Phyllida Barlow-critical writing.


Phyllida Barlow is a British artist, born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1944. She studied

at Chelsea College of Art (1960-63) and Slade School of Art (1963-66) . She went on to 1

teach at the Slade School of Fine Art for more than twenty years, while raising a

family that eventually encompassed five children. It is remarkable how she

maintained an academic career and an artistic practice within an almost hostile

environment for a woman. Her era was characterized by discrimination against

women, sexism and bigotry. The manifestation of all of the above was the extreme

lack of opportunities for a woman to succeed in most social, professional, creative

and academic fields up to recent years. Barlow went through the obstacles and

managed to be a very successful artist and at the same time maintain a family.

From a young age she was fascinated with animals and anthropology and ever since

this has been a major influence in her work. Barlow started out at Chelsea as an

easel painter but soon one tutor noticed that her use of paint was more tactile than

pictorial and George Fullard (British, 1923-1973), suggested that she should start

using clay . She followed the suggestion and discovered a visceral thrill in clay’s 2

messy, malleable nature. At this same period Germaine Richier’s (French, 1902-1959)

post-war bronzes with their agitated surfaces representing animals and plants, were

an important early influence for Barlow. According to her, in her art there are two

predominant forces fused together. One is the process of making, which is related to

the notions of construction and deconstruction, damage and repair, perhaps on a

deeper level, with her own psyche too. The other force is closely connected with her

way of perceiving the world and her numerous observations regarding the

ever-present another word fragility of it. In this short essay I will focus on these forces

and connect them with elements from her actual work, referencing at the same

time other artists that according to me relate to her artistically and conceptually.


Installation view, British Pavilion, Venice biennale (2017)

1 Source : (2019)

2 Alastair Sooke , Phyllida Barlow : Nothing Fixed, Phylida Barlow : Cul-de-sac (Royal Academy of Arts,

2019), p.11

Folly was Barlow’s contribution to Venice Biennale and her major work for the British

Pavilion. The expanded installation challenged the viewer’s perspective of space,

materiality and playfulness. She created a different state of reality using discarded

objects, everyday materials and superficially insignificant elements.

Her work instinctively brought to my mind the movement of Arte Povera. Some of

the group’s most important works come from the contrast of unprocessed materials

with references to the then emergence of consumer culture . 3 The artists of the

group wanted to diverge the new from the old in order to distract the audience and

complicate its sense of space and time. As Barlow did in Folly , the Arte Povera

members, presented absurd, harsh and one would say comical juxtapositions. They

did that in order to challenge the established value and propriety, critiques evident

in Barlow’s work too.

Her sculptures invite you to explore the physicality of things. Through pieces bigger

than humans, Barlow adopts a dominant approach over space. She triggers almost

theatrical encounters of large proportion, a play into a play, and questions the idea of

the viewing position.

Installation view, Tate Britain (2014)

In Dock, a colossal installation commissioned by Tate Britain in 2014, Barlow

showcased her ambivalence about the purpose of sculpture through formal tensions

that dominated the work and are visible through the process of making4. On one

hand the installation, made of several pieces, is monumental but on the other hand

it seems ready to collapse. The pieces are primarily made out of timber, polystyrene,

cardboard, discarded metal and rope and again here we see a very dedicated

relationship that Barlow has with materiality and the fragility of it. I believe the

installation is reflecting very successfully the representation of the river with the

3Source :

4 Source


wood resembling shipyards with boats under construction. Another challenging

element of this work is the contradiction between the nature of it (unfinished,

de-formed, distorted) with the classical architecture and the formality of the

building. It’s like being inside a giant theatrical scenario, or maybe a 2D collage in a

piece of paper that you zoomed into and suddenly you found yourself there. Looking

up at all the suspended pieces offers the sensation of being part of the installation

and activates the space above the viewer.

In that way the spectator becomes a collaborator in a symbiotic relationship with

Barlow. The sculptures evoke stillness and the audience becomes a figure moving

through the space, cutting through it, triggering a physical sensation.

Dock brings to my mind some of the early influences of Barlow, Eva Hesse, Bruce

Nauman, Richard Serra and Robert Smithson, whose work was also very much

related to process and drew from unconventional materials with a malleable nature.

In some cases many of these artists abandoned the studio, something that I notice

in Barlow’s practice too. Suspended, collapsed, wrapped and unfolded the works on

this exhibition come from an investigation of the most fundamental aspects of

sculpture : its physical qualities and its spatial characteristics.

Installation view, Royal Academy (2019 )

In the Cul De Sac exhibition, Barlow continued with her signature usage of

materials but this time interacted with the audience in a very interesting, for me,

way. She “forced” the public to view her exhibition twice but through different

directions, by literally shutting the back door of the RA leading everyone to go back

through the pieces they’ve just seen. That’s why she called Cul De Sac.

She wanted to challenge the perception of the viewers regarding space continued

as in this installation she invited them to experience it in an “informal way”. Using as

a starting point Auguste Rodin’s (1840-1917) sculpture The Kiss, she illustrated an

epiphany about sculpture that she had early on in her life . Rodin’s 5 piece shifts the

viewers’ idea of how an act like kissing can be approached and seen, same with

Barlow’s installation. It was a groundbreaking work that put the audience in a

position to see the various shapes from unexpected angles and she did this, I believe,

5 Alastair Sooke, Phyllida Barlow : Nothing Fixed, Phylida Barlow : Cul-de-sac (Royal Academy of Arts,

2019), p.15

successfully. According to her too, the installation works quite extraordinarily

because at a stroke the sculpture’s legibility is lost, it becomes nothing but a

succession of folded forms.6


After researching Barlow’s work for a while I concluded that her work connects

(consciously or perhaps subconsciously) with the movement of Informalism.

Informalism was a mainly pictorial movement that developed in the 1940’s in the US

and challenged the idea of abstraction, pioneering at the same time radical gestural

movements. Barlow adopts some of the principals of Informalism in her work such

as the non geometric shapes, the lack of form in her figures and the importance of

the presence of the artist in the work. However, Barlow goes further than the

Informalists did and expands her practice into space, manipulates it and gives the

chance to the public to be part of her work (as we’ve seen before in the text). Barlow

also overcomes limitations regarding materiality by using inexpensive elements,

industrial offcuts and discarded objects to assemble her installations. She questions

the preciousness of an art piece and the traditional methods or means to make

and/or experience it. Barlow treats her work mostly as an on-going project and does

not separate it between pieces but only seeing it as a whole.

Barlow’s anti-establishment approach is informed also by her lack of affiliation with

British art. She herself denounced her role in it claiming that “ I don’t want to belong

to this British tradition” , which for her seems so moral. Moral is a word she often

uses in interviews or talks to describe attitudes that as an artist she only wishes to

avoid. This strong position against British art, as a term, led her to move away from

the work of “giants” such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth unlike most of her


Barlow’s work has been a major influence in my practice so far. The lack of dictation

by traditional and conventional means and the importance of forms and textures is

something very inspiring for me. At the same time the combination of sculpture,

performance and drawing in her work is something that deeply affects my

printmaking techniques. Her work symbolises for me a very raw and unpretentious

approach that is purely based on the artist’s intuition and emotion.

6 Louise Long, Phyllida Barlow On Her Landmark New Exhibition At The Royal Academy, (2019)


Hore, Rosie, Phyllida Barlow : Cul-de-sac, Royal academy of Arts, London, 2019

Burri Alberto, Burri grafica opera completa , edited by Petruzzi, Citta di Castello,

Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini, 2003

Afro Basaldella, AFRO, Edited by R.L Stamperia d’arte( Museo Nationale San vitale e

Casa Farini 1991)


The sculptor taking over the art world , Phyllida Barlow – BBC , – 1 Mar 2019, (Accessed 23 Nov 2019)

An Age of Fallen Monuments Phyllida Barlow- 20 May

2014,(Accessed 15 Jan 2020)

Phyllida Barlow in conversation with Francis Morris , 30 Sep 2014, (accessed 3 Jan 2020)


Navigator writing.



WE call the project of Navigating London Tearing the Time.

Our project is about TIME and the CITY. We unfold time, we respond to this experience of  time in London  creating a video , I created some collages made from tearing  paper. We formed a triangle Chalkie, Luisa and the seagull. We explored three areas of the city across three times: past , present and future. The three areas were Westminster Abbey, Barbican and Canary Warf .

I will explain the three in a chronological order, starting from the oldest place.

Westminster Abbey, is the ancient soul of that area of London and represents an 800 year history where the human interaction with the building through marks on textures and surfaces allows us to travel through time. My response to the Abbey’s temporal journey was an interaction with the vertical and horizontal lines in the building that Ptolemy Dean( the Architect of the staircase  ) described.  I tear and stick papers in the middle of the collage with the shape of square stone that represent the stones of the history with marks left behind, and some vertical lines across the paper with different tones that represent the building.

The concept of time started at Barbican with a conversation between Chalkie and I At the Barbican we sensed the different speed of the people depending on the time of the day, the movement of the water depending on the direction the wind was blowing , the seagull came toward us and stopped  in front of us it remained stationary ,whilst  people ,wind and water were moving. Although the barbican is a new building the music of Vivaldi they play there is reminiscent of the past. Time was in our conversation, time being, the past of London , the present and the future. The exhibition of Lee Krasner at Barbican and I was fascinated by the colours, the materials she used and the layering of different papers. This process of working influences me. My response to the exhibition spending time in the Barbican, I began layering papers that I had collected at different times, I was looking for the interaction between the forms and the colours, I created a collage from the leaflet of the exhibition , I found some papers at the barbican and some old papers I had at home ,  these different papers gives the sense of history of the marks left behind.

 This is the connection with the film I have produce with Chalkie. Layers of time, layers of images, and finding the forms in between and the shapes that interact with the colour.

Canary Warf , we visited the Dockland museum of London and everything was about lines, photographs of destroyed boats full of lines, the destruction caused by the fire. The lines of the past and the lines of the present with the new buildings. We  recorded images from the present and we responded with a video, layering the images from the other areas together .

 I was inspired by Elsworth Kelly painter the way he draw and paint his geometric lines. My response to the dockland museum and Canary Warf  is a drawing made with pieces of torn etching creating a collage out of old etchings, I destroy them and reconstruct, now it is a new drawing with the pieces of etching left behind,  it is an analogy of the destruction of areas of London made by the two fires  of London . This new drawing is geometric like the buildings and the streets in Canary Warf, I was inspired by Elsworth Kelly painter the way he draws and paint his geometric lines.

 The Final work in collaboration.

We  produced a Video  after this three experience , In this video we are showing opposite areas of London  at different times. Everything is happening  simultaneously  in the video, The images that we have chosen are water, air, seagull and buildings. The first three have been always there, the buildings are new, the buildings of the present.

 The boats, buildings, us and seagulls are cradled between the earth and the sky .This can be seen in the video how they are situated in between,  At the same time the sky is coming toward us forces against one to another, the opposites.

We are layering the photos to have the feeling that everything is happening now.

We don’t add any sound because we leave the original sound of what is there at that moment.


Jorge Luis Borges. Labyrinths. Edited by Donald A. Yeats and James E. Irby . (Penguin Modern Classics 1970)

Eleonor Nairne. Lee Krasner.(Thames and Hudson in association with Barbican Art Gallery 2019)

Christian Marclay. The Clock (Exhibition at the Tate Modern. 2018)

The book of london at the london museum,look where is it.

Pablo Ferro. A Carcer Retrospetive video.

Manifesto writing



This century is characterized by accelerated technological progress whose rapid application is driving changes in society. Technology, to some extent, already dictates the way we live.

AI developments have contributed to improvements in our lives, such as chess-playing programs, machine translation devices, and soon-to-come self-driving cars. However, AI can also threaten our individuality, feeding our unconscious with width a steady stream of biased propaganda.  It is entirely possible that we do not have free will any more. The information that we absorb every day has an effect on our decisions. And our governments allow that.

Humans seem to have an obsession with progress. To make the world a better place, but also to compete against other countries. In my opinion, mankind faces three main problems: nuclear weapon proliferation, climate change, and technological disruption. The solution to these three problems requires global cooperation.

 Fei FEi Li says that “Technology may not always make the world better, it can make so many good things but there are also risks and pitfalls; we can deploy technologies that help humans live better and healthier and work more safely and productively”. Regarding this question, Yun Noah Harari also says “What will happen to society and daily life when non conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves? “. More specifically, Harari regards dissatisfaction as a “deep root” of human reality and, as such, related to biological evolution. He also posits that a new class of people will emerge, the unemployable. Machines will replace humans in certain tasks. This lack of occupation may result in more criminal behaviour and substance abuse.

In my manifesto, I strive to represent “Coexistence”, the union of two poles, Yin and Yang, feminine and masculine… AI and humans. To illustrate this marriage of opposites, I use the painting “The American Gothic” by Grant Wood. I deconstruct this painting and reconstruct it by adding new images by other painters such as Georgia O’Keeffe (“The white flower”) and Piet Mondrian (‘’The abstract tree”).  I use these two works of art as symbols of the dualities mentioned above.

This marriage can work if we find the right balance between humans and AI.  My collage includes a written message talking about both the solution and the dangers: “Global cooperation. Not technological disruption”. Without global cooperation, eventually it will not be possible to save one part of the world and leave another part alone to pay the price for the negative consequences of technological disruption. 

To find a solution for the three problems mentioned above, we have to do it together or it will not happen.


The book Sapiens. Yun Noah Harari

Conferences of Fei Fei Li-You tube

Conferences of Yun Noah Harari- your tube

AI Exhibition-Barbican Center.

History of Technology – Wikipedia

Artefact writing.



  The object I am creating is called “Circular Line”. The main inspiration for this came from the Victoria and Albert museum artifacts and sculptures collections, where I saw the sculpture of grotesque birds in bronze. This is a reminiscent of Dante, who created a poem that positioned humans figures described like grotesque animals around the inside of a cone that signified the circle of life. Borges reinforced this by writing about hexagons to analyze the processes that humans go through. Another significant source for the object I´m creating is Jade Bi is a circular ancient Chinese jade artifact  which has ornate surface carving (particularly in a hexagonal pattern) whose motifs represented deities associated with the sky ,as well as standing for qualities and powers the wearer wanted to invoke or embody. This artifact has inspired me for the simplicity of its circular form and the carving of the hexagonal patterns. As a response to the connection of the other sources mentioned above I have acquired the inspiration of the “Circular line” 3D object incorporating different compartments with hexagons that represent our different processes in which we live and symbolize the infinite circle of life.

The aim is to create an object which when viewed from far away, will look simple, yet up close will reveal complexity. This reflects the human personality, which combines the simplicity of consciousness and the complexity of ego and their relationship with one another.

This object can be exhibited in two ways, on its on, on a plinth and the materials I will use will be wood and glass.  Also can be shown hanging many of them in the space as an installation with a light material such as transparent plastic, combined with paper representing the constellations.


`Jade Bi´, Tom Swape , You tube, –– 21 Jul 2018, (Accessed  Oct 3 2018).

`Inferno Dante´, Dante Aliguieri , –

 Feb 10 2017, (Accessed  Sep. 20 2019).

 `399 days´, Rachel Kneebone, Victoria and Albert ,2014.

Jorge Luis Borges. Labyrinths. Edited by Donald A. Yeats and James E. Irby . (Penguin Modern Classics 1970)

Artist Statement.

 I am an interdisciplinary practitioner, a printmaker and painter whose work also extends into ceramics and sculpture. I experiment with different techniques and express myself using a wide range of materials. I am challenging myself by exploring the materiality in printmaking and painting, the core of my practice.

Through the intuitive nature of my work the element of discover is of most significance, allowing accident and mistake occur, sometimes I deliberately provoke them, my interest is to develop flexible thinking and to improve my visual language.

Sometimes my interest is simplifying abstract forms that arise from the interpretation of the figurative image, which allows the viewer to make their own reading of the piece of art. I hope to create a space where the public can interact with their imagination and to realise the fiction of the perception created by our unconscious.   

My work emerges as a developing process, it can start with collage made up of discarded defective prints, or it could emerge from Exhibition ephemera. I manipulate them by adding more cut out etchings. I choose one print and work in various ways, I destroy, push, pull, deconstruct, construct and collapse the image resolving in a process of constant abstraction and figuration, this is the thing which appears, not the thing in itself. I don’t have a preconceived idea it’s a call and response.

The 2D collages reach out in relief, they feel sculptural in themselves, I take the opportunity from this 2D collages to go into 3D sculpture and them back to the 2D painting, is a back and forward process mirroring the work of Michael Lady With his 3D collages .

My practice drawn from a range of sometimes contradictory sources, on one hand, I am attracted to the simple and minimalistic of the pieces Miles Davis music “Siesta” and “Human nature” the empty spaces in between the solos attracts me. The same occurs with the painters Agnes Martin and Elsworth Kelly, parts of the painting are resting from shapes and colours, it is an empty breathing space next to the simplicity of the form.

On the other hand I am drawn to the materiality of Amy Sillmans and Gillian Ayres. Their work infuses the complexity of the layers of paint and paper showing the history of the process and the interaction between the shapes, colours and mark making.

I perceive that my work is spontaneous and playful, intuitively mixing elements from observation and imagination. I am planning in the future to start to work with the prints on a much larger scale. I would like to incorporate stronger paper and wood as a support, to extend and make combinations of the etchings into 3D installations with them adding sound.

Creative Writing

Thoughts while we navigate London.

We are sitting on a branch at Barbican, we realize It is about movement, the wind is blowing that way the water moving towards us and making a sound,  The people are moving in different speed but the water is constant.

We were wandering about the history of the Barbican, and at the same time looking how things are changing constantly at that present moment, out of the blue we felt very existentialist with no answers, but the seagull came to us and it came to our mind the first question.

Is the seagull the answer?

So what is the question?

Now two seagulls, that means there are two answers, of what question?

Sometimes there is more than one answer to the question.

 To many elements around us to look at, we also saw Monet images of his paintings on the water and Sonia Delaneau on the walls. Art all around us.

Another thing we want to explore is about how to travel the city, going to the same place coming from different places, we want to go on something and up something we are fascinated about this staircase where people move up and down, while the clouds go around the planet, as they have done for millenniums and we are at Barbican looking all this new building, smelling baking bread and looking at the gabs between spaces and time,  Barbara Hepworth  speaks about the idea of looking through and the connection between things. The sense of place. Sound and smell and textures, how the sound relate the space. The hearing becoming visual, experience of Synaesthesia.

Relationship between the buildings ,we started drawing them, going back and forward with different medias, and knowing that  the drawing is the process of looking, we draw a piece of music and we make a piece of music by drawing, Notion  of interpretation , notion of the city.

We will not have new thoughts unless we get unbalance.

 Alternatives ways to record experience.

The day after we went to Westminster Abbey, we had new thoughts because we were unbalanced.

There were people gathering in the squares. Every city has their own hubs, where people meet. All squares are different meeting places and they have their own charm. Restaurants, taverns, bars, cafés… are places which bring people together. An image of the last supper was in front of us. What a wonderful experience that was! we were feeling as though we were traveling in time. It is like being in a Jorge Luis Borge´s tale, where past, present and future are part of the same reality.

There was a violinist playing in the street.  Chalkie was texting me telling me that she would arrive soon.  She wants to do an app for the project. I feel excited about this new project at the RCA. The violinist stopped playing and started picking up pieces of paper on the floor putting them in the bin. I was mesmerised by this beautiful action. In my mind the traffic came to a halt and I could only hear the seagulls. It was a magical moment! Chalkie arrived with a beautiful smile and full of ideas.

She was telling me about “Alice in Wonderland”. We decided that we would call the APP “Down the rabbit hole”