Meditation has been defined as: "self regulation of attention, in the service of self-inquiry, in the here and now." Joe Barnes, an American artist with increasing global relevance, has lived and worked in the epicenter of urban civilization- New York City- for much of his life. NYC is a place well known for it's contagious electricity and constant chaos- the obvious antithesis of all things contemplative and quiet. But it is here where Joe Barnes creates, amongst this city's endless noise and excitement, his serenely powerful paintings. In a white studio, in his white loft, he creates zen compositions filled with silent beauty. These art works; inviting, rich paintings on canvas and paper, are meditations on serenity. Joe Barnes' skill in expressing a sense of contemplation through the subtle application of color, or alternatively, the absence of color- is profound. No figures, no iconography, no obvious symbols, only tranquil fields of saturated pigment. He delivers this restrained aesthetic through singular works of complex vermillion, deepest cobalt, metallic grey/not grey, with intent and purpose. Whenever we view Barnes paintings or drawings, we are privileged to share in his personal experience with "the here and now". Asked to explain what happens when he begins new work, Barnes replies, "I usually choose both the color and size of the painting, at the same time. My aim is to give a sense of total immersion into a space...striving to bring calmness and tranquility to the finished painting. So the way the paint takes to the surface is crucial and after repeated applications I hope to convey an overall feeling of oneness. That which results is a meditation- empty space and quietude through color." How can an aesthetic simultaneously express something both voluptuous and restrained? Paring down extraneous details, conscious discipline, a tremendous passion for color and devotion to technique can't hurt. Whatever the secret may be, Joe Barnes has again succeeded in effortlessly capturing these artistic contradictions through his newest collection of work.
By Sherry jo Williams