Phyllida Barlow; Research

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untitled: leaning fence, 2012

“Things aren’t just visual. They are sensations of physicality”.

– Phyllida Barlow in Modern Painters, Summer 2011

Another artist recommended to me during my tutorial; Phyllida Barlow’s work is something that seems to run parallel to my work, as she is more than obsessed with the materiality of the objects she uses. I have actually encountered her work recently, in the  2013 Venice Bienalle, but ironically did not find any interest in the work that she had shown. However, this piece really resonates within me. Similar in execution to mine, as well as the materials used, the work relies on the potential that the precarious structure has to fall, a minimalistic concept that is executed incredibly well here. The harsh geometric forms evoke something artificial, and the use of refined materials (the fence posts) reinforces this atmosphere; However, the way that the posts are arrayed in a form that elongates, references something natural ie a slug, lave flow, or the way that sand shifts down a mountain. This juxtaposition of harsh, cheap, artificial materials and natural forms creates an unsettling overall theme surrounding this work, and seems to tap into some dark recess of the mind, playing around with discomfort and our understandings of the world.

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Installation view: ‘Siege’, 2012

Again, we see another piece of work that looks both shoddy and poorly made, but within this lies it’s genius. The pieces are monumental, dwarfing those who walk up to it and view it, but as they are crafted from nothing more than humble materials, they have taken on another life as some form of ‘anti-monumental’, something which is a symbol of strength, but also showcasing it’s weak underbelly. The way that the structure seems to showcase it’s dark inner workings, but won’t allow us passage through it (on account of them being so tightly placed together), it creates a space in which one can experience only the outer areas of, we can peer and even reach inside of this space, but cannot immerse ourselves within it. Much like the way that we can only view a minute amount of another person’s inner thoughts and experiences, but cannot fully grasp and embrace them, as they are not our own. This is also an interesting concept within the work, as they are much like cityscapes; being man-made structures, but ones that only resemble certain aspects of our architecture; often not serving much purpose as a habitable building at all.

A monument to instability, a symbol of discord; these sculptures are truly beautiful.

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‘Sculptural Acts’, 2011

Another precarious sculpture, this one appearing much like an angular canopy, the standing metal rods like trees, and the cracked red slabs the foliage. It diminished light underneath the object, and reminds the viewer of a shelter, albeit a primal, primitive shelter, but a place where the fire is burning, and protection from outside forces is here. Again, we see the ‘shifting sand’ motif reappear, but the ‘top’ of this sculpture seems to reference a swamp far more, with the tips of the plants residing within just breaching into the light, and the long roots extending down into the darkness below. This is another enclosed space, one that we as humans instinctively look to in order to find comfort.

This recurring motif of ‘space and home’ seems to be underlying both this work, and the works that I am creating. Maybe I will have to research this as well?


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