Fruitmarket, Until 5th June
Starting from now and continuing on into June, the Fruitmarket is home to CHANGE-THE-SETTING, a collection of Sara Barker’s work over the past 10 years. By tracing the development of specific forms, ideas and motifs in her art, visitors are able to catch a glimpse of how her practice has evolved and what it is moving towards. The 36-year-old has been appearing in solo and group exhibitions since shortly after her graduation and shows no sign of stopping: CHANGE-THE-SETTING is one of multiple exhibitions, managed alongside a healthy amount of private commissions. What we see at the Fruitmarket is an artist reaching professional maturity but whose innate skill is apparent even from earlier works.
Barker’s work blends the distinctions between sculpture and painting, playing with the associations and assumptions attached to the two media. Metal structures are fragile and playful, not clean and solid. Paintings do not stand alone: paint is incorporated as an integral part of these structures. Earlier works such as ‘Words are form’ (2010), ‘Watercolour seen’ (2010), ‘Representing a sketch’ (2012) and ‘Love Letter’ (2012) represent a binding together of the two media. They consist of soft paintings of blue, green and grey which have been cut into strips and combined with metal rods: at times free-standing, at times emerging from the gallery wall. Here Barker is pushing beyond the boundaries of the medium, using it to create three dimensional shapes as opposed to keeping it on a flat canvas. This sense that the artist is pushing past what is possible can be seen in the way these fragile rods are twisted into ever larger, ever more complicated combinations of shapes.
Yet from a distance it would be easy to overlook the work’s complexity. Barker’s structures are distinctive because of a sort of trompe l’oeil effect. At first glance they appear clean, slimline and modern: exactly the type of sculpture one would expect to find in a corporate setting. However, upon closer inspection there is a roughness, a sense of the impromptu and an eclecticism: paint on unusual surfaces; unexpected use of plastic and mirror; and an unfinished quality in places. This makes Barker’s practice seem instinctual and intuitive: through these little touches she asserts her creativity above creating a perfect form.
It seems as though the artist is rebelling against the notion of sculpture as a static medium, characterised by precision and starkness. In her work we see a stress on the physicality of sculpture, which is in turn carried into her painting, and we can see the spontaneity and expression of painting transferred into the sculptural elements.
Image Credit: Sara Barker