Greg Barr – The Soul of an Artist

In 2015, Greg Barr was commissioned by the Nulsen Group to paint an artwork commemorating the ten year anniversary of the Nulsen Youth Patron Program at Hale. This year marks 15 years of that relationship and the first time Greg is exhibiting with Fine Art@Hale.
Kwilana 2020

As a proud Ballardong Noongar man, Greg’s artwork reflects both his Aboriginal culture and his effusive and warm personality.  Working mostly in acrylics, his paintings are vibrant with bold colours layered in an abstract style using both paintbrush and palette knife to create texture and movement.  Many of his works, including those in this year’s Fine Art@Hale exhibition, also include the Aboriginal dot painting style. With his art facilitator Susie Waller, Greg continues to experiment with various painting techniques including pouring, spraying, dry brushing, sponging and scratching.  He is also interested in experimenting further with woodworking and wood burning practices.

Greg’s creativity is natural and spontaneous, much like his initial interest in art.  Susie says Greg’s introduction to painting occurred years ago when he was picking up a fellow Nulsen resident and friend from the Victoria Park art centre.  He took one look inside and “that was it”.  He recalls his reaction: “I want to do that, nothing else.  I want to do the whole lot.” 

Greg Barr in his studio – Image courtesy of Susie Waller

The creative spark that was ignited during Greg’s first visit to the art centre has grown under Susie’s tutelage and advocacy.  He has had residencies in several art studios, including at the Fremantle Arts Centre and at David Giles’ studio, and recently moved into a shared studio space in the Bather’s Beach Art Precinct.  Greg participated in his first art show in 2011 and his involvement in exhibitions has now grown to around ten group exhibitions each year.  He has won multiple awards for his work at the annual As We Are Art Award exhibition which showcases artists who have an intellectual disability.  

Among the busy schedule of group exhibitions, Greg held his first solo exhibition in 2017, entitled The King of the Hearts at Moores Building Contemporary Art Gallery in Fremantle.  Like the title of many of his artworks, the name of his exhibition reflects both Greg’s sense of humour and his deepest values.  After much discussion, Susie says they came up with the name as a play on Greg referring to himself as the King of the House, and an expression of the essence of his work.  As he says, painting comes from his heart.  

Hilton 2020

Much of the inspiration for his art comes from Greg’s family.  The three pieces in this year’s Fine Art@Hale exhibition – Charles, David and Hilton – are named for three of his brothers.  Along with his painting and his family, Greg’s other passion is music and the proceeds from the sales of his artwork in this exhibition will go towards art supplies and a pair of wireless headphones “to take the music with me.”  Music is fundamental to Greg’s life and his artistic expression extends to playing the guitar and didgeridoo.  The latter has seen him involved in performing Welcome to Country at many events and joining the Noongar-led Walyalup Kannajil community choir. 

Future plans include a group exhibition at Heathcote Cultural Precinct’s Gallery next year and perhaps another solo exhibition in 2022.  Following on from the success he has enjoyed thus far, he says: “I don’t care about being a salesman.  I only care about the job that I want to do.”  That job has provided him with an outlet for his creativity and opportunities to share his warmth and natural exuberance with his artistic audience despite the challenges he faces.  In his words, “I’m a very, very brave soul.”

Greg at his studio in Bather’s Beach Art Precinct – Image courtesy of Susie Waller