Nelson Mail

The chemistry of art

- Peter Gibbs

In the hills above Nelson, Nelson artist Barry Driver is practising a bit of alchemy.

In the basement, containers of glues and resins elbow for space with jars of home brew and feijoa wine. There’s a little blow-torch there too, for recalcitra­nt resins that may need to be moved around before they harden.

Driver is working on a series of pieces for his biggest solo show, Heart Songs, at the McKee Gallery in The Suter from

February 26. There are many steps to the process.

First there’s the process of creating the art. Over the last few decades, he has worked his way through water colours, acrylics and pastels. For his current work he uses the new medium of alcohol ink.

“I switched from using brushes to what I found to be more expressive tools, such as old credit cards, CDs and plastic rulers.”

Driver’s works are completely abstract. “I work standing up and from all sides, so the pieces don’t really have a ‘right way up’ other than what feels bestbalanc­ed.

Once the ink has dried, the paintings are varnished, then layered with resin, giving a glass-like surface.

in Control this part is of crucial the process. The surface must be completely flat to ensure a consistent thickness of resin. He checks with a spirit level and by rolling marbles. The temperatur­e in the room is controlled with a heater and a thermomete­r. He scours the room for spiders and flies and then restrict access while the resin cures.

“The title Heart Songs alludes to my realisatio­n that I produce my best work when I’m not actually trying – when I’ve managed to dumb down my judging,

careful mind and left my heart with the freedom simply to play.”

This emotional approach is seemingly at odds with his former career as an IT specialist.

He met his wife Karen in Hampshire in 1989, when they were working on airport backup systems at venues such as Birmingham and Heathrow.

Karen led the bid for a project at Hong Kong airport, then managed the project for several years. Driver was at the time working on projects in Macau and other airports across Asia as well as back in Britain. “We thought our lives were going to be spent in IT.” He started working on small paintings while Karen was on overseas projects. The Hong Kong job lasted five years. “The art was always in me, but it was only these periods of free time that allowed the ideas to flourish.” Feeling burned out, they decided to quit their jobs, thinking they’d get another in the same business when they were ready. That never happened. After years of travel all over the world, they made their home in New Zealand. In 2006, he approached Lloyd Harwood at Arts Council Nelson and became involved in the Art in Windows project, displaying his work at the Bernina Sewing Centre in Bridge St. Later he joined the Suter Art Society and became a member of the art@203 collective in Trafalgar St. In 2018, this group morphed into Wall to Wall Gallery in Bridge St, where Driver still shows his art His exhibition at the McKee Gallery will show his largest works yet.

Heart Songs, by Barry Driver. McKee Gallery in The Suter, February 26 to March 16.

 ?? ?? Nelson artist Barry Driver has an exhibition opening soon at the Suter.
Nelson artist Barry Driver has an exhibition opening soon at the Suter.

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