Art Talk with Barry MacPherson

Barry MacPherson is an outstanding artist currently working in Montreal. His work takes you on an emotional journey so compelling that one cannot help feeling the awe inspiring admiration which I would usually associate with Abstract Expressionism. However, Barry’s pieces are far from abstract, they are figurative in all aspects, and yet they are not mere copies of nature and real life, they bring with them such ferocious force of feeling that you cannot look away. All I could do when confronted with his work was gaze meekly, unable to grasp my thoughts, unaware of my surroundings. I met with him and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.      

In your view, how hard is it to call yourself an artist or a painter? Does it take courage?

I guess if you take yourself seriously, it does. It’s a choice that you make and have to take responsibility for but it seems that the answer to that is left up to others biases and opinions.

Your paintings deal with emotions predominantly, even when they are devoid of people humanity can be found in them, do you consider this quality risky in the art market?

I never really understood the “Art Market” It has to do with money and marketing I guess and that is certainly something that was never taught in art school. I always (naively) believed that art was something that was creative and informative. It had nothing to do with what was being sold, just to be hung on a wall or whatever else. I have always had a strong belief that my work would be legitimate if I tried to be honest about my feelings on how I observe and portray whatever qualities I wish to express in my work especially within the context of the human condition. A world devoid of emotion would be a cold one indeed. From my observations I continually ask myself what is this person really feeling or what is really the situation here? My biggest problem is how can this be conveyed with all the limitations one has with the chosen medium, i.e. paint? To really answer your question, I think the art market has to do with what others dictate and not really the artist wishes to create.

Where do you stand on copies of your work painted by yourself or others? In essence can a copy ever regain the original quality?

I truly don’t think or care about this. We all copy something from something to some extent. Les Levine did a piece in 1970 titled “Les Levine Copies Everyone” In my “Reality of Life Series “ I took one of Bouguereau’s models and made her much younger to express what I was trying to do in “Broken Dreams”, the first painting in this series. I guess one might feel that they are on to something if their work is copied but a copy is a copy is a copy. To me the original quality is not only in the finished work but in the whole process from the concept to the chosen medium and the end result. There is a lot in there that a copy or reproduction could never capture.

Are you influenced by the Art scene or what is happening around you socially or politically? Or would you rather find solution to the meaning behind your work away from other influences?

I am not really not interested in the art scene, but am to some extent perhaps influenced by what others are doing, and yes I am certainly interested what does go on socially and politically. I feel this has always been the source and true foundation of anything I might think of as significant in any of my work. I like the idea of working in a series of paintings to cover a time frame of what actually happens in any event. And again these can be social or political in context.

When and where can we see your work next?

Presently I am part of a group exhibtion “Traffic” Conceptual Art in Canada, 1965‐1980, at The Vancouver Art Gallery that ends in January 2013 and in my studio.

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