Phyllida Barlow’s ‘GIG’, is set to be the inaugural exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Following Barlow’s critically acclaimed Duveen Galleries Commission ‘dock’ at Tate Britain, ‘GIG’ comprises an entirely new body of work created in response to the architecture and surrounding landscape of Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Occupying the 18th-century Threshing Barn, adjoining farm buildings, outdoor spaces and one of the new galleries, Barlow’s dense and exuberant sequence of installations celebrates the rejuvenation of Durslade Farm that lay derelict and unoccupied prior to its recent conversion into an arts centre.
Since the late 1960s, British artist Phyllida Barlow has focused on the physical experience of handling materials, which she transforms through layering, accumulation and juxtaposition. Barlow’s direct and practical processes of making utilise readily available materials such as cardboard, cement and plaster, polystyrene, timber and paint. Barlow’s sculptural practice is grounded in an anti-monumental tradition and is concerned with the relationship between objects and the space that surrounds them.
On first entering the gallery the viewer encounters a jubilant cacophony of brightly coloured fabric pompoms suspended from a timber structure that extends up into the rafters of the Threshing Barn. Negotiating a way past ‘untitled: upturnedstaircase’ into the adjoining Workshop gallery, the entrance appears to be blocked by a surface of painted plywood sheets that conceal a tightly bound mass of studio detritus. The room is so densely packed with precarious and unwieldy forms jostling for space that one of the sculptural objects has been forced outside, to be viewed from the gallery window.
In contrast, the Pigsty gallery is occupied by a single work reminiscent of an outmoded mechanical object; the sculpture employs two steel and timber structures threaded with painted wooden cogs, spanning the space diagonally.
Outdoors in the Piggery, there is a heightened sense of anticipation. ‘untitled: megaphone’ towers six metres high, rising above the roof line as if to announce the building’s new purpose. Nearby stacks of vibrantly painted chairs suggest an absent audience, one that has yet to arrive and a performance that has yet to begin.
Entering the main gallery, the viewer is confronted by a thicket of roughly painted raw timber lengths rooted to the floor in cement bases. Abutted tightly together these posts form a makeshift screen in the centre of the room encircling the space. Recalling Bruce Nauman’s ‘Smoke Rings’, the viewer is compelled to circumnavigate the work, edging along the perimeter of the space peering through the gaps into a space they may not enter. Overhead, three architectural elements mounted on opposing walls extend over the fenced perimeter and penetrate the empty volume that remains out of reach. By positioning the works in such a way Barlow challenges and dictates the experience of looking and moving in the space.
Phyllida Barlow GIG 15 July – 2 November 2014 Hauser & Wirth Somerset