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Phyllida Barlow: Untitled:squatboulder, 2014; Untitled:triplestackboulders

Upper Lake

British sculptor Phyllida Barlow has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally, and represents Britain in the 2017 Venice Biennale. Alongside her artistic practice, she has had an important influence on younger generations of artists through over 40 years of teaching in London art schools.

Commonly known for her colossal sculptural projects, Barlow uses 'a distinctive vocabulary of inexpensive materials such as plywood, cardboard, plaster, cement, fabric and paint' to create striking sculptures.

Since the late 1960s, Barlow has developed a sculptural practice that is grounded in an anti-monumental tradition. Her often brightly coloured sculptures are made of readily available materials such as cardboard, cement and plaster, polystyrene, timber and paint. These inexpensive materials are then transformed through layering, accumulation and careful combination to create large-scale pieces.

“Obtrusive and invasive, Barlow’s large-scale sculptural objects are frequently arranged in complex installations in which mass and volume seem to be at odds with the space around them. Their role is restless and unpredictable: they block, interrupt, intervene, straddle and perch, both dictating and challenging the experience of viewing.” Her constructions are often crudely painted in industrial or synthetic colours, resulting in abstract, seemingly unstable forms. 

Although at first glance Untitled:squatboulder, 2014 and Untitled:triplestackboulders, 2014 appear as large stones, looking closer reveals Barlow’s characteristic fusion of man-made materials. The works reference the darker side of rural life, the industrialisation of the landscape and social effects of urban migration in English history. 

Untitled:triplestackboulders, 2014 is mounted on castors, which adds to the absurdity of its seemingly ‘natural’ appearance. In this respect the work relates well to the landscape at YSP. The Bretton Estate was modified in the 18th century, including the hand-dug lakes and exaggerated hills, and so is also partly artificial. 

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