Thursday, September 28, 2017

Phyllida Barlow in Venice

When John and I visited the Giardini site of the Venice Biennale we were looking forward to seeing the British Pavilion because it was featuring the work of Phyllida Barlow. We saw an installation she did in the courtyard of the Tate Britain three years ago and it was love at first sight.
 She has called her Biennale installation Folly suggesting both a type of traditional garden architecture and a jest.
She surrounded the entrance to the pavilion with colourful, loosely shaped spheres on poles.
Barlow likes to use common materials like timber, fabric and concrete in her pieces.
In our experience she likes to dominate any space that her sculpture occupies. When we entered the first room we encountered huge, rough columns that seemed to be too big for the space.
The room also contained tall red standing sculptures -- one topped by a cardboard box!
Barlow's sculptures are strangely familiar
have a hand-made quality
but their gigantic size in the restricted space can be unnerving.
We also found the work humorous. This sculpture in the next room looks for all the world like a huge toilet roll to me.
It shares the space with a rack of brightly painted canvases that looked like a display of wrapping paper. 
The next room is narrow but very tall and hard to take in. 
It features a colourful wall with what appear to be spikes or sharp plinths looming above your head.
The rear room is long and narrow with another "slapped together" wall -- this one with a lumpy balcony.
There is a wonderful sloppy feel to her surfaces and painting. No wonder that her work has been described as "messy". We love that aspect of it.
Yet another room features a huge object named "piano/anvil".
The last room in our circuit before returning to the entry space is filled by yet another tilted wall
hiding a precariously hanging pair of lumpy forms behind it.
Phyllida Barlow, the septuagenarian art-superstar is our choice for Best-in-Show of the Giardini site and a true inspiration to us both!


  1. Wow! That Phyllida is something else again! Imagine if her pieces were outside; inside they envelope the viewer. Always something to see in those shapes.
    Thanks for introducing me.

  2. Your welcome, Cheri. Because this piece is called "Folly, I too imagined it in an open space or garden but being confined in the pavilion does make them powerful.

  3. I concur with Cheri's comment (no surprise!). Wow indeed. So glad you could get to see this exhibit.