Phyllida Barlow transforms everyday household materials into large-scale sculptural installations
Cutting, sawing, breaking, coiling, folding or covering: Barlow has been fascinated by the experience of handling materials since the late 1960s. Her work is playful and unwieldy, with layered surfaces and contrasting textures, often daubed or wrapped in bright colours. Her structures disobey the rules of gravity, balance and symmetry. They look as if they might collapse or tip over at any moment and challenge our expectations of beauty in sculpture.
Observation and drawing are key to Barlow’s process, but her intention is never simply to record the world around her. Barlow is interested in the act of remembering, and the details that are lost in the process. In her drawings and sculptures, real-world subjects become abstract versions of themselves. Her works seem to resemble houses, stages, awnings, and racks made strange. Barlow’s sculptures often reveal the means of their making, but her choice of materials can be deceptive. Sometimes wooden structures are covered with a thin layer of cement to appear heavier than they are. Colour is added using fabric, tape and construction foam alongside paint and dye.
For Barlow, ‘the sculptural object is restless and unpredictable in how it can use space. It is not necessarily a comfortable or comforting experience.’ Barlow’s sculptures interrupt and invade the space around them. They direct our movements and attention, encouraging us to look at things in new ways.
Phyllida Barlow was born in 1944 in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. She lives and works in London.
This display draws from ARTIST ROOMS, a touring collection of international modern and contemporary art. ARTIST ROOMS presents the work of individual artists in solo exhibitions. Its national programme reaches audiences across the UK and is developed through local partnerships. The ARTIST ROOMS programme and collection is managed by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland with the support of Art Fund, Henry Moore Foundation and using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Creative Scotland. Its founding collection was established through The d’Offay Donation in 2008 with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund and the Scottish and British Governments.
The ARTIST ROOMS Gallery opened in the Blavatnik Building on 17 June 2016 with an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois, followed by Bruce Nauman in 2017 and Jenny Holzer in 2018 and Ed Ruscha in 2019.