We've had the pleasure of presenting John Barter's artworks since the very inception of Stockroom. His work is colourful, fun, playful and has been widely popular. A clever wit runs through all of his work as well as a keen eye for detail and clarity of execution. This month John is presenting a photographic series themed around the iconic image of the astronaut. This body of work also extends into prints and an element of installation practice that literally hangs over the whole show. John kindly returned serve on a series of lobbed queries I fired his way.
Astronauts - heroes, fools or lone wolves?
The Astronauts have always seemed to me to be some of the last great explorers of our time. So I would think lone wolf just might fit my picture of my spaceman.
John Barter, Far Side of the Moon
You work across a few different mediums - sculpture, print, photography. How do go about deciding what you're going to make next?
Good question, in this show I worked on the photographic works first and the print works followed, I don't think I could only ever do one medium. I think one thing just leads you to the next, so it could be sculpture but then it could be printing. When I go into the outback with Kim my painter/printmaker wife, I tend to make sculptures out of things I find around the campsite. There is no answer, because I don't know.
There's a strong sense of humour running through all of your work John. There's some fun sculptures of yours around the warehouse that make me smile - Powerboard, for example. Why is humour important to you?
John Barter, Powerboard
I think it came from my Dad, he always had a good sense of humour, even in his last days at the nursing home he still had it. We asked him why he did not go to happy hour, he said I don't know why they call it happy hour, no one smiles!!!. I like to use humour in my work because we have so much very serious artworks that don't do much for me. I like to see people smiling after they have looked at my work, I think you can use humour in artworks and still have something to say as well.
There's some great vintage cars in this series. And in other works you often use materials from a by-gone era, or recycled materials. With NASA cutting back space research, even astronauts seem like they're from a past era. Does nostalgia or memory play a part in your thinking about what you make?
John:Yes I have always loved old things and collectables, my Dad ran pubs back in the 1960's and first thing in the mornings I would be down on the bar floor looking for dropped coins, I still have all the old silver coins in a box. When we lived in Wagga Wagga I never missed a Sunday market day and still make it to Daylesford market each Sunday. I also love to see what gets thrown out at the tip, and have lots of sourced bits waiting to get used in my artworks. The cars I used in this show I bought from a kid in Wagga at the markets in the late 80's, he was selling his 1970's toy cars but he also had his Dads 1950/60's Dinky toys in the same box and well yes I did buy them. I love the faded paint and perished tyres, we did a trip to Cuba a few years ago so the images of vintage cars sitting in dilapidated streets was in my memory when doing the work for this show.
There's a strong theme in this body of work John. Do you have the next body of work in mind, or plans for new work?
We are planning a trip into the outback soon, lots of ideas come to me when we are far away from our daily lives, and if it's anything like our past camping trips with a bit of luck the ideas will flow.
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Here's hoping more wonderful creations are generated on John's next adventure!
The exhibition runs until 5 August - and you can purchase John's work, not only his limited edition photographic works in the gallery but also his framed prints, from the warehouse space at Stockroom.