French Fancy

Tom Barker

Image Size 85 x 75cm
Archival Ink printed on Hahnemuhle German Etching Paper
Edition of 25

Tom Barker

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! “

    Pablo Picasso

This eager young Toby is assessing his available funds before entering a local patisserie… These French Fancies can be significantly more costly than the traditional pork scratchings and black pudding to which he is accustomed.

French Fancy was exhibited at the 2018 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition


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