HealHealing has been a central theme for Barker for many years. Along with his under-recognised social responsiveness this can be seen very clearly in The Bees, the Beekeeper, the Children and the Artist (2007-2008). Submitted as his work as a finalist in the Sasol Wax Awards (won in that year by Walter Oltman) the final work presented was underpinned by a complex process of collaboration and community engagement that would have ramifications lasting long beyond the duration of the exhibition of the works.

Beginning with a workshop with underprivileged kids that Barker encountered in Troyeville he had the children trace their hands (and other symbolic drawings produced) on pieces of paper. These drawings were then taken into the field with a beekeeper and the children cut the traced images out of active combs and then replaced them in the hives. Over the weeks the bees worked to rebuild the missing areas of their hives but the scar made by the incision led to the new area formed on the comb being constructed from wax cells of a different colour and texture to the original. Clearly referencing the legacy of damage and the process of healing, the reformed hives became an integral part of multi-media panels that Barker created as a series.

Image: Heal (English) | 2007 | beeswax, paraffin wax, oil paint, neon tubing, paper | 140 x 80 cm

(published in the catalogue ‘Super Boring’, page 42)

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