Where Hand Meets Heart
By Tom Wachunas
“…Forms seem to rise and fall like so many gaseous clouds and liquid streams, conjuring perhaps, ghosts of a volatile, primordial soup.” From ARTWACH, January 22, 2010
EXHIBIT: Gene Barber at Journey Art Gallery, 431 4th Street NW, downtown Canton, THROUGH AUGUST 13, (330) 546-7061 www.journeyartgallery.com
After several years’ absence from the local exhibition circuit (due to health concerns), I’m pleased to remind you that Gene Barber is back, with a strong showing of 15 pieces at Journey Art Gallery. Along with a group of very recent acrylic paintings on canvas, there are four exquisite older drawings. Untitled and Warrior Princess (pictured above), for example, are mesmerizing organic abstractions – superbly designed and composed, and featuring Barber’s linear precision along with his pointillist ink technique.
His recent acrylic paintings still possess the sinuous, raw physicality and luminosity of his older abstract canvases, perhaps even more so. But with these pieces, I sensed a shift in Barber’s overall design of the picture plane. Older works were configured such that his palette within a single painting was generously varied, with lots of push-pull between warm and cool hues. Further, the arc of his organic shapes and directional linearities were distributed more widely across the plane, usually edge to edge.
These newer paintings, however, comprised largely of a dominant hue with analogous variations (sometimes including sublime whispers of contrasting hues), are subtly tighter, more compressed. I included the quote at the top of this post because the overall spirit it describes in Barber’s paintings from four or five years ago still holds true now. And he continues to paint with his fingers. He literally lets his hands, his flesh, manipulate the ephemeral, indeed primal energy seeming to seethe below all that gestural surface expressivity.
And from that energy below, that heart if you will, something specific emerges in each canvas. These new paintings have concentrated focal points that hover in the center of the plane, or nearly so. They’re distinct pictorial events - visual to be sure, but I suspect metaphorical as well.
Call them what you will – announcements, discoveries, revelations, personal epiphanies. In any event, welcome back, Mr. Barber.
PHOTOS, courtesy Su Nimon (from top): Cosmic Birth; Bird Feeding; Warrior Princess; Untitled