This year’s Tate Britain Commission 2014 is awarded to British sculptor Phyllida Barlow and her floor-to-rafters constructions, which are on display until 19 October 2014 in the Duveen Galleries, Tate Britain, London.
They’re kinda growing on me…
Three or four times now I’ve wandered into Tate Britain through the Duveen Galleries and finally, Phyllida Barlow’s titanic installations are starting to make sense. I never expected these shambolic stacks to ever be appealing at all but when my non-artsy (sometimes full-on anti-artsy) partner sent me a photo SMS from his lunchbreak visit, I figured I should have another look, because he almost never visits an art gallery of his own volition and he only sends me pictures from an art gallery when likes it. And if he liked the exhibition, and I didn’t, there must be something I’ve missing out entirely…
So back to Tate Britain I went, this time with another friend and as she described the playfulness of the compositions and the secrets that can be kept inside Barlow’s work, I began to really discover, as curator Carmen Julia writes about the seven interconnected forms, “[they contain] formal irony to represent everything the Duveen Galleries are not – excess, chaos, disproportion, dissonance, malleability and ephemerality”.
And through this chaotic view, I began to truly see and enjoy the work; how it seemed to be sturdy and flimsy all at once, and like a child’s playhouse or Granddad’s garden shed, there were new things to find in each room, or from another angle.
The best part of it all was the realisation that unlike Tate Britain made of stones and marble, these sculptures were not made to last forever; instead, each part could be re-purposed, recycled or reformed into a new idea.
New ideas, now that I can get behind…and so, I’ve changed my view: Barlow’s “riotously impolite” concept of sculpture and installation is something one should experience at least once before it ends in October.
More links and information
- Read more about Tate Britain Commission 2014: Phyllida Barlow on Tate’s website
- Read the catalogue essay about Phyllida Barlow’s work at Tate Britain by the curator, Carmen Julia.
Reviews of Phyllida Barlow: Tate Britain Commission 2014
- “In every way, tremendous” exclaims Adrian Searle of The Guardian – 31 March 2014 – “This is sculpture as horseplay. It is as if someone had employed a team of circus clowns to build the set of some wildly ambitious opera.”
- “The sculptor’s trademark mischief and mess collide with the chilly pomp of the Duveen Galleries” in The Financial Times by Rachel Spence – 1 April 2014 – “There could be no better place to unleash Phyllida Barlow”
- “Barlow’s colossal, sprawling sculptures inspired by London’s chaotic riverfront wow critics” in The Week online magazine – 2 April 2014 – What critics didn’t like: “Parts of Dock 2014 are reminiscent of ‘a frayed old armchair with the springs and stuffing showing’, says Alastair Sooke in the Daily Telegraph.“. Sooke gave it 4/5 stars.
- “A joyous celebration of ad hoc creativity fills the Duveen Galleries” in the Arts Desk by Sarah Kent – 2 April 2014 – “Thank heavens for Phyllida Barlow who manages, single-handedly, to energise the space by filling the Duveen galleries with an installation that is riotously impolite, determinedly crude and magnificently potent. “
Exhibition details: Phyllida Barlow: Tate Britain Commission 2014 is on 31 March 2014 – 19 October 2014 at Tate Britain, Millbank, London. Free admission, disabled access.