Chris Barnard’s paintings represent an ongoing examination of the connections and gaps between landscape painting and contemporary socio-political events. More specifically, focusing on the manifestations of American expansion and its consequences on various environments. When viewed together, these paintings suggest a looming, pervasive military presence. However, represented indirectly to address, without celebrating, the violence caused by U.S. military action. These allusive works are intended to blur the boundaries between civilian and militarized landscapes to provoke the viewer to ‘see’ this violence where we may not be expected. In doing so, Barnard attempts to re-sensitize himself and viewers to its grave consequences.
Formally, Barnard continues to manipulate the tools of perspective, color and paint quality. Many paintings place the viewer in a particular position in relation to what s/he sees, alluding to how one’s positionality—where one ‘stands’ or where one ‘is coming from’—determines so much about how one ‘views’ the world. In addition, many of these compositions (and the brush strokes and re-used palette scrapings that constitute them) imply repetition or a cycle, hinting at the recurring nature of the conflicts in which we are presently mired.
By broadening color range and surface/paint textures, it draws attention to the idea of surfaces and representation—what is real, what is made up, and specifically how can a painting ‘accurately’ deal with issues of conflict, violence and death, if at all? Paint’s myriad formal qualities have the power to engross and/or distract a viewer, and Barnard chooses to make paintings about conflict that exhibit some internal struggle. Imagery often vies with formal aspects for the viewer’s attention, mirroring the inherent conflict between an artwork’s subject matter and its representation. In this way Barnard brings the idea of focus—the artist’s, the viewer’s, this country’s—into question, as he continues to explore the role and act of painting as a way to engage with current events.