John Barnes’ First Light

ELEMENTAL: Artist John Barnes pictured with works soon to go on exhibition at Art Systems Wickham.
ELEMENTAL: Artist John Barnes pictured with works soon to go on exhibition at Art Systems Wickham.

JOHN Barnes spent the earlier part of his life as a farmer in south-western NSW, but in 2002 life took a radical turn.

After moving to Newcastle, he enrolled in an advanced diploma of fine arts at Hunter Street TAFE. 

From there he studied art at the University of Newcastle, where he was awarded a PhD in 2011. 

Barnes has a keen interest in the landscape and its “fluid and ever changing” nature. Not just how the land itself changes, but the ways in which we view it also change. 

“It’s incredibly complex, it responds to the social and political and economic situation at any particular time,” he said. 

“It’s been looked at in so many different ways and put to so many different purposes… as we have seen throughout history. 

“I reached some understanding with the landscape, as I had been living and working on the land for the best part of 25 years.” 

First Light which goes on exhibition next month sees the artist shift from the representational to the abstract. 

“There is landscape floating around in there, but it’s quite a departure. I reached an end point with the other work,” he said. 

“This body of work is more about dynamics and atmospherics.

“Taking things back a stage and trying to strip down most of the ideas, strip down the concrete ideas we have about the landscape, the climate and what constitutes our environment.

“There are influences from woven rugs to pixelated digital imagery, there are also thoughts of isobars on a weather map and the gathering of tiny streams after an outback downpour. It’s all about movement. 

“It’s very elemental in many ways, getting down to the fluidity of things, the ever changing nature of all things.

“It doesn't represent anything, but hopefully stimulates the viewers thoughts simply through the placement of colour.” 

The exhibition runs from October 6 – 15 at Art Systems Wickham, 40 Annie Street, Wickham. 

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