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RObert BArr Att

NEW FROM THE STUDIO presented by stonington gallery


Robert Barratt:

New from the Studio Robert Barratt (Non-Indigenous) began carving in 1998 under the tutelage of Nisga’a master carver Norman Tait and his partner, Lucinda Turner. Barratt has also assisted Tlingit master carver Israel Shotridge in the completion of several smaller totem poles, and Chief Tony Hunt (Kwaguilth) in the repair and restoration of the 12’ Haida style totem pole at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. Barratt spent the summer of ’04 in Ketchikan, Alaska, working on a 40’ totem pole with Israel Shotridge. At the potlatch for the pole raising, Robert was given the Tlingit name, Kaa yakgwaheiyagh K’aa a yax Kach’aak’u, which means “Spirit Carver”. “For me, the compelling appeal of the Nisga’a style is its paradoxical capacity to express power and mystery,’ says Barratt, “with that ‘elegant’ and ‘expressive’ beauty. Working with a Nisga’a Master Carver like Norman Tait has resulted in a natural desire to emulate both his techniques and his style. The techniques are forever, but I have also evolved a style of my own. I endeavor nonetheless to handle traditional pieces with a reverent adherence to the principles passed on to me by Norman and Lucinda. This approach has also been reinforced by all the other great teachers I have had the good fortune to work with.” Stonington Gallery is proud to present an exhibit of select works from the artist’s archive, as well as brand new sculpture from 2014. Some of these sculptures had been on Barratt’s work bench for a number of years, awaiting the final touch or new inspiration to complete their journey to fruition. Within this catalog Barratt describes his process, and how these works came to life.


A Creative Surge by robert barratt

“Several months ago the gallery called to let me know that a particular piece had just sold. A few days later they called again as a client had come in asking for that same piece. Did I have another such piece? they wondered. I replied that I did not, but I mentioned that I had many pieces all ‘roughed out’ and ready for a burst of creative energy. That conversation led to the photo of piled potential (above) and the gallery’s request for a show in August featuring this impending surge of creative output. This all begs the question: how does it happen that an artist can have such a mass of pent-up possibilities waiting for artistic energy? That’s what I’ll answer in the following pages.”


“This is a brown bear mask in the Tlingit style, inspired by the familiar stories on the Northwest Coast of a young high-ranking woman who marries a bear chief and gives birth to two sons. Here, her sons are depicted in human form in the bear mother’s ears.”

Brown Bear Mother Mask 12” x 8 ½” x 4 ¼” Alder, Copper, Mother of Pearl, Paua shell Pigments


“When I learned to carve with Nisga’a master carver Norman Tait and his partner, Lucinda Turner, the first piece I carved was a moon mask. It is one of Norman’s trademark pieces and so for me it is like familiar comfort food. No matter how big or how small, it always generates a warm carving experience.”

MOON MASK 7” x 6 ¾” x 3 ¼” Alder, Paint


“This comb was inspired by a comb from the 19th century that was a part of the Dundas collection of Tsimshian art work depicted in the excellent book, Tsimshian Treasures: the Remarkable Journey of the Dundas Collection. While creation is the joy for every artist, there is something mystical about following a predecessor’s creative path from time to time. In many ways, it is like having a silent teacher. The back side of the this comb is my own design honouring wolf. I am often inspired by a beautiful piece in one of the many wonderful books on Northwest coast native art. I will often undertake such pieces more to test my carving mettle and to let my mind, eye and tools follow the footsteps of some long ago master than with any intent of a gallery piece. In this case, it was a comb from the Dundas collection. I pushed it with the addition of paua shell and felt compelled to do a design of my own on the back and then carve one completely on my own.”

traditional style shaman comb (thunderbird & wolf) 5” x 3” x .38” Alder, paua shell


traditional style shaman comb (bear & abstract eagle) 4.63” x 2.5” x .25” Alder, paua shell


“Carving one comb made it clear just how ideal its dimensions are for challenging one’s design, composition and carving skills! So I immediately carved a second one with an ‘abstract’ Eagle and a more familiar traditional box design of a bear. One can only hope that such combs come back in to fashion as they are fun to carve!”


“The Halibut is, for lack of a better word, an ‘undignified’ looking fish with vacant looking eyes pushed over to one side of its face so it can look up from its bottom dwelling. Nevertheless, it is and always has been one of the most important food sources on the Northwest coast. So while it is fairly depicted with its characteristic face, it is graced with the formline detail of a Sea Eagle and a Sea Raven, both of which are the ocean kingdom version of their land/sky counterparts. The human spirit form of the Halibut is evident in the hump at the base of its tail. I love halibut so I have no problem spending the time that all the detail and inlay demand! Sometimes, I find a perfect piece of alder that splits so cleanly I have two, rather than just one, piece ready for the carving I had in mind. In those cases, I will go ahead and rough out both of them. This will give me obvious economy of effort, but there is also the chance to practice and refine the techniques for that particular piece. It does mean, however, that one piece goes first and the other must wait until it’s mate has found a happy home. The advantage of that patience is that the second piece is generally the beneficiary of those creative, “next time, I’m gonna…” thoughts familiar to any artist.” HALIBUT BOWL 18” x 11” x 5 ¼” Alder, Paua shell, Mother of Pearl


“The salmon trout head was described by Bill Reid in a lecture on formline design as “a very abstract version of a human face in profile.” It is a fundamental element in Northwest coast formline design and it is the one which lies at the heart of and facilitates the portrayal of almost any creature face in profile. I have carved many mussel rattles but I return again and again drawn by the beautiful lines, the tactile shape, the space for design and, above all, the challenge and reward of the inlaid border. Sometimes it is not just about the carving, it can also be the challenge of its ‘adornment’. The appeal of the mussel rattle form is its beautiful curves and sensuous shape. It wants to be picked up, held and shaken. It also lends itself to an endless array of design possibilities, but the biggest attraction for me as a carver is the fun of dumping all my paua shell pieces onto the desk like jumbled jig saw puzzle pieces (above) and hunting for the ones that will make that beautiful band of blues that encircle the rattle.” SALMON TROUT HEAD MUSSEL RATTLE 7” x 3” 2 5/8” Alder, Paua shell, Paint, Pigments


“I have been teaching carving for almost as many years as I have been carving and the piece I use to introduce students to carving is a northern style warrior/portrait mask. I almost always carve a mask along with the students to serve as both a demo piece and a deterrent to students trying to get their own piece carved as the demo! I generally use the least attractive piece of wood, but every once in a while all the wood is perfect and I feel compelled to take it all the way to the gallery.” Bashful Crow Portrait/Warrior Mask Alder, Pigments 10.75”h x 9.5”w x 5”d


Fly Away Home


“In his essay in the book Boxes and Bowls, Bill Holm wrote this about feast dishes: “Their utilitarian roles,…were overshadowed by the subtleties of structural form, the richness of surface carving or the strength of sculptural detail. Function, form, and decoration come together in pieces of aesthetic merit that express the strength and life of a rich culture.” Those subtle compound curves and the spaces for sculptural detail drew me to these feast dish pieces. It is hard for me to conceive of those wonderful shapes as anything other than elegant artworks!”

feast dish 3.5”h x 10”w x 8.25”d Alder, opercula, Pigments


Bear Feast Dish Alder, Opercula, Abalone, Pigments 4.6”h x 24”w x 11.25”d


“I generally try to carve my ‘rounded’ bowls in a distinctly oval shape to avoid the assumption that it was turned on a lathe. Though hand carved, this piece of alder yielded a bowl almost round in shape. That lent itself to the symmetrical ‘in the round’ formline design as well as the chance to do a curved lid using a small moon mask design to top the whole thing off.”

Moon Bowl Alder, Abalone 5.5”h x 5”w x 5”d


Killerwhale Bulge Bowl Alder, Abalone 7”h x 11”w x 5”d


Sun/Moon Rattle Copper, Pigments 10.75”h x 5”w x 5”d


“A couple of years ago I was given an opportunity to replicate a Haida globular rattle from the mid 1800’s. I savoured every square inch of the original with my eyes and hands for the time that it was in my possession and I reveled in the almost spiritual act of replication. Duly inspired, the shark rattle was one of several rattles I carved after this experience, proving that a master and a masterpiece from the past can still teach and inspire in the present!” Shark Rattle Alder, Pigments, Metal Stand 10”h x 5.5”w x 4”d


While almost all of the bowls of this shape and design were steamed bent corner bowls made from red or yellow cedar, some were carved out of hardwoods like alder or maple to mimic those bent corner pieces. This bowl is an example of the latter. Their appeal for me as always, is the flow of the compound curves and those surfaces begging to be carved with formline design.

Frog Bulge Bowl Alder, Abalone 6.5�h x 13.25�w x 8.5�d


Stonington Gallery 125 South Jackson St Seattle, WA 98104 206.405.4040 art@stoningtongallery.com www.stoningtongallery.com All Work by Robert Barratt Catalog Design: Sarra Scherb Š 2014 Stonington Gallery


www.stoningtongallery.com

Robert Barratt - New From the Studio  

(c) Stonington Gallery & Robert Barratt 2014 Exhibit of New Works

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