This portrait was made in one ‘last sitting’ in my studio in 2013, just as Barrie was leaving Co Sligo for good. He had lived and worked there since the beginning of the 1990s. It was a painter’s farewell. We were colleagues, friends, and, for sixteen years, close neighbours. He died soon after, in March 2014. This last sitting was full of awareness that the end of his road was approaching. Without sentimentality, there was an urgency to the encounter and to the work. That sense of ‘meeting’ and trying to hold energy in paint, absorbs me most in portraiture and in painting.
His spirits lifted for that last day in my Sligo studio and he reflected on the odd lives of painters. When done; full of mischief, he teased me about problems in the background of the painting, and my principled refusal to alter work once the sitting was over. To his surprise, I handed him the brush and told him to fix it. With eager joy and laughter he made a small change. Then again, after he died, with him in mind, I made another minor alteration to the background.