Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Swirling Sensuality of the Work of Tom Barnes

Strong contrasting colors without shadow or nuance; a design that seems made of undulating layers and folds of a thick oozing liquid; a slight bit of symmetry that provides just the right amount of order and organization; and the subtle appearance of a buried object...a bird, a banana, a butterfly. It did not take me long to fall in love with the work of Tom Barnes. His work is the stuff of wild imagination...captivating and very sensual. You can feel the curves and swirls on his canvas as you move your eyes over and around each turn and bend. Nothing jagged. Nothing sharp. This work is pliable and penetrable, slowly and gracefully bending and twisting, inviting the viewer into the rhythm of its movement...into the center of its existence.

Untitled (Butterfly on a Banana)
Untitled (Mauve Bird)
Untitled (Monkey Watching Snake Eat Bug)
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For the work shown here, Tom Barnes has been named an Artist of Distinction in Still Point Art Gallery's current exhibition: Rhythmic Sensation-Visual Sensation. Indeed the rhythmic movement that one feels by looking at Barnes' work is extraordinary. I asked Barnes to say a few words about this small grouping of paintings. He started by saying that he believes that inspiration comes from working in the studio with the perceptions from experience.   
These perceptions manifest in my paintings, and hopefully, penetrate into the nature of things. What is concealed by the phenomena of the world has always been of great interest to me. Storytelling and feelings are not something that I want in my work. I want my work to connect what we know with what we cannot know and I feel it is at this connection that the greatest experience happens. When working in the studio and the idea is unfolding, I am more in touch with the unknown. Although I have a basic idea what my paintings will look like, chance plays a large part in making the connection. When I feel the work is finished I hope that on some level the connection is communicated. 
Barnes worked in sculpture for years, but his current ideas now seem to be best expressed two-dimensionally with paint. There is something about the immediacy of oil painting that he finds very effective in carrying these ideas. This current series of paintings started out as small paintings that were made very quickly using a fluid paint. The pouring of paint created the patterns, lines, shapes and textures. These small paintings were then developed into larger pieces using traditional straight-painting techniques with oils. 

Artist Statement

In creating the techniques needed to express my ideas, I have focused on the physical immediacy of paint. The originality of the structure of my paintings is the result and the revelation of what is essential. What is essential is unknown, but can be sensed. What is sensed, I believe is heightened by the arbitrariness of the image. The image coming from chance and intuition has an appearance of reality, but seems fleeting and works immediately and strongly on the sensory system. As perceived it is an image that appears like a hallucination experienced on the threshold of consciousness. Recognizable forms are conjoined with abstract forms in such a way that one is not sure of the visual experience being navigated. Although at first glance what is perceived is an ordered arrangement of visual phenomena, there is something irrational in the imagery. Objects of awareness of a known reality seem to be emerging from the movement of paint or the paint is pouring out of and away from the known. All forms seem to be exchanging or sharing the same visual information. Within these paintings, butterflies do not light on flowers, but on bananas; pelicans sit not on pilings, but among snow-covered tires, which are merging with the flow of the paint. In these paintings there is no narrative, irony or intentional symbolism. It is the recreation of an event, an event that affects states of consciousness regarding objects of consciousness. How the perceived event and the objects of consciousness affect the senses, ultimately loops back to the physical immediacy of paint, and by engaging with that, what is essential is experienced.

Biographical Statement

Tom Barnes received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of South Florida and currently teaches at The University of Alabama. He also taught for two years at Valparaiso University and in a summer program at The University of San Carlos in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where he received Recognition for Educational Advancement and Cooperation. In addition to teaching Figurative Modeling and Three-dimensional Design, he devotes his time to the practice of painting, although he is also an accomplished sculptor. He lives and works in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Marfa, Texas.

His paintings and sculptures have been in over 165 group and solo exhibitions. His work is in the permanent institutional collections of the Alexandria Museum of Art, Southwest Texas State University, The University of Alabama, Stillman College, Indianapolis Museum of Art, University of Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Pentagon. Corporations that have collected his work include the Energen Corporation, Economic Development Corporation of Alabama, The Burdines Corporation of Florida and the Business Center of Alabama. Other public collections include the Porter County Arts Commission, Valparaiso, Indiana, the Chattahoochee Valley Art Association, La Grange, Georgia and the Arts Council of Tampa, Florida. He is also in numerous other public and private collections.

See more of Tom Barnes' art on his website.

Untitled (Mauve Bird), oil on canvas, 16 by 16, NFS
Untitled (Monkey Watching Snake Eat Bug), oil on canvas, 20 by 20, NFS
Untitled (Butterfly on a Banana), oil on canvas, 12 by 12, NFS

Still Point Art Gallery
December 16, 2010

1 comment:

  1. Wow I love this work it is like MC Esher meets Hunter S Thompson! Awesome stuff Tom!