EXETER, UK.- SCAPE is a site-specific installation at spacex by Phyllida Barlow, incorporating fifteen new sculptural works that will exist for the period of the exhibition only. The materials employed are basic and everyday; wood, cloth, cardboard, wool, household paint; and there is no attempt to disguise their rudimentary function in the construction of the completed works. The emphasis is upon structure and form in space.
The installation is constructed around two project spaces at spacex; one a large light-filled hall with three tall windows, the other an enclosed ‘white cube’ without any natural light. Thus the installation is divided into two parts, light and dark, open and enclosed spaces.
The physical presence of Phyllida Barlow’s art-work directly address the body. Sometimes these ‘relational objects’ suggest architectural associations, such as staircases, platforms, walls or barriers. At other times, references to the work of favourite artists, such as Louise Bourgeois or Eva Hesse, seem apparent. There is an emphasis upon colour, and references to painterly abstraction. However there is also a continual narrative in relation to the human body, both in terms of the visual form of the sculpture and the sheer mass and volume of the work in relation to the body of the viewer.
At the same time, these sculptures seem to attempt to exist as ‘autonomous’ art objects, ‘things-in-themselves’, at home in the space of art, in defiance of the prevailing model of the ‘artwork-as-text’ that exists only in the matrix of critical discourse and as a referent to a wider social context. Thus the work appears to embody a contradiction, existing as it does somewhere between the autonomous and the associative.
Phyllida Barlow was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1944. She lives and works in London and is Professor or Fine Art at the Slade School, University of London. In 2005 she has had one-person exhibitions at BALTIC, Gateshead, and Bloomberg SPACE, London. Her work is presented courtesy of Program, London.
A monograph, Objects for… and other things, was published in 2004 by Black Dog Publishing and is available from the bookshop.