I want my work to always be in flux-pushing me in different and new directions. I want to remain focused on abstraction, the process of interpretation and change. How one work affects the next and how my daily life is brought into them as my story and history. Paintings are like time capsules, each one a part of a personal journey.


My love for abstract painting goes back to before I began painting as a teenager; my earliest exposure was from a Life Magazine article on Pollack's paintings that left me spellbound; I was about ten years old. Later I had frequent visits to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to view the work of Modernists, Fauvists and regional painters. My first paintings and drawings were of abstracted landscapes, figures that often incorporated architecture. Painting for me has always been about how to approach and develop these things I was seeing into the conceptual and intuitive; moving between and around them or building upon a thesis.

The recent works are a synthesis, a bringing together of line, form and color to create a landscape / architectural hybrid that moves in and out of landscape. Often linear or intuitive but focused on the same conceptual foundation. Painted spontaneously I build my compositions from memory or earlier drawings, sketches, collages and paintings incorporating mathematical shapes and forms, the triangle, square, circle and forms built around those basics; components of architecture and habitat. I enjoy interacting with the surface of my work with scraping, carving out line and working with knife, brush and fingers, tools that bring me to a place that feels correct, complete and most important an excitement of the senses.


When I begin a painting I am rarely sure how it will resolve. It is in itself a part of a greater whole. That is; it has something in it of the work before it. In this I believe painting is like language and paintings like words, each making-up a kind of vocabulary whose meaning becomes clearer or at least more complete with each subsequent work.

My images are not of real places but of the imagined, felt or memorized-places of the mind, I like to think of them as magical and dream like aspects of the deeper mind and subconscious. However my work is not limited to making interesting or even thought provoking pictures, though I certainly hope they are. I am after all a painter; which means that paint itself is my medium of choice as opposed to other crafts. I find power and excitement in the medium and application, in the fluid to solid quality of the material. In glazing, scumbling, scratching, scraping and wiping away, in the laying down of veils of color and in the pure physical interplay between the canvas and myself.

Painting for me is like magic, what you see is not what you see. The closer you get to the surface the more the picture fades away and the more its just about paint. With all of it's beautiful blemishes, brush marks and hair's, bubbles, cracks, and studio detritus. Step a few feet back and you re-enter the place of the subconcious and of dreams.

Barry Masteller


Bridges and Echoes.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new   landscapes, but in having new eyes"
 Marcel Proust.

Nowhere one goes will one ever be away enough from wherever one was.
Robert Creeley

There's a place that I often find myself going to in my mind. I recall many years ago hearing of a story recited by a since forgotten sage, in it he was asked - why do we exist? - He replied "So that we can understand the meaning of the space between the bottom of our feet and the earth" I think about this often - the quote has always had meaning for me, in its ambiguity - the questions it proposes and its simple beauty. When I think about the world and my place in it I'm sometimes troubled for being human and forgetting about my place here - forgetting about the space between myself and my home - the earth - troubled at forgetting about how important this place is to our very survival, about the symbiosis between my life and the fragile life of the planet.

My influences are many - my earliest were Magellan and Custer, for me two polar opposites. Magellan was the first to successfully circumnavigate the earth by ship using the stars for navigation - opening a world of possibilities. Custer on the other hand set himself-up for destruction by his authoritarian attempts at destroying nature, its people and its balance. There are many painters I count as influential - Rembrandt, J.M.W.Turner, Monet, Van Gogh. yet the ones that have the deepest affect on me are those I call The Five - each from my parent's generation: de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Pollock, Cy Twombly, and Philip Guston.

I've been an abstract / landscape painter for as long as I recall - making some of my first paintings when I was a teenager. Studying and working in art restoration and conservation - my studio was divided between these two crafts. I spent a lot of time under the magnifying glasses looking at the worlds of the painters work that I specialized in - namely the California tonalists and realists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century's - in an effort to better understand their process and techniques - seeing their paintings in a micro / macro way.

I began a series of landscapes in the tonalist tradition. I thought of this work as my bridge and as an echo of another era while at the same time simultaneously working on my abstract work. I worked this way for many years. Later I discontinued doing art restoration and began to fold the painting concepts together in a kind of abstract / landscape hybrid. I moved my studio out of town to a rural oak covered landscape where I could better develop these paintings and get closer to the land; the rolling oak covered hills of my native California that I love.

Sometimes I like to get down as close to the surface of the ground as I can and still see it with my naked eye - take in the smells of damp grass and leaves, textures and colors - peeling back the layers. Aware that what I see is made up of over - lapping minuscule particles, atoms with orbiting electrons, neutrons - like solar systems, galaxies, universes repeated over and over in a kind of mobius strip of time. The micro / macro visualization in it all.

The space between the soles of my feet and the earth, the space between my retina and a distant star or galaxy are the same to me in that they're bridges of time - echoes of a past. The light that reaches my eye from a distant celestial body is reflected back to that body from my eyes, light that has traveled and will travel for hundreds of thousands of years even though the sources of that light may have disappeared long ago, perhaps my ancestors witnessed the same, sometimes I imagine that when one of them looked at the night sky and saw a distant star that the light reflected from the orbs of their eyes is traveling through space at light speed - a kind of time travel - even though their bodies are long gone.

Painting is my way of working through this process of thought - a connection to history, my humanity. For me it's a language; each mark, color and passage a letter in a personal alphabet, each painting a word in a sentence, all adding up to a story; a chronicle that has meaning with a beginning and an end; a testament to what I know, understand - and especially what I don't. The answers for me are in the doing not in the done - in the seeing - the bridges and the echoes of time - the space between the micro - macro, and in the search to understand the questions that can never be completely answered.
Barry Masteller

All text and images contained on this site copyright:  Barry Masteller 2022