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Not just a Dame

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By Fiona Reid
Not just a Dame

DAME Barbara Kelly is known regionwide for her voluntary work, as well as her support of the region’s cultural sector. But many people do not realise she is also a gifted artist in her own right.

She has painted all her life and now her artwork is the subject of a special exhibition, being staged to mark her 80th birthday.

Presented in Gracefield Gallery at Dumfries, ‘Pottering with Paint’ features a selection of Dame Barbara Kelly’s paintings and sculptures alongside artists who have inspired and informed her love of art.


She is particularly thrilled that some pottery pieces by her son Neil, a GP who lives in Dornock, is also included.

Barbara says of the motivation behind her show: “This exhibition is put together to celebrate 80 years of my life. It is a record of the journey I have made, reflecting on the extraordinary number of people in the art world who have passed through as friends, teachers and acquaintances from my early beginning.

“Despite living in a small rural community, I realise what an inspirational upbringing I had and how richly I was to be conditioned to tackle the world and to value the arts, music and literature.

“What an incredibly exciting journey it has been.”

FISHY DISHY . . . Gouache

Barbara has always painted and created work in oil, watercolour, gouache with her subject matter inspired by the world around her – from gardens flowers, her local landscape or the landscapes of holiday destinations like the Isle of Harris, or France, when time away from her busy life gave her the opportunity to create her colourful studies.

She has been a member of D&G Society of Arts for 60 years, regularly taking part in their annual show.

And she has also had her work shown as part of the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival and the Edinburgh Festival, as well as organising her own exhibitions with her sister-in-law Lorna Graham.

The selection of work from artists who have inspired her journey include well-known figures like Scottish artists Anne Redpath, Sir William Gillies and Charles Oppenheimer, but others have more direct links as friends and teachers, like Archie Sutter Watt and John Maxwell.

The works have been drawn from the Gracefield Collection, Kirkcudbright Galleries and on loan from private collections.

Councillor Andy Ferguson was one of the first visitors to the show and said: “This is a fascinating review of the artist’s work from the 1970s to the present day – clearly Barbara is a talented artist, but the enjoyment she has got from the creative process shines through.”

A full colour illustrated booklet accompanies the exhibition and a selection of Barbara’s recent work are available to buy.

Pre-booking is not required but visitor numbers in the gallery are limited and you may have to wait a few moments during busy periods. The exhibition is open Tuesday to Saturday until December 12.

ON SHOW . . . Barbara Kelly admires some of the pottery from her son Neil Kelly which also features in the exhibition

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