Frank Barry’s career spanned over 70 years, and throughout this time into his early nineties his work continued to evolve. The work has been organised into 13 Collections each of which are defined by a set of different social and cultural influences.
Early Years: His early work was influenced by both his work as a draftsman in an architectural practice and the realism of the nineteen thirties.
War Years, SE Asia 1945-47: During the War Frank worked as a photo reconnaissance officer for the RAF in India, Burma and what was then Siam. He was an astute observer of people and also a keen satirist which expressed itself in many of the cartoons he did for the local bulletin.
Art School: Attending Ealing Art school and Hornsey School of Art gave him the tools to hone his skills and develop new techniques across engravings, oil and water-colour.
Isle Of Wight, 1950s: The beauty of the Isle of Wight affected Frank profoundly and his work became lighter and lyrical expressing the beauty of the Island through water-colours and oil. During this period he developed his colour palette playing with nuances of light and shade.
Montreal 1963 -1965: The shift to Montreal in 1963 was dramatic. A new and harsher landscape presented itself and the tone of the work shifted to be more abstract with a brighter palette reflecting the intensity of the Montreal sun. Due to a fire in 1966 only a few works from this time remain.
Colour and Form, Montreal, 1966 -1979: In 1966 two events occurred which dramatically shifted Frank Barry’s artistic approach. The duplex he was living in with his young family in Montreal burnt to the ground, destroying much of the work he brought from the Isle of Wight as well as the new work he was developing. At this time he also enrolled in Concordia to do a Masters degree. Although the fire was devastating emotionally and financially it gave him the opportunity for a new artistic start. Influenced by the Concordia scene which at that time included the Plasticiens, Molinari and Gaucher, Frank reframed his approach. He drew on his understanding of structural and architectural forms, honed by years as an architectural draftsman, and his innate understanding of colour to create work that played with form and colour, resulting in work that was both illusionary and monumental.
Scribbled against one of his works in his sketchbooks the following quote sums up the thinking behind much of this work. ‘Control idea – concerned with relationship between painted shape and solid form, between illusory space (established through colour and perspectival implications) and real space (actual light and shade on moulded forms).
Assemblage Ribbon Works 1980-83: As Abstraction lost its status of contemporary and Neo-expressionism became internationally recognised, Frank’s work shifted again. Like many artists of this time he took a pluralistic approach, using different media to break down perceived perceptions of art. The ribbon became his new tool for drawing and with it he wove both abstract and figurative shapes playing again with colour and form through the contrasts of colour shadow and light. Abstraction was revisited in a through a new medium.
Sculpted Canvas – Beginning concurrently with the Assemblage work Frank Barry began to play with canvas as a sculptural form. The early work was abstract but with growing confidence the work became more figurative. The result were works with a playful almost child-like illustrative feel, however the shifting perspective created by folded canvas heightened the tension created by the dreamlike and sometimes dark subject matter.
Colour and Form Mississauga – 1984 Onwards – After retiring from Concordia University, Montreal, P.Q., Frank Barry moved to Port Credit, Ontario in his early seventies. He became active in the local art scene and involved in the Colour and Form society. Continuing his lifelong exploration of social issues, he used the disjointedness and spaces between multiple canvases to emphasize shifting perspectives and multiple stories within each work. Openings, 1994 is one of the outstanding works in this collection.
Millennial Realism – Now in his late Eighties, Frank Barry returned to acrylic on canvas for the rest of his career. These canvases reflect the uncomfortable reality of getting old, eg and Lady on a Balcony or Stairlift. They also reflect a growing dystopian vision of the the future as seen in Collateral Damage or Introducing the Speaker. Intertwined were paintings depicting myths, legends and plays – such as the Spoiler or Those are Pearls.
Millennial Collage – These playful works used collage and acrylic. Face with Blue hat is one of the last works created, when Frank Barry was ninety-five.