Scottish Influences: The Dream State Art of Paul Barnes

At first glance, viewers of the work of Scottish artist Paul Barnes see a fairy-tale land populated by cuddly furry creatures and lush trees. But look closer and one begins to see a dreamy, almost unsettling quality to his work. And that’s no surprise since Barnes uses his art as a vehicle to explore the mind in its dream state. His characters are often seen in desolate landscape settings (a nod to early Surrealism), rendered with heavy brushstrokes that evoke Modernist painting. The subdued color palette and wispy lines induce a sort of dreamy ambiance as we scan the deep landscapes within the works.

At a young age Paul Barnes was deeply inspired by Scotland’s ancient tradition, rich in folklore and legends, and is quoted as saying, “I guess my closeness to nature and the slight isolation of growing up in the rural north of Scotland forms the basis of my work, no matter how much I try to escape it.

“It’s this inspiration, from a very early age, that fuels a big part of my imagination today. Resurrecting the creatures from my childhood memories, conscious of the innocence and naivety in the forms, I enjoy playing with them like I did as a child. I try hard to make my paintings look old, to recapture my visions with a feeling of timelessness and space, kind of like a dream or distant memory that has become all blurry and faded.”

Drift away, and enjoy the dreamy art of Paul Barnes.

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About Stephen Kelly Creative

Hi, I'm Stephen Kelly, a writer, editor, photographer and graphic designer living in beautiful San Francisco, CA, USA. Amongst the things I love are writing, photography, movies, music, fitness, travel, Batman, all things Australian, food and fun, all of which I hope to reflect in this here blog. Welcome aboard ... now let's get busy!
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20 Responses to Scottish Influences: The Dream State Art of Paul Barnes

  1. petit4chocolatier says:

    How beautiful they all are! Favorites ~ Misty, Love Mountain, Winston, The Understanding, and The Presence!

  2. Pat Bailey says:

    Thanks. I saw his work in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and really enjoyed it. It was nice to be able to revisit it and I liked your narative. When he says “my closeness to nature and the slight isolation of growing up in the rural north of Scotland,” he is understating. I have been there several times and there is nothing “slight” about the isolation and the harshness of the environment. You can’t go hiking in the mountains without registering a travel plan because weather can change so suddenly people can get stuck in deadly weather.

    • Hi Pat … and thanks for stopping by. When I think of rural northern Scotland I think beautiful desolation, a harsh, unforgiving, but intensely beautiful place. I think there’s a certain loneliness to his work, as well, and I’m wondering if that stems from coming from what I can imagine can be a lonely environment.

      • Pat Bailey says:

        It definitely isn’t the place for someone who likes lots of action. I totally agree with your evaluation of his work. Scotland has been one of my favorite place to visit, I miss it a lot, and Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities.

        • I’ve traveled many places, but I’ve yet to visit the British Isles. I’ve heard great things about Edinburgh and Scotland from friends who have visited. Living here in California, sometimes it’s easier (and cheaper) to go west. Someday, though … I’ll bet you could do some wicked photography in northern Scotland.

          • Pat Bailey says:

            If you are good at doing photography with dark, low clouds – or have lots of time to wait for the sun. Actually it is like most islands in the northern Atlantic (maybe Pacific too), there is a little sun, then clouds roll in, and then a little sun peeks out, and then more clouds. It adds to the romantic beauty of the desolate harshness. The English built Hadrian’s wall to keep the tough, rough, barbarians in Scotland. Even the lowland Scots (Edinburgh, Glasgow where there was a cultural enlightenment) didn’t want anything to do with the highland Scots.
            I want you to go to Scotland because I want to see what you can do with your camera. 🙂 Visit NY first – it would shorten the plane ride.

  3. Stephen, All your posts on art have filled me with a glee and joy that the world can include such oddly beautiful insights and perspectives. Thank you so much for featuring them. I would never get a chance to see them otherwise. Paul Barnes is truly dreamlike and filled with the drama of the unconscious.

  4. Ah I’ve seen stuff from Paul Barnes before, I’ve always loved it. Especially since as you say, at first glance his pictures seems really cute with cuddly animals, but then there’s a real element of creepiness or disquiet in some of them when you look closer!
    Great post Stephen, really like these ones (as well as the posts with your own photos of course) where you introduce us to works from different artists!! 🙂

  5. Impybat says:

    I love “The Gift”, “Meeting The Wolfman”, and Kitty Killer” the best. “Big Bear” — I wonder if he’s a Bjork fan?

  6. Angeline M says:

    Great post; great art. I think I’m in love with Winston and Night Owl.

  7. I ‘ve told you before, i just LOVE your artistic suggestion! Perfectly twisted!

  8. Madhu says:

    Have never seen any of Barnes’ work, they are fabulous! Love the balance in ‘sweet harmony’, and the vulnerable look of ‘Winston’, and also the “I gave you my heart’. ‘Isaac’ too 🙂

  9. Pingback: Kickin’ It Old School: The Classic Surrealism of René Magritte | Stephen Kelly Creative

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