Painting old stories

Local artist Paul Barnes found international success when he let go of the confines of what he thought he ought to be painting - beautifully crafted landscapes and still life that somehow did not satisfy him - and returned to the stories he heard at his granny’s knee and the illustrations in the old book of folklore and legends from which she told her tales.

It was the introduction of a computer into the Barnes’ household that was the surprising liberator of Paul’s style.

Whilst surfing the internet researching the contemporary art scene in the USA, Paul realised that he could, quite literally, do anything he wanted, as he says, stylistically there is “no limit to my imagination”.

Like the fairytales he is so influenced by, the gallery he most admired in Hollywood, La Luz de Jesus, noticed him and gave him his first solo exhibition there in 2006. It was a hit and his work was bought by movie directors and rock stars.

As the father of young children, Paul works mainly in the evenings and at night and finds that occupying a nocturnal world has an effect on his paintings, indeed the motif of lonely full moon, or crescent moon appears in many of his works.

Some of the animal characters possess child-like features, and a tree, which on first viewing seems dead and is sporting a sinister crow, reveals a shy face in the bark that begs to be befriended.

These characters stem directly from his granny’s tales. The muted colours of the paintings have the ethereal quality of a dream half-remembered in the light of day, colours which seem to come straight from the earth. Backgrounds have the rough texture of stone, another connection to the ancient nature of the tales that inspire him.

Although Paul has mainly exhibited at the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh, this is his second solo exhibition at Woodend Barn and an opportunity for art lovers to experience a local painter who has acheived international success.

Through this exhibition, he hopes to encourage other local artists to be playful and imaginative with their work, not to be afraid of the limitless nature of their own creativity and to “paint from the heart.”

Paul Barnes’ exhibition ‘All Creatures, Great & Small’ runs at the Woodend Barn in Banchory until Sunday, November 2.