There are many details to be resolved in the border, but they all throw up interesting problems. I feel this to be the endgame of the work.
Already I’m turning my attention to the next panel, concerned with the Semitic worldview.
Work proceeds on integrating the border design with the picture.
My device here is one of my favourites, that of creating the illusion of lower levels by using shading. Signwriters use it behind letters to make them ‘standout’.
It allows me to introduce another level of meaning to the overall painted surface, as if there isn’t enough already. Now there is beginning to be the suggestion of infinity, using the mathematical symbol, in the side leaning figure of eight. A suggestion that includes within it the sense of continual return, as in the ambiguous word ‘revolution’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 stjohnshallgallery.com on 24th Sept 2017. It has been given the same date, but was added here on 11th October 2017.
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.
Falling into these two groups, horrid and portraiture, I paired them. I resolved to devise a way of merging them into each other.
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.
This site has been updated to be a portfolio of the work of Bernard Barnes only, whereas previously it also was a website for his studio and gallery. For information about St Johns Hall Gallery, please see www.stjohnshallgallery.com.
The content from the old site is still available as an archive. To view that click here.