Artist biography

English sculptor, draughtsman and printmaker. He studied at Luton College of Technology and Art from 1957 but abandoned the course, working instead on the assembly-line of the Vauxhall car factory in Luton for 18 months. The experience of helping to build beautiful, machine-made objects proved decisive on his choice of materials for his first sculptures in1962: leather and chrome-plated metal. Rather than simply taking things as he found them, however, Barker either commissioned fabricators to make them to his specifications, which aligned him with Pop art or had the original objects recast or resurfaced so that the sculptures became non-functional surrogates for them. The techniques and materials he employed, the almost heroic elevation of the commonplace, the humorous touches and the acceptance of the banal and the kitsch all contribute to the provocative originality of Barker's work of the 1960s.

Unusually receptive to varieties of modern art that looked very different from his own, Barker produced a number of works in honour of painters he admired, reshaping their typical motifs in terms of found objects. The sleek perfection of Barker's reflective surfaces served to dematerialise the physical attributes of the sculptures and exaggerated their impersonality, their ‘hands-off' quality, while paradoxically becoming the most overt signs of his trademark style. In 1987 Barker exhibited a selection of recent oil pastel portraits, many of them depicting artist friends, but the focus of his later work remained firmly on his cast sculptures and on an imaginative reworking of the still-life tradition.

Bibliography
Clive Barker (exh. cat., London, Hanover Gal., 1969)
Clive Barker Portraits (exh. cat., essay N. Lynton, London, N.P.G., 1987)
M. Livingstone: Pop Art: A Continuing History (London, 1990), pp. 168–72
A. Fermon and M. Livingstone: Clive Barker (in preparation)

MARCO LIVINGSTONE
10 December 2000

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