The Cross Art Projects. Artist Exhibition, Debra Phillips, A talker’s echo. 2023

Slim Barrie: Every Work A Masterpiece. Curator Peter Fay — 4 to 13 December 2003

Curator: Peter Fay

Slim Barrie, an artist in his sixties, was born and lived in the Riverina until 1997 when he moved to Lakes Entrance in Victoria. Slim and his mother Neta were a well-known duo on the Riverina Country and Western circuit, writing and recording their own songs.

In 2000 the son of artist and educator Nigel Lendon spotted Slim’s jewel-and-trinket encrusted cardboard boat in an op-shop at Lakes Entrance. Nigel alerted Peter Fay, an artist and collector with a keen eye for outsider art. Championing Slim’s work transformed Peter into a distinctive independent curator. Fay’s passionate proposition is that social context can work against serious reception of the work and avant-garde artists may well find inspiration from outsiders.

Over the next three years Fay curated several solo shows in Sydney, Canberra and Wellington, NZ. Slim was both a feature artist and opening performer for the National Gallery of Australia exhibition Home Sweet Home: Works from the Peter Fay Collection (in Canberra until 18 January 2004 and then travelling).

Many of his works in these exhibitions have autobiographical references, depicting the musicians and band members from Slim’s singing career and, most poignantly, commemorating his mother’s life. Slim’s early boats, a response to the excitement of moving from the inland to the coast and seeing the sea for the first time, were made to float, but became ‘masterworks’ for exhibition. These fantastically painted boats are then decorated with figures, trinkets and memorabilia.

The Cross Art Projects, Artist Exhibition. But Is It Art? — 7 to 29 November 2003

While Slim has always worked in a range of media (including pokerwork and carved ostrich eggs) and themes (also his observations on birds and bush), his free-standing piled-up cardboard assemblages are totemic, a response to the material. Assemblage remains the consistent feature of all his works whether decorative or minimal, figurative or non-figurative. These days Slim calls each work a masterpiece.

Through these works Slim tells the story of his creativity and transforms the forms and structures of objects and paintings into his own autobiography. Of his own thoughts on Barrie, Fay says ‘What I saw in Slim was a man whose life contains one thing and that’s art. There’s nothing else’.

Home Sweet Home: works from the Peter Fay collection at National Gallery of Australia.
11 October – 18 January 2004. Images of the works, along with audio excerpts from the interview and transcriptions are all available below.