In January 2015, Nunnery Gallery will open an exhibition featuring paintings and drawings by the prolific outsider artist Mary Barnes. The works will be predominantly from the collection of Dr. Joseph Berke, her therapist and friend. Berke was nick-named “Boo-Bah” in a love letter scaling over a metre high and scrawled in Mary’s inimitable handwriting. This exhibition brings together works spanning her artistic career which began in the 1960s in Bow, east London.
Mary Barnes moved to Kingsley Hall in 1965 following a breakdown and diagnosis of schizophrenia. Here, she joined the Philadelphia Association which was an alternative and experimental treatment community, created by the radical psychiatrist R. D. Laing and his group of colleagues. It was at the same time that Joseph Berke travelled to East London, as a recent medical graduate from New York, to work for R. D. Laing and this is where he met Mary Barnes. They developed a strong bond, famously dramatised in the play Mary Barnes by David Edgar which was itself based on the book “Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness” written by Berke and Barnes. Mary Barnes passed away in 2001, aged 78.
Gallery Director, Rosamond Murdoch says:
“Mary Barnes is a key character in the history of Bow and particularly the radical social history which is embodied in the remarkable Kingsley Hall, one time of home of Mahatma Gandhi. Nunnery Gallery is thrilled to have been invited by Dr J Berke to show this collection of powerful paintings in Bow, where exactly 50 years before he started a remarkable creative partnership with Mary Barnes.”