I live and work in rural South Shropshire where time can get muddled and odd things occur.
Playfulness, the surprise of details and irreverence are important in my work. Juxtaposition is a powerful tool and reflections are a terrific way of creating them.
I studied Fine Art at Central St Martins in the early 1980s, but my creative education began much earlier than that… My father Kit Barker and my mother Ilse, were painter and writer respectively. Exposure to their circle of friends meant that the world I grew up in was focused both on the visual experience and the stimulation of the imagination.
I have now lived in Clun, for nearly twenty years where the history of the area and some of its more colourful characters have found their way into my work.
My subject, Toby, has been present in my work for the past five years. the viewer enters a world of half-dreams and imagined histories… This is a world populated by anthropomorphised Toby Jugs.
These roguish but good-natured ‘Tobys’ are extravagant spendthrifts, they are captivated and titillated by mirrors and reflective surfaces as well as the sparkle of gold and glass. Toby stumbles through life making awful gaffes, gambling his fortune away as he spends wantonly on ridiculous fripperies and harlots. However, his tendency for outrageous behaviour is part of his charm.
My Tobys have, in the reflection of the glass – both material and illusory, become a talismanic emblem of the unconscious, and of past, more rakish times.
This world of the Tobys was one of tradition, secrecy and glamour that has mostly faded from memory. The closest we can now come to experiencing that era is by spending time in some of our older public houses where a little genteel time travel to the bawdy times of such rambunctious characters as Mad Jack Mytton and Hogarth’s Viscount Squanderfield is still possible.
I hope my work is both irreverent and fun, I want the story portrayed in the image to amuse and entertain. I also hope the work is beautiful! I delight in the colours, the shapes, the patterns of light and dark, in the ambiguity of reflections. I believe that the combination of the narrative and the physical image will delight and entice the viewer into the picture – into the story.
“It is my misfortune – and probably my delight – to use things as
my passions tell me. What a miserable fate for a painter who
adores blondes to have to stop himself putting them in a picture
because they don’t go with the basket of fruit! “
‘Green darkened by the downpour, her shoulders are drenched, the fabric of her bodice clinging tightly to her prominent collar-bones. A sprinkling of unabsorbed water still glistens on her simple bonnet. Her abundant hair, not flame-red just now but black and orange like neglected coal embers, is all disordered, and loose curls of it are dripping.’
Toby was rather pleased he’d remembered his umbrella, the forecast had been a tad iffy but for once he had erred on the side of caution. Sensible Toby!
From: The Crimson Petal and the White, Michael Faber, 2002 (edited) With addition of some of my own text.
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