If you are one of my weekly blog followers, you will know that I feature an artist on the first Sunday of every month. To date these artists have been people I know or have met on the exhibition circuit, but this week I want to share something a bit closer to home and far more personal.
Let me give you some background.
Again, if you know or follow me you will know that my parents were both fantastic artists. They met when they were both studying at Hornsey College of Art in North London. Whilst there they made a number of friends one of whom was Barry Owen Jones. My mother was friends with his wife’s family for many years prior to attending Hornsey and was responsible for introducing Barry to his wife. I only found this out recently.
The family relationship actually went further back to my grandparents being very good friends with Barry’s wife’s parents.
As a child my grandparents would take me on holiday to Guernsey to stay with Barry’s wife’s family who ran a delightful little hotel on the island, and I have been left with the most wonderful and treasured memories of my many visits.
Last summer I phoned Barry to tell him that Mr. S and I were planning to visit the island and that I wanted to see him and his current artworks. We had a lovely long chat about family and stuff, and I said I would phone him once we had arrived.
For a number of reasons, we were not able to make it last year (life in my house gets pretty crazy at times) but Mr. S booked for us to go this year instead.
Once on Guernsey the first thing we did was to visit The Coach House Gallery – a wonderful art gallery and working space for artists – of which Barry was a co-founder. It is a delightful gallery with a constantly changing collection of fabulous artworks some by islanders and others by artists from all over the world.
On arrival I asked if Barry was on site, only to be told that he had died last year. I was devastated. I had no idea. His wife hadn’t been able to reach us by phone – our fault as we always forget to put the answerphone on – and she would have had enough on her plate without having to keep trying, so we didn’t get to find out.
I hadn’t seen Barry for possibly 40 years, and you would think that after such a long time I would not have been particularly affected but I was, and as I said I was absolutely devastated. Even writing this now I keep welling-up.
I remember him, as does my father, as being a lovely, soft, kind and gentle person. To have missed a chance to chat with him again has left a huge hole, so I thought that I would take this opportunity to share a little bit more about him.
Barry was born in England and was evacuated to Wales during World War II. After the war he returned to London and was educated at Barnet Grammar School. He then went on to study at Hornsey after which he worked in advertising and publishing before moving with his wife and family to live with his wife’s mother and take on the running of the Guernsey hotel in 1974.
He began painting and etching once on Guernsey and in 1975 he founded the Coach House Gallery there.
In 1982 Barry was elected a fellow of the RE [The Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE), known until 1991 as the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers] and an associate of the RWS [Royal Watercolour Society] with full membership being granted in 1986.
Barry exhibited regularly at the Bankside Gallery, another wonderful gallery located next to the Tate Modern in London, with the RE and RWS, and his work is in permanent collections all over the world but also in the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery and the South London Art Gallery. I am also the very lucky owner of three of his beautiful works – all etchings with aquatint.
I wanted to pay homage to this incredibly talented man who through his amazing artwork will never be forgotten. Personally, I have my lovely memories of him and his family and three wonderful pieces of his artwork. I only wish I had more.
This has been the most difficult blog for me to write due to the emotional attachment I felt for him and his family and because I wanted to ensure that not only were my facts correct but that I didn’t overshare information about him and his family.
One lovely little titbit which I am sure Barry would be happy for me to share with you, is about his father. If you are old enough and live in the UK, I am sure that you will remember the Quality Street Sweet tins that were decorated with drawings of ladies in crinoline dresses and gentlemen suitors. Barry’s father produced that wonderful design which was used for quite a few decades. The artistic talent definitely ran in his family.
R.I.P. Barry Owen Jones (1934 – 2018)