|"The arrest of Tony Camborio" John Barrett 80 cm X 80 cm acrylic on canvass and wood.|
There among them, poet and playright Federico Garcia Lorca, who was shot and killed and buried in a mass grave. It was the start of the Spanish Civil War.
A couple years ago, authorities claim to have identified this mass grave, but Lorca's only living relative, who resides in the US, refused exhumation and DNA testing.
Despite an official lid on the past, many elderly Spaniards of the present lived during the civil war or had family members who were killed.
|John Barrett at Canillas opening of "Lorca: A Dream of Life" in August 2009|
Into these troubled waters waded John Barrett, then a London free-lance illustrator and for the last decade, senior full-time lecturer at the Institute of Art and Design at Birmingham City University.
About 20 years ago, as part of his University of Leeds Masters in Art and Design, John probed deeply into the Spanish psyche through Lorca's poems, exploring them and their metaphors and trying to visually iterpret between Lorca's lines, his subtle meanings, Lorca's and Spain's mythical icons. It became a 15-year project, his Lorca Project.
John prolifically created about 300 images prepared for two shows. Half the images interpret Lorca's poems from 1919 to 1929, "Lorca: A Dream of Life." The other, yet to be inaugurated, "Lorca: Poet in New York," cover Lorca's works from 1929 to his death in 1936.
John says he thinks it would ideal to open "Lorca: Poet in New York" in San Francisco or New York, combining drama, dance, flamenco music and his images in a multi-dimensional Lorca Project happening.
He appreciates that despite an official lid on the past, some Spaniards of the present lived durng those times or had family members killed. All sides and factions committed attrocities, More than 14,000 Catholic clergy were killed along with 14 poets. All this is part of the subterrenean Spanish psyche. .
John appears a maestro as he employs pastels, pencil, scraper board, paintings in acrylic and water-based inks using bleached technique, a few prints and photos.
His profound visual quest and prolific production utilising varied media, including creating art books, first became available to the Spanish public in August 2009 during two inaugural exhibitions, one in Canillas de Albaida, the other in Competa.These local governments fully supported each show, volunteering space.
John Barrett's intellect, his own intimate journey into the soul of Spain's perhaps best known and most certainly, most martyred poet, Federico Garcia Lorca, grabs you.
|John Barret at his Canillas de Albaida opening.|
Afterwards (by Lorca)
The children gaze
at a distant spot.
The lamps are put out.
Some blind girls ask questions of the moon
and spirals of weeping
rise through the air.
The mountains gaze
at a distant spot.
|Barrett's dyptch: "Song of a Descending Day" at his Competa, Spain "Lorca: A Drem of Peace" show.|
"I needed to see the whole story of Lorca's birth, his life, visit these places and see the village where he died,"John adds.
His successful Leeds Universitty master's in art and design Lorca Project catapulted him from free-lance London illustrator (for 20 years and quite successful but what a rat race!) to senior full-time lecturer at the Institute of Art and Design at Birmingham City University.
Through the Lorca Project John sought to "expand illustration techniques and themes and perhaps move away from constraints of commercial illustration."
The Lorca Project compelled him to appreciate "incredible metaphors often used as a surrealist technique of juxtaposing absolute disconnected meanings creating a third meaning, which dislocates the reader." Hence, at least 12 huge sketch books, each a work of art in itself, complete with detailed annotations and hundreds of drawings, many worth framing.
Few artists have entered upon such a journey to visually intepret the poems of an iconic poet. HIs Lorca Project is unprecedented.
Open any of his scores of sketch books and you'll see colourful and detailed sketches, notes, quotes from his poems, page after page. it sometimes took days and weeks to develop a single concept that John thought worked for Lorca's verse and when he finally decided on it, the construction of the work seemed explosive, fast, like magic, like pent up adrenalized intensity, something erupting from deep inside him and flowing onto paper or canvass or wood panel.
|"It is true" by Barrett, acrylic on wood, 42 cm X 60 cm|
"There's a mixture of spontenaiety and also it's very calculated because of my experience working tight deadlines as an illustrator; most images are small compared to painters, so I come with lots and lots of various pieces of a puzzle," he says.
For John, "...colour, line, texture, space an form are intimately connected to the content of the words written by the poet and thereby the interplay of texta nd image is crucial to the way that the image is read."
Like other artists, John connects the musical rhythm of the verse with the ultimate visual image.
John, who is developing a Lorca Project website, says Lorca primarily concerned himself with themes of fate and death in the lives of country people and gypsies in Andalusia. "His early poetry portrays elemental human passions and emphasizes the interpretation of dreams and reality in their lives."
|"Arc of Moons" by Barrett, acrylic, 80 cm X 80 cm|
Saying Goodbye (Lorca)
I'll be saying goodbye
at the crossroads,
Heading off down that road
through my soul.
I'll arouse reminiscences,
stir up mean hours.
I'll arrive at the garden spot
in my song (my white song),
and I'll start to shiver and shake
like the morning star.
|Detail from large dyptch: "Song of a Descending Day"|
Three hundred lovers
are asleep forever
beneath the dry earth.
long, red coloured roads.
Cordoba, green olive trees
for placing a hundred crosses
to remember them.
Those hundred lovers
are asleep forever.
The Moon Appears (Lorca)
When the moon comes out
bells fade out
and the paths are
When the moon comes out,
the sea covers the earth
and the heart feels like an island
in the infinite.
Nobody eats oranges
under the full moon.
We need to eat
green fruit and ice.
When the moon comes out
with one hundred faces equal
sob away in pockets.
Rock on and practice peace and love. Also, check out ArtTraveler's videos: http://bit.ly/h1vruw
Stefan, the ArtTraveler(TM)