Phyllida Barlow - Tate Britain - 'dock' 2014
Installation 4 'dock'
Exhibition Review - 'dock' by Phyllida Barlow - Tate Britain
Phyllida Barlow 'dock' exhibition review
In its colossal size Phyllida Barlow’s ‘dock’ intrudes upon every free expanse of the Duveen Galleries at the Tate Britain making a big first impression on visitors. Timber frames fill the galleries from floor to ceiling harbouring accessible materials such as bin liners and polystyrene, tangled together to create the vision of a dock. Phyllida Barlow is known for her large scale installations created using inexpensive accessible materials; ‘dock’ encompasses her usual work ethic using these materials to reflect the Tate Britain’s location, adjacent to the River Thames.
The seven sculptures rise above the heads of visitors intruding upon all available space in the gallery, the exhibition relies on visitors to manoeuvre around and through the installations with no restrictive barriers. The audience is also constantly reminded to look up in order to view the details of the tall installations, evoking a deeper demand for the audience to recognise the space in which one can move. The Duveen Galleries have almost been transformed into a set, and the audience, manipulated to travel in the space allowed by the installations.
The Duveen Galleries depend heavily on natural sunlight, including a skylight and high semi-circular windows allowing light to flow in its numerous shades. It was captivating to stand and observe an installation whilst the light altered naturally as the sun drifted in and out. The natural light added to the idea of re-creating a dock, allowing the audience to completely experience the theme of the exhibition. In some areas where large dark blocks are suspended above and around visitors the change in light created a gothic atmosphere, allowing dark corners and shadows to appear; thoughts of scenes from ‘Les Miserables’came to me as barriers created in the French Revolution were constructed using any available materials including broken furniture and scrap wood, similar to some of Barlow’s installations.
The most notable element of this exhibition would be the use of easily accessible materials to create something great, with sightings of bin liners, cardboard and scrap canvas material each installation was given personality. The first sculpture displaying a number of black blocks suspended from the timber frames with cable ties at different levels included one block with an open side close to the floor, which was open for the audience to see. Its structure of polystyrene, foam and more cable ties on the inside reflected what we could also see on the outside and within other installations; this displayed the variety of styles and designs that could be created from the same materials, Barlow’s exhibition is innovative mixing old materials with new artistic ideas.
The ‘dock’ allows the audience to become tangled up in Barlow’s chaotic installations; the rough and imperfect finish makes the exhibit more real. It is refreshing to see an artist using unwanted objects to create structures, as a difference to the high tech polished technology being used in the real world. Barlow has certainly made use of what is available and transformed these materials into an exhibit worth seeing.
My personal favourite installation
Natural light source from high semi- circular lights
Sketch of installation 7
Tate website information on Phyllida Barlow's work ethic
Phyllida Barlow has worked for over four decades with inexpensive, everyday materials to create large sculptural installations. dock is comprised of lightweight materials such as timber, metal, polystyrene, canvas, cardboard and rope. The materials and structures contrast with the smooth curves of the grand neoclassical architecture in which the work is installed.