The artist’s bold paintings, which seize viewers’ attention, reflect a heightened aesthetic as Barkoff favors an intuitive response to the power of place, time, and conditions over fidelity to a specific scene.
“My paintings are neither realistic nor abstract,” Barkoff says. “Each is a multi-layered response to how I feel about nature. And while they may seem otherwise, the paintings do not depict a specific time or place, a patch of woods that someone could walk through. Except, perhaps, spiritually … My hope is to transcend the natural world by bringing to life something deeper and more elusive than outward appearances.”
Ultimately, the artist says, every landscape subject—a group of trees, a field, or any scene at a specific time of day—embodies something more than the physical and even atmospheric qualities of that landscape, something that becomes transcendent in the mind and emotions of the artist.
Barkoff says the image of that feeling “is the only thing worth putting into my paintings.”
Poet and art critic Peter Campion credits Barkoff’s method of working with amplifying the intensity of mood and meaning in these imagined landscapes.
Noting that Barkoff works almost entirely with palette knives, producing “heavier texture,” Campion praises the combination of physicality and freedom Barkoff experiences as he paints, a process the artist finds very emotional.
“You can see that emotion in a painting like ‘Turner Sky,’ where the exuberant application and the fast shifts in value and temperature recall the great English painter to whom the title pays homage,” Campion writes in an essay about Barkoff’s work.
“The emotive force of Barkoff’s work balances against, and gains strength from, his abiding love for the natural world,” Campion says. “He hasn’t painted en plein air in ten years. Still, he maintains his trust in his motifs, his belief that nature will reveal the most intense beauties, against which an artist must measure the truth of his work.”
Ultimately, Campion decides Barkoff isn’t an Abstract Expressionist hiding in the guise of an American landscape artist, or vice versa, saying, “He’s a painter for whom both traditions fuse, and this always shows in his work.”
Barkoff studied at Art Students League in New York City with Robert Brackman and Robert Beverly Hale, and holds a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from Pratt Institute.
He has exhibited widely at galleries in Connecticut, Massachusetts and beyond, as well as being chosen for many juried exhibitions. His work is in the collections of the Mattatuck Museum and New Britain Museum of American Art, among others, as well as attracting such corporate and private collectors as Pfizer Corporation, Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, and Nelson A. Rockefeller Jr. & Amy Taylor.
To see Ira Barkoff’s paintings, stop by the gallery at 149 Park Lane Road (Route 202) in New Milford, or call owner Greg Mullen at (860) 354-3436.