Born in Jerusalem, Eli Barr travelled extensively throughout his youth; living and studying in Israel, Buenos Aires, and New York before settling in Toronto, Canada. After completing a degree in communication and graphic design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Barr worked in New York City, producing creative design for the firms of Donovan and Green and Mauro Filicori before eventually opening his own design firm, Barr Associates (later Design Barr Visual Communications) in Toronto. For nearly three decades, Barr collaborated with designers, photographers, writers, and illustrators to produce thoughtful, award-winning graphic design for many of Canada’s largest companies and institutions.
In 2009, Barr decided to explore his life-long passion for visual art that had always inspired his work in design and communications. After a year of formal training at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Barr entered the Toronto School of Art, where he studied with art instructor and former design collaborator Joe Fleming, who encouraged Barr to experiment with abstraction as a means of self-expression. This transformed Barr’s work, and recent paintings and multimedia pieces seek to incite rather than illustrate.
Although Barr’s current work is grounded in an ongoing engagement with the most fundamental elements of design, it is his playful resistance to the strict grammar of form and figure that renders Barr’s visual art so compelling. Barr's complexly layered and marked surfaces invite viewers to participate in the construction of the work’s meaning. Recent paintings and installations explore the extent to which our shared visual language may be stripped back to expose the processes of accretion, erosion, and transformation that lie at the core of the most human of our emotions and experiences, including memory, love, desire, fear, and selfhood.