Leonie Barton – Artist – An Audience of One

Leonie Barton subjected her body to such strenuous demands required to create her celebrated ephemeral installations – over the course of many years – she has been forced by physical necessity to leave the comfort of the known to introduce her new work ” An Audience of One”

We met for a chat at Sydney Road Gallery in Seaforth a few days before the opening.

This is Part 1 very much about where this work came from. There will be another post about how Leonie fought her way back to this place.

It’s a very inspiring story …

” I started my working life in film production …. my husband is a film editor so when we decided to have children one of us had to relinquish their role. I had always drawn …. maybe it was a refuge. I enjoyed and wanted to continue to do that. Going to Art School was not a possibility so I just did it.

I thought that art would be more available to me if I opened an Art Supply store, but I had to stop painting to run my shop six days a week. I sold my shop.

I travelled to a third world country …. it gave me some clear air to think …. was I being indulgent worrying about what people would think if I dared to put my art out into the world. I came back and took the leap and decided to do it any way. I decided to try and get work that was creatively related to my art practice, I would say yes to everything for a year and because of that, I started painting backgrounds for the Photographer Anne Geddes. It was a great experience, taught me lots. But the work still wasn’t me.

Things happened in life that forced me to look at things in a different way. At that time I was struggling with my drawing …. I came across another artist who was doing a project on the ephemeral and I thought that would be a good daily discipline for me. I am a control freak so this was good for me. I couldn’t control what I found or make it perfect, which was liberating, I could do it, walk away and it would disintergrate fall apart and I didn’t have to get attached to it.

I had to be accountable to that discipline though, so I started posting on social media. People started looking and wanting to buy the photographs. A group of walkers wanted to go and find the art everyday …. they would send me messages, asking are you going … you’re late … where are you going .. it was hilarious and great. I would do this work everywhere, Shanghai, the Sahara Dessert….. I started exhibiting …. I built my whole practice around this medium. I loved the discipline.

Life took another turn that made it impossible, physically, do that work. But I needed to do something creative so I had to figure out what that was going to be. Because at this time in my life I couldn’t sit for more than two hours at a time and then go and sleep for a few hours so I had to find something that would work within those parameters.

I got pretty hung up about it, which is stupid because it is such a privilege to paint. So I went to the studio and just painted whatever came out..for the sake of holding a tool in my hand and I released all of the expectation to the outcome and what anyone would think about the work and this is what came out.

Why the title ” An Audience of One ” ?

Because I painted it for me, I just turned up at the  studio to paint, to see what came …. it was a mission just going to the studio … its only twenty steps but it was big mission. I dropped all thoughts of others expectations, I got out of my own way and just went up to the studio and enjoyed it.

Sydney Road Gallery 

561 – 563 Sydney Road, Seaforth



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