Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Art Pulls No Punches

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Art Pulls No Punches

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

If the painter Barnaby Furnas has his finger on the pulse of modern America, then it's a pretty alarming prospect ( but perhaps no more frightening than most of us might have imagined.

Bullets are captured mid-trajectory, blood at the moment of splatter. There are puffs of smoke, explosions and angular figures captured in positions of combat.

It's garish visual bedlam, with painted bullet holes as a finishing touch.

But for the country which gave us the American Civil War, John Wayne and the War on Terrorism, Furnas's paintings might appear to tell us no more than already suspected about a nation with the right to bear arms enshrined in its Constitution.

It is quite comforting to find that this particular American is mild-mannered and thoughtful. Reassuring also that he, for one, is not blind to the violence inherent in American society.

He is something of a rising star, signed up by a gallery before he graduated from art college and with plenty of admirers. All these paintings, which were first shown in London in September, are now owned by Europeans.

Currently, he is working on his first public commission, a 28ft by 12ft monster canvas to be hung in a foyer on Park Avenue in the powerful heart of New York's financial quarter.

Although he now lives in Brooklyn, he was born in Philadelphia into a Quaker family. His father had wanted to be an artist but had to settle for architecture which was deemed more suitable. His act of rebellion was to become a hippy.

Furnas grew up in a hippy commune in the decaying brownstone heart of a city which, during the Reagan years, lost its industry and its white, well-heeled middle class.

"I had this incredibly idyllic home life, but I'd go outside and all hell would be breaking loose.

"It was a totally black neighbourhood and there were a lot of guns. I became a graffiti writer and that was how I tried to fit in.

"I was in a state of rebellion from about 10-years-old, but I managed to get out of the city."

His parents, he says, "can't believe this work. They say, `Where did all this violence come from? …

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