At the Galerie Clementine de la Féronnière, on the sidelines of his exhibition Colors, June 7, James Barnor celebrated his 90th birthday surrounded by his family, his friends, and some of his admirers, such as myself. What an emotion to see this artist of a rare sensitivity, simply and naturally enjoy the feast that was offered to him, both to celebrate his age, as well as his magnificent talent.
This past moment immediately reminded me of those we experienced with another great artist, Saul Leiter, when he was over 80 and the recognition of his genius came to touch him after 60 years of total anonymity. Even the easy and benevolent touch, the charm of an artist whose new recognition, certainly too late, does not change the amused and positive look they have on the world. Positive view but not fooled by the comedy played by the art market that has long ignored them. With this incredible youth of mind, there is something of Michel Serres in this old African sage, positive philosopher turned to the futur, as there was in Saul Leiter old Jewish New Yorker in love with his city and his time. No nostalgia, no bitterness, no lessons to give, no revenge to take despite years without the same success.
The work of James Barnor is fantastic because, although deeply rooted in his African culture, he is the very expression of the universal richness that the art of photography can offer. His portraits of man and woman, whatever their origins, speak of Man and his humanity with the eye of a Ghanaian artist who has lived a huge part of his life between his country and London. He has a frontal and essential look, without wanting to over-express the intimacy he perceives in his models. If great artists are those who can convey with simplicity what is most universal in all of us, James Barnor is certainly one of them.
It is always difficult to express what one feels in front of a work that touches you intimately, so the best advice I can give you is to run to discover his photos presented in this exhibition that ends on June 20th. The anniversary will be over, James Barnor will most likely be absent, but his beautiful works in color will always be hanging on the walls to move you.
Galerie Clémentine de la Féronniere
51, rue saint-Louis-en-l’île, 2e cour,