John Leigh Barnes
John Leigh Barnes was born in Rugby in 1943 and now lives in Leeds. He studied art at Newcastle University, where he was taught by Richard Hamilton. John came into contact with many of the most prominent Pop Artists of the day including Peter Blake, David Hockney, Eduardo Paolozzi and Joe Tilson.
It was always John's intention to enter teaching at secondary level, and that is what he did in Leeds for the next thirty-five years until he took early retirement in 2002. During his professional life he gained an M.A. in Art History, became a senior ' A ' level sxaminer, and was a school governor. He is now a full time artist.
John writes of himself: "For me, being retired from teaching was like being a student again. I had plenty of time to think, study and experiment. I became very interested in the idea of building images from recycled materials. I had always used charity shops to source art books and materials for school, and it was in one of these that I discovered fine art jigsaw puzzles. With a backward glance towards Pop Art, I liked the idea that fine art from great galleries had filtered into popular culture by this means; and I decided I could re-use these jigsaws to create built images that could re-enter the world of fine art but in a slightly altered form.
The important thing for me was that, as no other artist has used this source material in quite the same way before, it gave me the opportunity to introduce ideas and techniques that would be free from influences outside my own interests and experience, and I could introduce something new to the world.
Ideas and intensions may vary from picture to picture, but generally, a completed work echoes the way a jigsaw puzzle would look just before it is all finally put together. The edge pieces are at the edges, the more significant sections are more or less complete, and all the separated other pieces placed where they ought to be in relation to each other. So that even though the pictures may reflect the influences of gestalt psychology, renaissance altar-pieces, conservation and restoration work, and use semiotic space filling, point groups and divisions of the picture plane, the points of reference remain visually accessible and the source image can be identified.
I suppose in some ways it could be said that I create puzzles out of puzzles; but because the sourse material has some gravitas, the final pieces tend to have more presence than if it were all just a game. Having said that, I am happy if people have fun looking at my work."
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