Tommy Barr is a Northern Ireland based painter, born in Dromore and with his studio in Banbridge. He has spent most of his working life in these small towns on the outskirts of the capital city, Belfast.
Tommy’s works rely on symbolism, reflecting the world around him via a distinctive and very personal form of abstraction which frequently draws upon heritage. In discussing his work, Clodagh Doyle, Curator at the National Museum of Ireland observes that, “the land determines the people’s existence and shapes an identity linking them to the landscape. Tommy’s works further define our connection to our land, to our beliefs and to our identity”.
Tommy is an internationally recognized artist who has exhibited extensively across Europe, the Middle East and beyond. He considers this travel an essential part of his practice finding inspiration in the lives of those he meets and the places they inhabit. 2017 was Tommy’s second appearance at Festival Forfest and it was an event which he had been looking forward to greatly. He describes Kromeriz during the festival as “filled with arts and events and a place of great inspiration; this is an award winning festival and rightly so”. Following his participation Tommy was interviewed by the Northern Irish press on the 4th of July and the subsequent article as published, is presented below.
Tommy hosts masterclass in Czech Republic
Dromore artist Tommy Barr has just returned from the Czech Republic following his participation in Festival Forfest, which was held in the UNESCO protected old town of Kromeriz. This was a welcome return for Tommy, having previously participated in 2015. The theme of the festival this year was “opportunities in international cooperation”, a theme which Tommy appears to have taken to heart, with a series of impromptu collaborations alongside his programmed contributions. For Tommy these unplanned interactions with friends are often where the magic happens.
Tommy presented his exhibition entitled “Un Beau Refuge”, at Gallery U Artuse. This is a well travelled exhibition which draws from the legacy of the Huguenot refugees who came to Ireland fleeing religious persecution in France during the 15th century. He was joined on opening night by his friends Rebecca Rust and Friedrich Edelmann, principals/soloists with the Munich Philharmonic, Basel Symphony and Tokyo Symphony Orchestras. They played Hans Gál’s Divertimento for Bassoon and Violoncello. Gál was himself a refuge from Nazi Germany and went on to co-found the Edinburgh Festival, where Tommy has also exhibited previously. The music complimented Tommy’s paintings perfectly and in closing the event Michal Kucera of Gallery U Artuse told guests that “something special happened here tonight”.
Now in its twenty eight year Forfest has become one of the highlights of the Czech cultural calendar. A central element is always the lecture series which seeks to disseminate learning and fuel new thinking. Tommy’s lecture discussed the value of perceived multiple legacies on the artist’s work and the impact of creative refugees. He referenced imagery from his exhibition but also works from influential artists past and present. This was a highly topical subject that generated great interest and discussion.
Tommy’s lecture was particularly well attended, with students from the Archiepiscopale School present by special invitation. Following the lecture a gallery tour of his exhibition and an artist’s masterclass were arranged for the students on the morning of the final day of the festival. At the masterclass paints were made using pigment and binders in the school’s faculty of science and later used as the class focused on techniques for surface and on paint manipulation.
The invitation was also an opportunity for Tommy to re-visit the beautiful baroque Chateau and to spend time studying their impressive art collection. This was originally the Archbishop’s summer palace and it retains much of his collection, which contains a number of important works including Titian’s great masterpiece, “Apollo and Marsyas”.
Tommy is once again grateful to festival organisers Vaclav and Zdenka Vaculovicovi and to Michal at U Artuse for their generous invitation and help with the events. Kromeriz is a truly beautiful town and at festival time it is buzzing with concerts and exhibitions and the exchange of artistic ideas. He considers participation in such festivals to be priceless. The friendships, inspiration and learning are a very important part of his creative development.
True to the theme of international cooperation Tommy is already involved in conversations to develop future collaborations. He is also currently putting the finishing touches to the paintings for his next exhibition in the National Museum of Art in Romania this September.