In the first influence I find myself obliged to reference an invisible world that we know now to exist alongside the prosaic world of our senses. This world is described by the physicists. They have introduced us to elementary particles that are passing through our environment, even the environment of our actual eyes, by the billion each second at the speed of light. We are told that dark matter and dark energy pervades the universe we thought we knew, so that we brush shoulders with this reality at every moment. The universe we see is a small fraction of the reality that is there.
Then there is the work of neuropsychology that has invented wonderful ways of exploring our minds by observing the brain while it is functioning. Here we discover a curious disconnect between the ego and the centres of decision making. The world we see, it appears, is not the real world at all, but a personal model invented by our neurons. This model is the consequence of many functioning centres within the great universe of the brain working in parallel. One centre may be concerned with vertical lines, one with horizontal lines, another with colour, another tone. There are centres concerned with spatial positioning, others with time. Memories and concepts are linked into the neural process at the same time.
Then there is the actual reality of our visual experience. The smooth linear world that we appear to experience as we pass through life is not our actual reality. If we carefully observe the reality of, say, a walk down a street it is made of a mass of glances, hundreds of them making up the experience that appears to be a smooth continuum. All of the bits of the street that we do not see, all the bits from behind our heads, for example, seamlessly fit into our sense of what the street is like. This is the model, largely invented and assumed.
Likewise a landscape is not seen like a camera in one semi-second exposure. It is a compilation of the same multitude of glances, each carrying a rich branching of association and emotion
All these ideas lie behind the works. Sometimes I begin with the arbitrary cross patterning of lines that represent the world of sub atomic particles. Sometimes the fragmentary world is explored as a pattern emanating from the solid bodies represented. As the structure develops it interests me to treat the arbitrarily created surfaces as each a separate element of reality, just as the glances make up the whole model.
Thus I employ a technique in which I tilt each fragment using shading and colour to create an effect similar to that of looking through broken glass. In every fragment there is a sense that it has the potential to contain or link to a mystery. Nothing is as it seems. Where the eye lingers, there lies the greatest approximation to a photograph. Elsewhere the Fragments may carry minimal information, functioning like peripheral vision.
Bear these things in mind when you are looking at these paintings, and you will see that they operate on many levels. You are reminded of a real place carefully examined. You will sense time passing as each glance, made by the artist viewing the place and by you viewing the painting, builds the whole. You are reminded of an invisible reality full of forces and energies that support the prosaic world, and of our profound ignorance of those forces. As well as looking outwards at the the real world you will be looking at an artificial model that only minimally represents that reality, and you will be looking into your own mind where the picture now temporarily occupies your cognition, taking your attention.
Bernard Barnes, Barmouth 2017
This statement refers in particular to the two most recent series – Fragments of Devon and Fragments of Barmouth (not yet added to website).