Barrington Tobin

Barrington Tobin was born in Hampstead, London and trained at Putney School of Art. Prior to working as an artist he was a specialist in early and contemporary music and the tonality of his painting and mark making reflects this. The relationship between painting and music has always fascinated Tobin and he sees great music, architecture and painting as sharing the same vital and spiritual source. Harmony and counterpoint, and the compositional techniques of the early polyphonists have been enriching - if intangible - influences. Working on several paintings simultaneously allows Tobin to tap into this quality of multi-vocality. The life of colour, its vibrations and emotional impact, has grown from his earlier engagement with sound.

Tobin's work often reveals an adherence to a series of recurring motifs. The spherical form, or the 'orb', operates on many levels in his painting. It offers dynamic geometric possibilities, containing and releasing space and potential energies, and acts as a portal for an exploration of the numinous. The orb is a vital form and presence in Tobin's work; sometimes visually manifest whilst at other times lost in the process of painting. It presents itself as the painting's sealing figure of completion, in a sense its signature.

 

A decade living in Bath was the catalyst for Tobin to begin printmaking and he produced a series of works inspired by the spa town and the defining element of water at its centre, as well as its connection to Roman history. His work was also responsive to the landscapes he experienced on long walks through the South West of England and Cornwall. Walking through the landscape gave him a 'store' of material he would translate into form, line and colour. In 2016 the award-winning filmmaker Mike Southon made the documentary Concord, which unfolds the meaning and inspiration behind Tobin's paintings and his striving for harmony and balance.

 

In recent years, two new interests have appeared in his work. The first is alchemical and involves the notion of The Winnower, who separates gold from lead, a process that is also a metaphor for the making of art. The second is Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, the reading of which inspired Tobin to make a series of 12 oil and 12 pastel paintings responding to Orpheus's quest into the visible and invisible, the unknown and the known. This investigation culminated in an exhibition in 2018 curated by Prof Frances Spalding in Cambridge.

 

Tobin's work has been exhibited widely in the UK, Europe and America and is held in private and public collections.