Alchemy

Ken Barnes through November 2, 2019

Peggy Murphy

Ken Barnes is a sculptor. The material he uses is stone. There is undeniable beauty to this material, but also an elemental, intractable quality. It is a weighty material both figuratively and literally. This is not a material to fool around with–an attempt to manipulate it might seem audacious and difficult.

Barnes writes about his process It is difficult to improve upon the beauty of a natural object, but I strive to bring out the stone’s elegant form, while maintaining the sense of discovery and surprise when exploring the variation within the stone.

In his exhibit at Shift Barnes demonstrates the finesse of a partner rather than master in the creation of his work–an acolyte in service to the stone’s full potentiality.

Simple titles like Relic, Nacre, Welcome, and Twist allow for broad interpretations, but at the heart of this work lies the spirit of nature. Shaping, polishing, and cutting give testimony to the material’s ancient incarnations–the smoothing and shaping by water, the heating and cooling process of volcanoes, and the violent breaking and seizing of surfaces. The material offers extremes that are handled with a subtle touch, matte or shiny, smooth or rough–edges that look dangerously sharp or broad perfect curves
Barnes balances his pieces on stone bases or metal armatures. Despite their weightiness these pieces seem to have a sense of movement as if they are on the brink of taking flight or slipping through their light armatures. Sacred Canoe, the gleaming orange calcite, sleek as a salmon, seems capable of flashing through the water. The grackle specked Twist, of fossilized limestone, seems poised to take flight. And the suspended Nacre appears able to shift in the wind. There is alchemy at work in these pieces

Surely stones hold an irresistible tug at our atavistic selves. Who hasn’t pocketed a small stone, secreting it as an object of beauty, remembrance or magic? There is an enduring beauty and power to this material. In this work Barnes eloquently expands the essence of his chosen stones and allows us the opportunity to witness his nimble magic.

 

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