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Meet: David Barnett

A person's open palms with Caring written in block capitals across the centre
  • Written byEleanor Harvey
  • Published date14 April 2022
A person's open palms with Caring written in block capitals across the centre
Caring, David Barnett

Artist David Barnett explores the human condition in his photographs. His ongoing project Written on Skin/ Skin places people of different skin types, sexualities and genders at the centre of his work to search the human condition.

A graduate from Chelsea College of Arts, UAL with a Certificate in Spatial Design, he’s also published 2 novels and is currently working on his third.

He spoke to us about his varied career since graduating, and the importance of love within his work.

Photo of David - wearing a white vest and long chain necklace
David Barnett

Can you tell us a bit about your experience of studying at Chelsea? What were some of the highlights?

Becoming a student at Chelsea College was exhilarating! I had completed my first novel, An Alien by Circumstance (which was discussed on BBC Radio), and was searching for a new creative challenge. After a period of searching, I came across the Certificate in Spatial Design and knew, on an intuitive level, that this was the next step for me.

As an artist, I also explored photography during my undergraduate degree years, and this became integral to my way of working as a Designer. Being in the studio gave me the opportunity to develop my technical drawing skills under the excellent eye of one of our tutors. At times the briefs were extremely demanding on my time, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of growing in my practice. One of the unexpected highlights of the course for me was having the opportunity to visit historic sights (which I hadn’t known about) such as the Soane Museum, as part of our Art History module. The tutor brought great passion to these visits, and this energy was inspirational. It is this that we as creatives can gift to the world.

Why did you choose to study at Chelsea?

At the time that I applied to study at Chelsea, I was living in Cambridge and knew that I wanted to study in London. Having trained to become a teacher at the Institute of Education earlier on in my career I knew that London was somewhere I wanted to return to and wanted a college with a great reputation. Chelsea was a natural choice.

A man's bare chest with Diversity written in block capitals
Diversity, David Barnett

What have you been up to since graduating?

Since graduating I have published a second novel The Darlings of Soho, which uses my experience at Chelsea as the backdrop. As I write literary fiction the details are extremely important as you want your readers to be transported and to believe in the world that you have painted for them. In my course, the mantra that I took away was that ‘God is in the detail’. My career path has not been a straight one, but it has been hugely rewarding.

The sole of a foot with Kind written in block capitals down the length
Kind, David Barnett

You have an ongoing project Written on Skin/Skin. How did this project start? Can you tell us more about it?

I went on to develop my photographic projects alongside my writing and this culminated in my ongoing project, Written on Skin. I feel that we as artists can use our work to connect with others. Through our relationships, our ways of seeing, our ways of being. It's the beauty that is within our diversity that I explore and celebrate throughout my body of work.

Written on Skin/Skin takes different skin types, sexualities, and genders as a further exploration of our humanity. It's this part of the human experience that is at the heart, at the core of my work. Part 1 Skin was exhibited at the Arts Gallery Cambridge. Part 2, Written on Skin has recently been exhibited at the Brick Lane Gallery, as part of a group show and in a response to COVID and current global disharmony. Signs that humankind has yet to appreciate the importance of compassion and regard for all of life.

Words have been written on the skin as slogans to signify the connection that we all ultimately share, something that people can feel removed from when they prioritise money and technology. How might things change if we prioritised kindness and compassion? The project explores the one thing that is at the core of our very essence …LOVE.

A person's open palms with Love written in block capitals across the centre
Love, David Barnett

What else do you have planned?

Currently, I am looking for a publisher for my third novel, A Crazy Beautiful Life, which continues my exploration of love and the relationships that we make with others and with ourselves.

I recently finished an exhibition at MADS Gallery in Milan, and I’ve been offered the opportunity to show my work in Barcelona with the same gallery at the end of the year. So watch this space!

How can people see your work?

You can see recent images of my work if you'd like to explore my work further.

My novels are also available on Amazon; An Alien by Circumstance and The Darlings of Soho.

Follow me on Instagram: @davidbarnett31