Patrick Barrington obituary
My friend Patrick Barrington, who has died aged 88, was an electrical engineer whose great talent lay in painting, and whose work hangs in the national art gallery of Guyana, from where he hailed.
Among Patrick’s paintings at the gallery is the one for which he was best known, a Cubist-style self-portrait reflecting his love of Picasso. His work portrayed life as he was growing up in Guyana and before he settled in Britain: cane cutters, shanty town rooftops, proud women, exhausted women, and Guyana’s landscape.
Patrick was born in Georgetown, the capital of what was then British Guiana, as the oldest of nine siblings. His father, Jonas, was a policeman, and his mother, Victorine (nee Small), a seamstress. Even as a boy he “would paint for hours non-stop – all day and night,” said his brother Dennis. After studying at Cambridge Academy secondary school in Georgetown he joined a Saturday painting group run by local luminaries, and sold paintings to tourists before taking up a job as an art teacher at Eccles school in the bauxite-mining town of Mackenzie.
In the 1950s Patrick travelled to London with a scholarship from the Booker sugar company. He was enrolled at the Byam Shaw School of Art (now Central Saint Martins) but seldom went to class, tutoring other students instead. “It was just an excuse to come to London,” he said. “They couldn’t teach me anything.”
In those days he lived in Earls Court, and at the local West Indian Students’ Centre dance in 1958 he met Hanna Greenwood, a Viennese Jew who ran a script-editing service for the commercial television company Rediffusion. She had recently returned from a trip to British Guiana with the Communist party and, like Patrick, had a great interest in pushing for Guyanese independence. Thus began a 61-year, often quarrelsome, partnership. They married in 1967.
As he was unable to make a living through his painting, Patrick worked for most of his life in Britain as an electrical engineer – initially for a couple of engineering companies before settling down with British Telecom until retirement. Inevitably this reduced the amount of effort he could devote to painting, but he exhibited in the Royal Academy summer exhibitions in the 70s, and over the years he took on various foreign commissions for murals that were shipped abroad and lost to the public record, as he kept no details of them.
Apart from art, Patrick’s other big hobby was to build things from random materials while listening to the radio with his cat Felix – in this way he built a guitar and a violin as well as a sun hat from a cornflakes box.
Patrick and Hanna’s home in Battersea, south London, became a base for an eclectic set of visitors. Patrick loved to stay up all night with guests pulling on his pipe, arguing and roaring with laughter. He was interested in everything and everyone.
Hanna died in 2019. Patrick is survived by four of his siblings, Kenneth, Dennis, Vera and Toya.