Pat Synge sets the scene
Hi Pat (Synge): Having read your comment in the Barneylog I see that you mention you were living in/on Portobello when 307 was humming. I asked Reb ‘n Mike gave to give me your code, so I presumptuously ask if you have any first hand Barney recollections or comment on his work and his wonders in the deep thereof. Help us recall the old dude in all ll his quirky wonder.
Hi David: I was just out of art school (18) and had a photo darkroom in the basement at 307 for a time (must have been in ’69). I lived just the other side of the bridge in a room above an Indian shop where all the other rooms were lived in/used by prostitutes. They were very kind to the young hippy in their midst. I was a budding photographer but, in reality, was mainly printing Eric Hayes’ work. I took some photos of Quintessence for Barney (they used to practice in the other half of the basement which was far from ideal) which he credited to Pat Mescal for some reason.
Barney was always much in demand and under pressure to not only produce art work but to give of himself. Everybody wanted part of him. I remember feeling that his generosity was being taken advantage of but that may have just been an impression. Certainly the house upstairs was a confusion and procession of people crashing, using the phone freely and generally making themselves at home. Great atmosphere in general but sometimes I felt that Barney was being overrun and that all he really wanted was his studio and good company.
I couldn’t handle it all and left London (’70?) (Phil Franks took over the ‘White Light’ darkroom) and went to live in N. Wales with Giana (and Hazelberry – the tripped out red setter). She returned to London and Barney (’71?) before they moved to west country just after Aten was born. I remember driving them there in my old Kombi. Barney and I remained friends throughout though it was complicated somewhat by the triangular relationship and the chemically induced confusion of the times. I was very saddened (but not really surprised) when I learnt of Barney’s suicide.
I left UK and went off ocean sailing in the early seventies but did catch up with Barney when I visited London in 75 (?) when he confided interesting details about his ‘work’ in Ireland. I now live in Tasmania and that period in my life seems so distant.
I came across some letters from him not so long ago (that had been in my parents’ house for decades and were sent to me when the house was sold) and was surprised to learn that he had wanted me to be Aten’s godfather (I must have known but, like so many things back then, it didn’t register). This led me to do some searching and made contact with Aten through Facebook and then through him contacted Giana. Next time I’m in the UK (?) I look forward to catching up with them.
Admiration, respect, love, an element of sadness and sometimes frustration are the sentiments that come to me when thinking of him. He was one of the best and touched and inspired many of us in so many ways.
Regards, Pat Synge