting and placing her work in collections and travelling exhibitions over a sustained period. She went on exhibiting new works into the 1980s, and participated in several group shows in both the UK and overseas.
Dividing her time between working as head of art at a secondary school and establishing a professional studio practice, Mardi was also a respected teacher and worked at Broughton High School in Edinburgh.
Today her works can be found in several public collections, including in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.