Toward Trinity continues Chris Barnard’s personal and passionate exploration of the gap between the visible and invisible aspects of military representations and war time realities. Questioning the systems that celebrate destructive force and technological achievement, and the subversive measures used to eclipse the darker side of imperialist motives, Toward Trinity offers a fresh exploration of power and spectatorship. It is an examination of contemporary American culture - one that is increasingly in a state of militarization and perpetual war - questioning the underlying structures of power that are framing the discussion and our understanding of these issues. Barnard implicates the role of art and visual culture in the process of social conditioning, exposing strategies that paradoxically disguise while also disclosing information. Employing techniques and mechanisms inherent to different pictorial traditions, such as history painting (popularly utilized to glorify imperial conquests), American 19th-century landscape painting (used to invoke Manifest Destiny, an ideological dominion over the land), and European religious paintings (produced to convey reverence and incite obedience), Barnard’s new work addresses the contentious relationship between the veneration of the American military-industrial complex and the ecological damage and human suffering caused by it.
Formally, Barnard has been developing a style of painting that offers various levels of representation and abstraction; some are tightly rendered in a realist manner and others are painted more loosely with “painterly pixilation” and dripping striations that simultaneously hide the subjects as it reveals them. Using space, color and texture, he draws attention to issues of surface and substance—what is real, what is fabricated, and how media affect its interpretation. In the painting Holy Ghost, inspired by images culled from the public domain of a Reaper drone (a pilot-less war plane), Barnard offers a commentary on the stealthy and detached methods through which missiles are deployed in the “War on Terror”, yet also points out the publicly accessible mediums through which this information circulates. In other paintings based on photographs taken by the artist of vast desert landscapes and aircraft hangars, he brings into focus those over-shadowed or intentionally ignored aspects of military operations by juxtaposing clarity with abstraction.