26 May 1993

AIDS painter captures canvas of life

INSIDE SYDNEY: At 26, William Barber has already seen 130 friends and acquaintances die from AIDS.
Two years ago Barber himself discovered he had the virus - and tonight at Newtown's Bare Gallery he'll open his first exhibition of paintings and poetry which tell of his experience.
"I want to show that, even though you have a terminal illness, there's always the opportunity to do more," he said yesterday.
"My art is straight from the heart. When a friend dies, that's when I paint or write.
"Or sometimes I'll paint a friend who has just found out they're HIV - to catch them when they're happy and healthy."
Barber painted one work the day he found he was going to die. He called it Diagnosis. "A couple of days later I was so depressed I ripped it to pieces," he said. "Since then I've stuck it back together, to show I've felt that way but worked through it."
The show chronicles not only the human impact of the AIDS pandemic , but one man's efforts to come to terms with it.
"I've lost so many friends to AIDS, and this work is about them," he said.
"At least when I die, there'll be a record of how somebody felt as they went through it.
"But the main reason I'm having the exhibition is to show those people who've helped me out of the doldrums, that their support has paid dividends."
People like Sister Noelene White of the Good Shepherd Community at Kings Cross.
"William is a person who's confronting HIV," said White. "He hasn't given up on life.
"Instead he's made the courageous move to bring something positive out of his situation.
"He's using his experience to educate others. He addresses adolescents and helps them understand that people with HIV are, first and foremost, people."
Barber believes his exhibition of vivid, semi-abstract works is premature. But he realises time is not on his side.
"I always thought I'd be a serious artist when I was 50 or 60," he said. "Now I know I'm not going to have the chance to get to that stage.
"I don't want to make people accept me. I just want them to understand."
Caption: Illus: Fighting on ... Artist William Barber with his dog Monty in front of his painting Headspace. Picture by ANDREW MEARES
Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Publication date: 25-5-1993
Edition: Late
Page no: 2
Section: News and Features
Length: 480
First published in The Sydney Morning Herald

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