‘The exhibition by Liam Barr at Artis Gallery is called Lore and Behold. In his highly polished paintings we behold the lineaments of a person and equally realistic accompaniments that convey stories, real or imagined, about their past.
A typical example is Postscript where we encounter the direct gaze and pale face of Katherine Mansfield. Her familiar bobbed hair is crowned by old-fashioned fountain pens and her profession as a writer is emphasised by the keyboard and typewriter carriage bent as a tight collar around her neck.
As an adolescent she learned to type because she knew she would become a writer. Her long fingers tap out her last words, “I love the rain tonight”, as a tattoo on her chin. The whole shape resembles a lamp and recalls the importance of a lamp in her most famous story, The Doll’s House.
Whether one is acquainted with the writer and the lore about her or not, it is an intriguing and skilled image.
Other works are not so explicit in reference. Requiem for the Feathered has an arched window showing a landscape with a naked woman leaning in with candles in both hands. She is assailed by a group of birds that have pecked elaborate tattoos on her shoulders and breasts. This work has the surreal quality of a dream but it is the dream of the woman herself. We can admire it but do not share in it.
A simpler image with the same dream quality is Spirit Me Gently to the Sea showing a pale woman waist-deep in a great river. The reference is to legend or lore. She embraces a large eel made special by a ring in its nose. The woman’s long black hair is an effective part of the design.
These paintings carry a sense of mystery. Others are more obvious. The four grim Brides of None are fierce and armed while Contemplace, elaborate though it is, has none of the scope for imagination that gives an extra frisson to the rest of the show’.