Work has begun on the Christian priest

Ceiling paintings, Fusion paintings

This figure has transmuted into an orthodox priest, his two companions are being prepared for their new role as rabbi and mohammedan. The overall panel will examine the family links that underlie these three great faiths.

I intend to paint a panorama of Jerusalem along the top. This city has a temporal earthly manifestation together with a spiritual dream, a heavenly residence. To all three faiths Jerusalem is at the centre, it is the place where the world will end.

Above the rabbi I have sketched in a picture of the tower of david. David is said to have founded the city, a small fortress initially, where he could lead a struggle against powerful neighbours.

My reference for this frieze has been the wonderful pictures by David Roberts, which I will adapt to conform to the needs of the picture in the future.

Above the priest I have brushed in a view of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to represent the many holy sites for the Christians. Here is the tomb of Jesus.

Above the mullah, or sherif I will probably add a view of the dome of the rock, where the mohammedans believe the prophet ascended into heaven.

I will seek to find a way of painting a visionary view of this extraordinary city. The priest, as you can see is asleep, his eyelids closed. All the men will be like that, in a hall of sleepers. Jerusalem is part of the dream of these great religions. As I paint this panel I am listening to a reading of ‘Jerusalem the Biography’ by Simon Sebag Montefiore, who recounts the arrival of the Jews under David. (Joshua’s headquarters had been north of Jerusalem at Shechem) when Jerusalem was inhabited by Jebusites. The king Adonisadec (a name which suggests a priest king) was defeated, but the Jebusites were too numerous to drive out and the sons of Judah began to live beside them in the city. The beginning of a very familiar pattern.

This was happening (1200 BC) at the time of the attacks of the people of the sea (possibly Achaean Greeks and tribes like them being displaced on mainland Greece by the Dorian tribes from the north. The Philistines, who crop up in the old testament may have been such people, Goliath may have been apparelled in similar armour to Achilles when he was felled by David.

The whole region was thrown into flux by these restless invasions. We get an inkling of the warrior sailor adventurer’s life from the pages of Homer. Viking raider-like they caused turmoil in the region, coming from the Aegean into the eastern mediterranean. Reports of unrest crop up in the delta of Egypt. The Pharaoh raided Canaan to restore order and when he returns home to Egypt he inscribed a plack on the temple in Thebes declaring that he had defeated the sea people, recaptured Ashkelon and massacred a people who appear for the first time: ‘Israel is laid waste and his seed is not’.

Not so, it appears. A rough association of Jewish tribes in the hills of Judah, each lead by a priestly chief finally coalesced under the kingship of David in order to take on the sophisticated warriors of the sea people. His success led to the founding of the Jewish holy city, when the arc of the covenant was moved into the city to find a permanent home.

Origin of the face

Ceiling paintings, Fusion paintings

This drawing of a Liverpool Docker was made a few years ago.

Here is a rough sketch of a possible layout of the next panel.

The fused painting of the rabbai the priest and the mullah are the heart of the picture, with a surrounding border of images that make the 12’x6′ panel to fill bay 2. There is a window protrusion in this bay for the design to accommodate, chopping off a length of the bottom border.

I’m currently thinking of a panorama of Jerusalem along the top border, with the wailing wall, the church of the holy sepulchre and the dome of the rock above the appropriate figure.

To the left some abstract motifs, to the right maybe some stories they share.

The calligraphy, Hebrew Greek and Arabic will feature in the decoration on the figures.

Panel 3

Fusion paintings

The third panel to be painted is intended to follow the gobekli type mythic dreamer that is already in place above the entrance, following a loose chronology.

Like the previous painting the central section of this painting will be based on a fusion painting, where two 4′ by 4′ paintings have been fused by cutting both paintings on the same grid and gradually swopping parts to produce a single 8’x4′ panel. In this new panel a third figure has been inserted to make a group of three figures.

I have mounted this new composite image on a wall prior to development in the same bay as the last picture.

My intention is to add border panels around this new fusion to produce an image that explores the world view of the semitic religions.

I intend to adapt these three figures to represent a rabbi, a monk and a mullah and will explore the family relationship between these three religions.

All three figures have been derived from a single original image, and that came from a drawing made a few years ago.

The process of fusing the images has introduced an interesting variety to the faces that I will exploit in the final picture.

The priest

The mullah

And the rabbai.

Panel 2 paused for reflection

Fusion paintings

I must leave this panel alone and live with it awhile. The sleeping figure in the centre, holding his box of tricks, is beginning to look a little like Freud. Perhaps Neitzsche  should be woven into the complex mass, Wagner too, Marx. Dreams of the superman pervaded the last century. Destiny was all.

Yesterday I cleared a space for the next project, which will continue a loose theme for the panels on the ceiling. Each figure is a dreamer, a mythic dreamer, dreaming the myths of their different cultures. The first panel is the mythic dreamer of Gubekli Tepe, and the last has been exploring the dreams of the 20th century.

I have in mind to explore the semitic, monotheistic doctrinaire mythic dreamers, so that the rabbi, the monk and the mullah will appear together, surrounded by their convergent texts and transmuting images and pattern. Like the previous painting I have a base to work on, using a fusion painting created earlier.

November 25th. Border work

Fusion paintings

painting copyright Bernard Barnes

I have been enjoying adding the slightly symbolic objects into appropriate places, and some gory, charnell house-like images in the lower right border.

A sort of lineal sequence has returned with a start in the top left below the display of ostentatious wealth.

The busy throng is reversed and all the men are marching downwards into the hell of mechanical warfare.

Along the bottom of the painting the concentration of military power discharges in the muzzle of a great cannon, into the inferno and subsequent charnel house, to the right of the painting.

Here, as I said, I have been working today, introducing with a rolling brush and fluid paint, a multitude of figures, human forms, lying in discarded heaps. This early brushing in will be enhanced with highlights when it is dry.

Further up the right side of the picture I have been working of a transition, a sort of revival, in fact a huge population explosion that occurred in spite of the great wars. Ladders appear, huge crowds can be seen ascending, modern transport systems make an appearance, there is a glimpse of high buildings. The procession of people becomes serious, regimental.

On the top line I have enjoyed painting the lips, the wine glass and bottle, the super rich gentleman with the cigar, the block of bank buildings, the piles of money and the mucky factories. So far so good.

I think I may add a Rolls Royce, a street riot or two and have been thinking about putting the Grenfell Tower into the top right, but actually that leaves the remit of the painting, unless we include ‘modern times’.

Panel 2 Concerning the optical illusion

Fusion paintings

There have been considerable changes made to the painting since the last blog post. Here is an image of the present state of the panel.

Work in progress copyright Bernard Barnes

Dreaming an optical illusion

The two sleeping figures in the painting, he with his clever box of tricks, she with her child, are managing to rest quietly in spite of the turbulence of the events around them. The previous manifestation of unrelenting chaos and conflict proved too much for me. Soft flesh was needed to mitigate the relentless horror of the 20th century’s public political character.

The surrounding images still record the endless accounts of war and rumours of war that fill the chronologies of that century, and I have used many familiar images in close sequence beginning with the German blacksmith top left to tell the story.  My concern here is to incorporate these  images into a swirl of events reminiscent of the huge hurricanes that have just been destroying the Caribbean. There is a snake-like feeling to the border also, the enormous curled Midgard serpent Jörmungandr perhaps from Nordic mythology. I also feel inclined to refer the style of this decorative motif to the interwoven patterns of Celtic illustration characterised by the Book of Kells.

It is however the central two figures who hold my attention at present.

These two figures return the panel to the recurrent theme of ‘the mythic image’ which will characterise the ceiling panels. The original panel entitled ‘the mythic dreamer of Göbekli Tepe’ has begun this theme.

I have preserved much of the previous ‘fusion’ painting, but much of it has receded to a background position. I see now two exhausted figures, representing the common people who somehow survived the century. We observe them in an intimate moment, with troubled dreams, some shared. He reminds me of a puppet master, going from fair to fair (as I did when I travelled around France and the low countries with my puppets and my violin) eking out a tenuous living.

This manner of painting, layering image upon image, idea upon idea, seems to have evolved as a suitable technique for developing direction and meaning to the paintings. By never losing previous layers and thoughts, the image becomes dense with meaning. It is not intended to be doctrinaire in any way, expressing a conclusion in the manner of propaganda, but as an example of visual thinking around a subject.

Putting some ideas into practice

Fusion paintings

A busy few days has seen the central panel of the picture mounted in one of the bays of the gallery. Visitors may easily see the progress.

The central panel 8′ x 4′ will form the centre of a larger picture that may take its place on the ceiling of the gallery.

Its subject is the 20th century, leading to the enlightenment that is displayed on the north wall. It is a mystery that men who have behaved so badly can still have any redeeming features at all.

Painting in progress copyright Bernard Barnes

I am planning to add a ring of events surrounding the inner chaos. Events of momentous proportions, the wars, the great characters, the arts and cultural references. My original hurricane shape based on the vortex I am thinking of bearing the multiple images.

Preparatory Sketch copyright Bernard Barnes

Throughout the images I am looking for small bubbles of tranquillity where I can paste a small scene, an aside, a reference that together will all the rest paint a summary of a momentous century.

View of Gallery copyright Bernard Barnes

You may be able to see from these pictures that I have cut boards that fit around the edge of the central picture. It will be made up of pieces that I will fit together on the wall, but which I can work on separately on the easel.

Part of painting copyright Bernard Barnes

I am also beginning to adapt the central image, adding new ideas to fit the theme. I have been experimenting with an optical illusion that can be built out from the surface of the picture to give the illusion of an inner recession.

Here I am interested in suggesting the receding streets of fear exploited by Giorgio de Chirico in the surrealist paintings and it does add to the tension of the work.

This post originally appeared on on 24th Sept 2017. It has been given the same date, but was added here on 11th October 2017.

Fusion Paintings

Fusion paintings

Early thoughts and intention concerning this series of paintings jotted down with the intention of becoming a ‘blog’. It began with a group of 4’ x 4’ paintings, four of them to be precise. All of them were painted on plywood sheets of equal thickness. Two of the paintings were portraits and two were depictions of rather horrid things.

Painting copyright Bernard Barnes

The oligarch, a recurring problem

Falling into these two groups, horrid and portraiture, I paired them. I resolved to devise a way of merging them into each other.  

Lizard painting copyright Bernard Barnes

This lizard is eating its young while it is giving birth

I will examine each painting to identify the main ‘fault lines’ of the picture.

I intend to place 2 pictures on top of each other, face up, and cut with a down-cutting jig saw along the ‘Faultline’ of the top board. The boards may be reversed occasionally to enable major ‘faultines’ of each picture gets cut.

The resulting pictures are laid out like a crossword puzzle beside each other on a table.

Both pictures have an identical pattern of cuts and pieces.

If one piece is taken from one picture it must be replaced by the equivalent on the other painting. In this way the continuity of the images are maintained. Gradually, as more and more pieces are exchanged, the two images fuse into each other. A process without end that could always return to the beginning

It is like having two thoughts in the mind at the same time. It is possible, we can all do it. Some people claim to have many voices speaking to them at the same moment. Or the fade between scenes in a cinema film.

I will possibly, at intervals, remove a piece and cut it further. That second piece may become a centre of merging in its own right. The possibilities are endless.

Thus I am proposing a project that relates to time passing and many visitors participating. The public will be invited to make the changes, carefully to observe the rule of ‘like changing with like’, and each change will be digitally recorded. Maybe a screen will play a loop of the development to date, it could be on the website permanently changing. I imagine a sort of frame being built to support a camera over the paintings. Each time a move is made, a button is pressed, and that new image joins the video. There would have to be lights around the pictures also, and a thought to health and safety. In theory this could be an eternally changing pair of paintings, weaving in and out of the two meanings.