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Frank Walter ‘Music of the Sphere’

In 1965 the eccentric and brilliant artist, writer, sculptor, and philosopher Frank Walter boarded a vessel departing from his homeland Antigua bound for England. Due to improper papers and a mental breakdown, Walter was unable to gain access to the UK and was instead held in his cabin. From these days of incarceration came the creation of Walter’s ‘spool’ paintings; oil paintings on biocomposite materials in a circular shape each measuring about 22cm in diameter all of which are untitled. These never seen before works as well as small wooden sculptures of birds and fish, were recently showcased at Ingleby Gallery, a small historic building on Barony Street that supports emerging artists and quality works. 

The subject of the spools are mainly flowers and fauna, landscapes related to Antigua and depictions of cars, houses, people, and other miscellaneous subjects. In a literal sense, the circular shape of Walter’s paintings can be attributed to his view from a presumably circular window out of his sea cabin however in a metaphorical sense, the shape of these paintings can be interpreted as a look into Walter’s inner world. Bright, lively, and often primary colours permeate the spools, however their tone is muted and dulled with a transparent grey over all the works. The grey overtone on the spools doesn’t give a melancholy feeling but ground the works in realism. In relation to the name of this exhibition Frank Walter: Music of Spheres the curator is perhaps suggesting that Walter’s realistic paintings are so authentic that you can virtually hear the sounds and music of the Caribbean Island. The Antigua we see through the eyes of Frank Walter is beautiful, overcast, inviting and threatening all at once; a complex portrait drawn by a local.  

Despite the cultural impact of his works in Antigua today, Walter has only been recognized posthumously and during his lifetime he only exhibited his work in his home and studio. However, Walter did plan for official exhibitions and in his writings “he described the way people would move through a light-filled gallery with paintings on the walls and sculpture in the centre of the space ‘creating dynamic movement and flow’”. Walter’s vision has been brought to life at Ingleby Gallery with the spools placed evenly on the stark white walls of the gallery’s main ground floor and Walter’s wooden sculptures in the middle of the room bathing in natural light from an astonishing skylight. 

Although Frank Walter: Music of Spheres ended on the 25th of September, I encourage our readers to visit Ingleby Gallery as it is an intimate space free to the public, and in which curators work closely with artists; a breath of fresh air from big galleries. Frank Walter and his work never gained the recognition it deserved during his lifetime, but Ingleby Gallery has done the artist justice. 

[Image: Exhibition view of Frank Walter Music of the Spheres;
Credits: Courtesy of Ingleby Gallery]