Seb Barnett, the talented artist, tragically passed on October, 8. Here is the exclusive interview taken by Jo David and Nina Pak with Seb for the “Fantasy” issue of the Miroir Magazine.
Q: How long have you been an artist?
A: Looking back I would start defining myself as an artist around 2005, the ideas of what I wanted in art, what my own art was about, and who I was in the world of contemporary art started to solidify at that time. Before then I was just making images that I enjoyed, expressing some emotions through imagery. Being an artist is about much more than just illustrating my own experience, it is about a relationship to others, the viewer, the models, the individuals who are thought of while the art is made. Before 2005 art was just about me. The mentality that made it more occurred when I started thinking about the impact my art could have on others.
Q: Have you been trained, and if so from what institution? Or are you self taught?
A: Yes, I have a bachelor’s degree from Cornish College of the Arts in painting and printmaking. However, every artist is self taught to some extent. And taught by everyone around us also!
Q: Tell us about your process, can you give us a little insight into what lead you to this chosen medium?
A: These pieces were partly inspired from a desire to experiment with mediums. I love the natural chaos of ink, the soft edges and nondescript areas. However I also craved definition and some color. So these are works on paper, charcoal drawings with ink, then after many layers of clear acrylic medium to seal them in I define them some more with oil paint as a last few layers. I found this technique gave the paintings a lot of depth, and also combined my two loves, drawing and painting.
Q: Was your family supportive of your artistic endeavors?
A: Yes, my parents helped me with college, and my sister has always been the most supportive person I could hope to have in my life. She also is one of my best critics, asking why I did that there, and if I could make this and that better.
Q: Is there someone special who has encouraged your work and your path as an artist?
A: My sister has always been one of the most important people in my life. Some of my best art work is about her and my interpretation of her experiences. She is not only an excellent individual herself, but also her impact on my life is a keystone in my personality and art. Without her I would be a totally different person.
Q: What are your hopes and dreams or future goals?
A: My goals and dreams are fairly simple really. Being able to create new art work, display it where others can see, relate, interact with it, and have those same art pieces go to a new home so that I have room to make more! The process of creating is precious to me. The fact that I can have a relationship with someone through the art makes it even more satisfying. More than anything I need to make better and better work. The aspirations I have are like a trail up a mist covered mountain, there is no end in sight, and much of the way is unknown. Creating is a wonderful adventure!
Q: If you could do any project with full funding what would it be?
A: I have had a graphic novel rattling around in my mind for a while. It would be nice to go fully into the story of gods, spirits, and people that has been rambling in my head for the past few years.
Q: If you could meet any artist who is no longer living, who would it be and why?
A: Artemisia Gentileschi I think, although there are so many artists to choose from. I’m very curious about what her life was like, what kind of person she was, and what she would think of feminism today. Her techniques are highly skilled, everything I’ve seen that she has created has a wonderful sense of light, and her paintings are very polished. She would also be a great artist to learn classical techniques from, which I really enjoy.
Q: Tell us about the fantasy elements in your art?
A: Fantasy is a wonderful way of expressing emotions. Emotions tend to go against logic to some degree, and so does fantasy. In many ways fantasy is an expression of the human condition, a way of being, and an expression of how it feels to be human. In this way the fantastic is a beautiful way of creating a new reality based on emotional experiences. It may be one of the most honest ways of expressing the subconscious.
Q: What inspires your creations?
A: In a very simple way, emotions. The piece “Butterflies” is about pulling out a painful but beautiful emotion from inside, and how it feeds other beautiful beings. Many people talk about being able to relate more to animals than people, and I relate more to plants. So the plants become a symbol of pure emotion, living in, or escaping the body. Emotions that are taboo or hard to express are my favorite ones to depict in art. The emotion of grief is so hidden, so taboo to express, that I focus on that more than others. My work is inspired by grief, but I wish to present this intense emotion that is often avoided in western culture in a way that makes it beautiful. These paintings are my way of saying “It’s ok that you feel this way, it is even good, and beautiful.”