The unofficial catalogue
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Mary Barnes was a nurse who went into a Carmellite convent in Wales, had a
breakdown and, after periods in conventional mental hospitals, entered an
unconventional community where she was allowed to be as mad as she wanted.
She doodled in her own shit and, being encouraged to use crayons instead,
discovered that she was a brilliant artist.
This is an unofficial catalogue of the Mary Barnes exhibition at the
Bow Arts Trust, 183 Bow Road, London, E3 2SJ - 15.1.2015 to 29.3.2015. The
exhibition has closed, but the catalogue will continue to grow.
Mary Barnes at
Kingsley Hall and
"Mary Barnes was our neighbour; she lived, breathed, regressed, progressed,
and created work in walking distance of Bow Arts"
Kingsley Hall is in the lower right (south east) corner of this
OpenStreetMap, on the northern corner of Bobs Park by the B140 icon.
The present "Bow Arts" is on either side of "Bow Arts Lane"
Dina and Andrew visited on
Thursday 12.2.2015. At the entrance you are only
told that this is an exhibition of Mary Barnes' work and that she was born
1923 and died in 2001. The paintings have no labels. Knowing
Mary and her paintings would have helped, so we wrote this
The art of
Mary Barnes is part of an ancient story of Judaism and
Christianity and how their images relate to joy and despair. Why, then,
does an art gallery present the pictures without words? Maybe so
that your own words can inhabit the visions. Mary believed that the imagery
belongs to all of us, whatever our beliefs
or unbeliefs. It is yours to make what you can of it, and to share.
The suggestion has been made that the first room focuses on early works.
Materials Mary began modelling and painting with her own shit. None
of this survives. The way she developed from there is partly related to the
materials she used. On cards sold and in press reports, the Bow Exhibition
sometime distinguished between "polymers" (early) and "oil pastels"
Old tins of paint and brushes
"One night I got hold of a tin of black paint and started
painting black breasts all over the walls of my room. I wanted to paint and
I wanted to suck those black breasts."
(Sunday Telegraph 11.10.1971)
Lining (wallpaper backing) paper Pictures that appear to
lining paper are
1. small figure -
4. Dancing -
5. Haircast -
7. Orange circle -
1., 4,, and 5., are noticeably paper cut unevenly.
Pictures that may be on lining paper are
9 and 10 Finger paintings and (back gallery)
Love poem to Joe Berke.
Crayons and Oil Pastels
Paint tubes Mary started classes at the
Cass School in
January 1966. She had access to materials (clay mentioned) and books. In
March she was encouraged by the artist Felix Topolski. By this
time she was painting with artists oils on lining paper. She moved on to
oil on hardbaord and canvas and also used pencils, crayons, charcoal,
poster paint and water colour,
Finger painting According to Mary (p.220 and 1969 Catalogue), her
finger painting began in
May 1967, with paint squeezed onto her fingers from artists'
tubes and pulled across the paper. She said in spring 1969 that all her
work since then was finger painting. Joe Berke suggests that finger
painting began in
1968 (p. 368), but this appears to be a mistake or a misreading
of what he meant.
Pictures in the Bow exhibition that are stated or appear to be finger
3. Head of Christ -
6. Time of the Tomb -
9 and 10 Finger paintings - and (back gallery)
1. small figure - untitled -
polymers on paper. A copy in the catalogue.
"Small Figure, an early work, is made up of hurried, smudgy lines, but they
are deployed deftly to reveal a little girl whose hunched awkwardness is
expressive, moving and characterful, not clumsy."
Benjamin Mortimer East End Review
2. [thought? - an indian shaman? - orange bird?]
Picture appears to have been painted on a plastic sheet that might have
been furniture covering but has been cut with zig-zag lies and stuck to a
painted white board.
"in orange on the table a bird
3. [Thorns - head of christ above the following poem] "untitled undated
Postcards of this picture can be purchased
My Friends -
How they devour me,
Biting off chunks of
my flesh, which with
relish, they chew, spitting
the crunched up bones
onto my soul, and still
I LOVE them, for they
are my Friends
5. not sure [cemetery?]
"I think it is a desperate woman who cannot see through a wall"
The figure of the woman casting her long hair down over her head appear
clear. But is she desperate or experiencing freedom?
6. [man in tree] Unlabelled - undated - but corresponds to Time of the Tomb
below. The imagery alludes to crucifixion, burial and resurrection, all at
"Time of the Tomb" Kingsley Hall, 1969. This was
displayed at the
Camden exhibition in April 1969.
This picture from
Something Sacred (1989).
Title suggests that the imagery relates to the sabbath day between Christ's
death (Friday) and resurrection (Sunday).
The imagery of a man in a tree has a long history. See Charlotte Mew's
manifesto Men and
The trunk in the centre of the room contains artwork by Mary, some of which
is spread out in front of it.
"What is the box about? Is it part of her being? Did it follow her
Note says the artwork relates to the 1965-1970 period. However, a label on
the trunk addresses it to
Ninian Stuart, Moncreif (?) House, High Street, Falkland, Fife,
KL7 7BZ, Scotland. Second thank you at the end
of the catalogue is to "Ninian Stewart". [Current address of "Moncrieff
House" is High Street, Falkland, CUPAR, KY15 7BZ
A picture from the metal trunk
Audio - you can listen to audio to accompany the exhibition by listening to
Track 1 - Guilt - stories read by Mary Barnes written by her as presents
for children of her friends
Track 2 and 3 - Recording of Mary Barnes (radio play) by David Edgar -
8. [grass - green feather - dripping paint] as yet untitled
"The row of colourful Untitleds on the opposite wall bear similarly visible
artefacts of their creation but their connected flow and intricacy of
pattern have all it takes to trap a viewer's stare."
Benjamin Mortimer East End Review
9. Finger painting (1969).
Polymers on paper. - available as a postcard
and reproduced in catalogue.
10. [A similar finger painting, but using some brown. The paint used in
both is shiny and the painting may be on
Part of the brown finger painting. Light reflections prevented it all being
11. [Evening sky hung sideways - Holy sky ] Untitled. - available as a
Or could be fire streaking from the sky - Joe Berke and Rosamund Murdoch
(below) appear happy with this vision on 15.1.2015
12. Volcanic Eruption
This is the image that Bow Arts used (below) as their visual theme
for the exhibition.
Gordon Joly responded 25.2.2015: "I believe that the painting is correct
in its orientation. The reason is that I was there in 2006 when Sid Briskin
donated it to Kingsley Hall (I took it out of the taxi and placed it
somewhere in the hall).
Hence Sid was happy that we had placed the picture correctly, and my
image" [below and on
Wikipedia] "is from that day."
13. [Fire and water - with lady floating calmly on river] The only picture
Kingsley Hall is still in possession of.
Bow Arts Trust framed it so that it can be better preserved. "However the
debate at the moment is if it has been displayed in the correct direction"
[email from Nat Fonnesu 19.2.2015]
LONG BACK WALL
Blackbird in a Tree - untitled - undated - oil pastel on paper - A copy in
"Barnes's later works, done in
oil pastels, have more solid blocks of
colour and more figuration. They feature vividly drawn personages whose
psychedelic colouring adds to their mystery, as though they were figures
from an unknown religion."
Benjamin Mortimer East End Review
Baby Bear This is a strip story Mary composed for children, with words and
pictures. Possibly on
wallpaper roles. It is signed Mary Barnes
Baby Bear was
out to play,
rolling on the grass
Suddenly, in the
wind, he smelt a
warm sticky smell
he growled licking his lips
"I must follow this
Under the Bamboo tree he stopped.
Growl, V GROWL GROWL V
"Here we are"
The smell was rather high on a branch
Baby Bear jumped
1 Once 2 Twice 3 Thrice
His paw touched the nest
"Oh / Oh / OH /
Growled Baby Bear
A big bee had stung him,
Licking his paw, Baby Bear sat
grizzling [sign for] on the ground
Suzy the snake
curle forth from
"Oh Baby Bear what
is the matter?"
"I want, I want ------
Baby Bear sobbed and
sobbed [sign for]
He could smell the
sweet emll. It was
coming in great big
waves all over him
Oh said Suzy, "you
Baby Bear, my juice is
good, making honey even
sweeter, I'll squirt
it up into the tree.
then the bees will fly away.
For her mouth Suzy
1 One 2 Two 3 Three
All the bees buzzed away.
(Pissed off, they were)
Baby Bear he
laughed with glee
[sign for] and the
wind then shook the tree.
Down it fell into his hand
a big comb full of golde[n honey?]
Growling gurgles of d[elight?]
in his paws so tight
The honey it all squelched
and ooozed warm and sticky
Baby Bear all soft and [heated?]
licked and licked from [?]
to tummy all the
Group of six small pictures some of which were previously
Kingsley Hall on 25.11.2001. I suspect they are all
Oil pastels on artists' cartridge paper from a pad (block). When
displayed at Kinsley Hall they were unframed but the paper kept its shape
on the wall.
1. [not sure - mountains?] Possibly a lunar landscape with sun, sand, peak
brown mounds - and plants. This one and Joe and Shree are both large
compared with the others in the set. Possibly A3.
2. Joe and Shree
1995 - available as a large card
Displayed at Kingsley Hall on 25.11.2001
Joseph Berke married Roberta A.E. Berke, at St Marylebone in
1971, with whom he had two children. Roberta was a writer and a teacher.
The birth of Joshua Damien Berke was registered in Westminster in (January-
March) 1970 and (again) in (January-
Joseph Berke later remarried Shree Berke, also known as Lisa
Becker, another psychotherapist.
3. "Sun The Sun" - available as a postcard
Displayed at Kingsley Hall (unframed) on 25.11.2001 this way round.
Displayed framed at Bow vertical with left as top. Framed about A4 size.
4. Trees "Way of the Wind" 1993 - available as a large card
Displayed at Kingsley Hall on 25.11.2001
Framed about A4 size.
"Mary is expressional" (Dina).
The wind in the trees and the
emotions within are one experience.
"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the
sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and
whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the
Spirit". (Jesus in John 3:8)
5. Son of the Rabbi - Oil pastel on paper - A copy in the catalogue.
About 11 inches high and 6 inches wide.
6. [Yellow iris]
Displayed unframed at Kingsley Hall on 25.11.2001
Framed about A4 size.
END WALL OF SECOND GALLERY
"INRI" is an abbreviation for the Latin "Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum"
("Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews"), posted on the cross in Hebrew,
Latin and Greek by order of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate.
This is the same as
"Crucifixion oil on hardboard mounted onto polystyrene taken
from the windows of Kingsley Hall 179 x 117.25 cm - see
Robert Tufnell 21
The coarse white polystyrene is the (about) one inch filler between two
boards. This could well have been the boarding up of a broken window.
INSIDE WALL OF SECOND GALLERY
Joseph Berke, born 11.1.1939 Newark Beth Israel hospital, USA, came to
London in 1965, where his professional life, as a psychotherapist, was
shaped through his relationship with Mary Barnes, with whom he co-authored
a book published in 1971. In
the conclusion to
the book Mary wrote:
"Joe is Jewish. For him, the Passover seder, the ritualistic
telling of the exodus from Egypt, is an expression of his
Love poem to Joe - Joseph Berke "was nick-named "Boo-Bah" in a love letter
scaling over a metre high and scrawled in Mary's inimitable handwriting."
JOE Hip-pip Hoorey!
I love you with the coolness of the moon
I love you with the burning heat of the sun
I love you with the pain and anger of my soul
I love you with the saints of heaven
I love you with the living cross
To the Sacred heart of GOD
The husband of Mary, mother of Jesus, was Joseph
Mary Barnes was
baby bear in some of her stories. Joseph Berke was
The case of photos included:
A copy of "Unknown figure on the roof of Kingsley Hall 1960s"
reproduced in the catalogue.
A photo of the Kingsley Hall dining room with "Christ Triumphant" -
the three stages of sacrifice - on the wall
Christ Triumphant - three stages of sacrifice
"A huge finger-painting I did in
1968 was of the crucifixion on the dining
room wall. It is called Christ Triumphant, being the three stages of
sacrifice: the lamb in fire, of the Old Testament; Christ, the lamb of God,
crucified; and the Host, the sacrifice of the Mass."
The Bow Arts photograph (left) shows the picture behind the dining room
table loaded with food.
The photograph (below), from Something
Sacred shows Mary looking at it in another situation.
from the Mary Barnes web gives a much clearer impression of the picture.
The extract from Mary's first book tells the story behind the painting of
"Mary in front of her mural Christ Thrumphant - three stages of the
Sacrifice of the Lamb" from
the Mary Barnes' website
the story behind the painting of the picture
"Morty Schatzman and his wife-to-be, Vivien, were living with us at home.
They helped me quite a bit, especially with regard to meeting other people
who lived in he house. I was completely raw, like flesh without skin.
Visitors were a problem. Although I often felt like getting to know other
people I never know how. Once, when feeling bad and crying on the roof, I
said to one of the other people, David - David Page Thomas,
'What am I? Nothing, nothing!'
He replied, 'Is it not enough for you to be a suffering member of
I realized it was, though I could not then know the fullness, the
deep happiness of resignation, that resignation Christ must have
experienced in carrying the Cross.
It did now seem safer to paint outside my room, and this time my paintings
weer tolerated in the Games Room. Through the help of Morty I was given the
dining-room wall to paint and on it with my fingers I did Christ
Triupmphant. Ten feet by twelve, it took eight hours and a step ladder
to do it. The upper part was the thre stages of sacrifice, the lamb in fire
of the Old Testament, the Lamb of God, Christ Crucified, and the the Host,
the sacrifice of the Mass. Blow was the foot of the Cross, St. John, the
Mother of God, Mary Magdalen, and Mary of Cleophus.
Then when I had finished it there was a storm. terrified, my heart sank,
but the painting survived.
On the wall: Notices for two previous exhibitions, both in
Stavanger in Norway
(at the Kulturhus) from 24.4.1995 to 28.4.1995. The other
AN EXHIBITION AND SALE OF PAINTINGS
RICHMOND MEMORIAL HALL
TOUMINTOUL, AUGUST 7. 13TH 1995
OPEN DAILY 10am - 7pm. SUNDAY 2pm-6pm
Further along in a case: Catalogue for the
1969 Exhibition - A copy of the cover is reproduced in the catalogue for
The 1969 exhibition catalogue on display at the Bow Arts exhibition
contains a great deal of information. Unfortunately, it is very difficult
to read. On our second visit to the exhibition on Thursday 19.3.2015,
members of the Survivors History Group managed to read
(Richard Humm above)
catalogue and we will enter its contents here.
"I took to my bed for four months until Joe (Dr Berke) got me out. He
would sit me in a chair and I would stay there for hours until he moved me
again. One day Joe gave me a set of 'grease crayons and told me to scribble
something. I did, on and on. Suddenly a picture emerged, a woman kneeling
with a baby at her breast. I found some tins of paint, left over from
decorating, and I painted picture stories about mermaids, tramps and
children on the back of
old wallpaper. (Mary Barnes. Atticus column
interview in the
[Red men running - Not explained, but could be one of the paintings on
Picture stories on the back of old wallpaper. One line is
"Zoomy overshot the runway"
Andrew Roberts likes to hear from users:
To contact him, please
use the Communication
Finger paintings (two
Green feather-grass dripping paint
Joe and Shree
King of the Jews
Love poem to Joe Berke
Red men running
Sidney Briskin's donation
Son of the Rabbi
Sun The Sun
Time of the Tomb
Zoomy overshot the runway