Muriel Barclay

Muriel first showed promise in art at school, however she was persuaded to go to University rather than Art School. "People didn't buy art then." Art was not considered a full time job and you couldn't earn a living from art.


Muriel studied History and Philosophy at Edinburgh. On graduating she took the step of going to London, where she took a secretarial role in a Mayfair Gallery, to gain experience. The gallery specialised in Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art and she was to learn a lot about ‘art' and ‘life' from her two years there. She then returned to Glasgow and made a decision to start teacher training. She got married at 24 and had a child a year later and then another and another. In this respect, her life path looked conventional for a woman.


However, the desire to paint was never far away. Indeed teaching hours gave her the flexibility to juggle her family life, leaving her some space to take regular art classes, in the evening, at weekends and at art courses that would last for a week. Latterly, she moved to part-time teaching to give herself even more time to paint.


Muriel also studied for an Open University Degree in Art History, which she said was "life changing." She studied the development of art from the mid 1800s to the 1980s, a period when art was to take a massive turn with the advent of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. This had a profound effect on the development of Muriel as an artist. "I started to understand what, how and why paint works. It made me reflect on what I wanted to paint and my own techniques."


Muriel is influenced by many of the great artists. In particular Edward Manet and his painting ‘Olympia', Degas, Matisse as well as Malevich, Mondrian, Rothko and Jackson Pollock. She admires their rejection and rebellion against the past and the system. She also has a love of photography, including Testino, Lee Miller and Diane Arbus and is enthralled by their powers of observation.


Of her paintings, Muriel says "I am interested by people and their relationship with each other and the world." She is particularly interested in the female perspective, their intimacy, vulnerability, fragility and their defences. Her paintings are about observation and ambiguity. She composes her subjects and invites the viewer to interpret what the painting is trying to say.


Muriel's subjects are invariably beautiful, immaculately groomed girls with their hair tied back and meticulous face make-up, set in a musical or ballet theme. She frequently introduces props, including musical instruments, animals and males to enhance her narrative. Her use of tutus is designed to accentuate the femininity of her subjects. "Wearing a tutu, is every small girl's dream."


Presently she is working an almost monochromatic expressive effect, where her blacks are constructed from purple and umber and her whites are constructed with pinks, blues, yellows and lilacs. Her tones and use of mark making enhances the expressive depth of her paintings. In the forefront are her figures and an exhibition of the human form with its endless permutations. It is important to her to be accurate and convincing and her subjects are placed in a pleasing way. The viewer will always get a sense of the dynamism from her paintings with her combination of expressive backgrounds and compelling subjects in the foreground.


Muriel sometimes uses the term "serendipity" when referring to her paintings ‘accidentally stumbling upon something fortunate.' Muriel's paintings are indeed ‘fortunate' but when you meet Muriel you start to understand her mind and the very careful thought and the many deep layers that go into her stunning compositions, then you start to understand that there is nothing ‘accidental' about her fascinating techniques.



Examples of previous Muriel Barclay paintings