Christian's art - reaching a wider world
Christian died, age 90, in 2016. At her funeral gathering in West Linton, her children and a number of her friends brought along her paintings to share with others. Seeing these beautiful works of art in one place, it became clear that there should be a retrospective exhibition.
Christian’ paintings were gathered from their various owners, and an exhibition was mounted in West Linton Visitor Centre in August 2016. The result was something of a revelation. The remarkable quality and range, and also the astonishing quantity of the artist’s work, in many different media – pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, water colour, and a series of exquisite, masterly collages, using fragments of coloured tissue paper, cardboard and newspaper, was finally revealed.
Enthusiasm to share this body of extraordinary work with the wider public led to the formation of a voluntary group: The Friends and Family of Christian Small, the sole aim being to publish a book of Christian’s art. Funding was realised through the Alice Hamilton Trust, resulting in the production of a book, INSIDE & OUT – the Art of Christian Small, launched in June, 2018.
The Alice Hamilton Trust has generously supported this project, which has been initiated and realised entirely by volunteers.
All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to an art project in West Linton Primary School - a tribute to the community and place in which Christian lived for most of her life, and which inspired so much of her work.
A background note written by Ginny Barnes September 2018
I first got to know Christian when I moved down to West Linton in 1996, and when I first started attending the local art classes. Right from the start I realised that Christian was in a different league from the rest of us struggling amateurs. She could create beauty out of almost anything, however unlikely: a pair of old boots; her shopping arranged in a semi-transparent plastic bag; her fellow passengers on the local bus; the washing on the line in her garden. Although a gifted draughtswoman and watercolourist she wasn’t afraid to try out unfamiliar techniques such as collage which gave tremendous scope to her skills.
Christian, though, remained extraordinarily diffident about her work, agonising over every piece. Starting in the late 90s I organised a series of exhibitions by local artists and after a great deal of persuasion, but I hope not bullying, I encouraged Christian to join us. Christian had a rack in her bedroom which was stuffed with a haphazard collection of unmounted drawings and paintings, and she used to allow me to dig for gold and help her with the framing if need be.
The public, though very local, were quick to recognise her skills, especially her landscapes, and a vigorous market soon developed for her paintings. In the earlier years Christian’s horizons and skills stretched to the wonderful hills and scenery surrounding us – Christian and I used to go on our rickety old bikes up to the old Roman Road or get a lift to the North Esk Reservoir, high in the hills above the village of Carlops. However, as Christian became more infirm her subjects became much more local: pears arranged on her windowsill; views of St Andrew’s Church from her cottage; an old quilt draped over a chair. Hence the title of the book - Inside and Out.
After Christian’s death in January 2016 I thought it would be really good if we could organise a retrospective exhibition of Christian’s work, and so I and an old friend, Chris Atkinson, swung into action, badgering local collectors of Christian’s work to lend us their paintings. The exhibition was a great success and acted as a springboard to this book, which has been buoyed along by the enthusiasm and hard work of Christian’s family and Gerda’s wonderful poetry, and it is no surprise that the first run of the book, which is a lovely memorial to Christian’s life and artistry, is now completely sold out.