An Unobstructed Mind: The art of Helmut Barnett

Helmut Barnett: Solo Show

The first thing that you notice about Helmut Barnett’s paintings is their sheer scale and transparency of color. No photo or published replication can quite prepare you for the detailed intensity of his large pieces. 

They are the presence in the room, an extension of a highly complex mind that sees and feels a multi-faceted connection with life.

Settling in to understand these pieces, one realizes they are not only deeply personal to Helmut but also deeply about Helmut himself. They are a reflection of a distinctly sharp and orderly intellect with an appreciation and sensibility for the deep insight that mathematics, history, engineering, music and poetry affords.

In some pieces, you see a wonderfully colored splash of art on top of a collage of old worn pages from books in bygone times. The placement of any given photomontage is so meticulously arranged that Helmut has managed to make the viewer think that perhaps the soft beige and cream words and images are merely a backdrop for the colourful painting on the foreground. Ah, but herein lies the magic of the piece. Each decoupage tells a story and unlocks a deeper meaning when understood with its neighbouring panel.

One must repose with any given piece, explore it and give it your focused attention in order to have it reveal it’s true essence. According to Helmut, “everything is related”. This is your first clue that the bit of a poem, the call number of an aircraft and the graph of structural integrity all blend seamlessly to reveal an embedded and larger concept. It is only then that the viewer has the pleasure of combining these insights with the refined design that overlay the piece. If you are lucky enough to have Helmut point out and explain these seemingly disparate items, the end result will be your special connection to the piece.  It will seem like becoming re-acquainted with an old friend.

In his use of color, Helmut has an almost reverence for each pigment and it’s unique property. They are like friends that work together but are never overpowered by the other. There is a delicate force and transparency in each stroke. Helmut’s black and white pieces on the other hand, are a stunning array of fluid lines, shapes that are not abstract, but according to Helmut are “unobstructed.” They are musical and reveal the flow of a generous and delightful personage.

Wally Workman’s Gallery has, over the years, shown Helmut’s work in both group and in solo exhibitions. This, in and of itself, is a testimony to his timeless fluidity and relevance to the art of our time. My advice: Go see the work in person and see if my description doesn’t fit!

Cecilia Garrec
March 2018


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