James Barker PaintingsRetrospective14th April – 24th April 2015 | Stanley Street Gallery

James Barker Paintings

14th April – 24th April 2015

James Barker


This Exhibition is a selection of the work of James Barker, highlighting a significant career spanning 60 years of professional practice.

James Barker’s grounding was at East Sydney Technical College in the early 50’s under the guidance of teachers including Douglas Dundas, Ron Millen, Godfrey Miller, Jean Appleton and Dorothy Thornhill. Along with the technical instructions of picture making and its history, James was exposed to the work and doctrines of the European modernists and Sydney Modernists. These were seminal influences that would stay with him. In 1955 in the year he completed his Diploma in Fine Arts he travelled briefly to Europe. On his return, in 1956 he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship. He again returned to Europe in 1957, where he worked and studied for over a decade. He returned in 1968 to Australia taking a teaching position at the National Art School and also at the University of Sydney with Dr Lloyd Rees. Later he taught with Lorna Nimmo at the University of N.S.W. He has held many solo exhibitions and been the recipient of many awards.

Barker stayed with painting as his definitive crucible throughout his artistic life. He emulated the modernists that he appreciated and looked outward in his search for subject matter. Here he chose landscape and interiors (still life) as a suitable subject for his painting pursuits. This allowed him to apply the formal pictorial concerns, about painting, as demonstrated by Cézanne and other modernists.

Painting was an aesthetic and intellectual dialogue with the surface. Modern Art had established an acceptance of the flatness of the picture plane and the challenge was, for the painter, to animate this surface with deference to its flatness. Barker does this with a deft application of marks and colours, of spaces and gestures.   Formal pictorial elements, especially shape, line and colour, the composition, the structure and the playful representation of space all contributed to works that were defined more by their process than by the subject. Though these marks and gestures floated freely, there was an underlying structure that held it all together. Here he composed his painting with the same concerns of an architect, giving much consideration to structural and organisational strength.

In their quietest moments, Barker’s paintings offer us a refuge to contemplate. In a world of metadata, where all things collide, James Barker’s work is uncompromising in its deliberate singular focus. It draws one in to consider what a painting is, with its marks and its colours and how those thing suggest and define things that are known to us.

Dr. Ambrose Reisch

Catalogue Price List of James Barker Retrospective

 About James Barker

James Barker (b1931) Northwood - a bushy suburb of Sydney near the Lane Cove National Park.

Barker graduated from East Sydney Technical College in 1955. Fellow students in James’s year were a close knit group of artists which include Ron Lambert; Robin Lawrence; Georgina Worth; Barbara Holliday (Romalis);Wendy Learmonth; Didi (Diana) Vale-Brown.

Other students at East Sydney in the same period included Karen Oom ; Cam Sparks; Ursula Latham ( Laverty) and Elisabeth Cummings. Elisabeth was to join James in Florence some years later, where they were married and spent the ensuing years painting teaching and travelling throughout Europe.

During the period in Florence James and Elizabeth had a constant stream of visiting travellers from Australia many of them fellow art students from East Sydney. In late 1968 Elisabeth and James returned to Australia with their young son Damian, born in Florence just shortly prior to the historic and catastrophic floods of 1966.

Back in Australia, Elisabeth and James painted in and around Coal and Candle Creek, then after the commencement of the building of the “Mud Hut” at Wedderburn, Barker was very much inspired by the surrounding bush and the George’s river which was not far away. Barker painted the bush around Church Point and latterly around the southern banks of the Hawkesbury River around Brooklyn.

James Barker - CV

1931 - Born Sydney – educated Knox Grammar School; 1950-55 - Studied Design and Painting at East Sydney Technical College; Diploma in Fine Art (Painting) with Credit; 1952 - Travelled to Ceylon; 1955 - Travelled to Europe; 1956 - Awarded Fullbright Scholarship for further studies in USA; 1957-68 - Lived in Florence, Italy and travelled in Europe; Studied at the Accademia dei Belle Arti in Florence and with Kokoschka in Salzburg; Taught Higher Mathematics at Miss Barry’s American School, and English as a foreign language for the British Institute of Florence and the Universita Popolare; 1964 - Awarded the Premio S. Donnino for painting; 1966 - Opened own studio in Florence for the instruction of painting and drawing; 1968 - Returned to Australia; Taught at the National Art School, University of New South Wales under Miss Lorna Nimmo and the University of Sydney with Dr Lloyd Rees. Tutored for Adult Education and the Arts Council of Australia;

Exhibitions at the Macquarie Galleries, Woollahra Gallery, Painters Gallery - Sydney, Toorak Art Gallery – Melbourne as well as other shows in conjunction with his then wife Elisabeth Cummings at Orange, Berrima, Canberra and at the Blaxland Gallery – Sydney.

Awarded the Human Image Prize (Royal Easter Show), Fisher’s Ghost Prize Campbelltown, Leichhardt Prize (double first), Lismore Prize, Narrabri Prize, Berrima Prize, Nepean River Jubilee Prize, Portland Art Prize and the Camden Art Prize in 1976, 1979 and 1982


1964 - British Institute, Florence Italy; 1964 - Galleria F.G. (Jolly) Pistoia, Italy; 1972 - Toorak Art Gallery, Melbourne; 1972- Woollahra Art; 1972 - Raffin Art Gallery, Orange; 1973 - Oldbucks Gallery, Berrima; 1974 - Christopher Davis, Sydney; 1974 - Raffin Art Gallery, Orange; 1974 - Griffith Gallery, Canberra; 1982 - Painters Gallery; 1983 - Painters Gallery; 1985 - Painters Gallery; 1986 - Painters Gallery; 1988 - Painters Gallery; 1990 - Painters Gallery; 1994 - The Gallery Café, Annandale; 1994 - Weber’s (Group Exhibition) Paddington; 1995 - Hidden Valley Gallery; 1996 - Greenwich Galleries; 1996 - Southern Highlands Regional Gallery, Moss Vale; 2000 - Corridor Gallery Blackheath; 2000 - Marlene Antico Fine Arts Paddington; 2001 - Jill Goodwin Gallery Leichhardt; 2013 - Class of 1955 – Group Exhibition Stanley Street Gallery, Darlinghurst; 2015 - James Barker Retrospective, Stanley Street Gallery, Darlinghurst

Art Prizes

1964 - Primo S. Donnino for Painting; 1973 - Royal Easter Show – Human Image Prize – “Boys on Rocks”; 1973 - Campbelltown Art Prize – Still Life Section; 1974 - Leichhardt Art Prize – Two Firsts, “Literary Ladies” and “Landscape”; 1976 - Camden Art Prize – “Homage to Lorenzette”; 1977 - Berrima Blue Circle Art Prize – “The Only Green”; 1979 - Camden Art Prize – Local Section; 1979 - Narrabri Art Prize – “Fading Light”; 1979 - Nepean River Jubilee Art Prize – “Saplings”; 1980 - Portland Art Prize – Landscape#67”; 1982 - Camden Art Prize – “Variations around a Triangular Block”; 2000 - Fairfield Art Prize – “Splitting Up”


National Gallery of Victoria; Lismore Gallery; Narrabri Gallery; Camden Gallery; Berrima Gallery; Nepean River Council Collection; Portland Regional Collection; Bathurst Regional Collection; Artbank


Encyclopaedia of Australian Art – Alan McCulloch
Artists and Galleries of Australian – Max Germaine