In February 2019, acclaimed British artist Phyllida Barlow will transform the Royal Academy’s Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries with an exhibition of new work entitled cul-de-sac.
The exhibition has been conceived as a sequential installation running across all three of the interconnected spaces. There will be changes of pace and emphasis across the galleries as Barlow seeks to interrogate and challenge the spaces. Barlow said the galleries form a cul-de-sac.
“The classical style combined with the great height of the first and third galleries suggest a former use very different from what it is now,” Barlow said. “This gives the three spaces an ambiguity, as if emptied out, their past erased, now vacant and ready for something very different from what they once were. I like this ambiguity very much.”
Throughout her career, Barlow has employed everyday materials such as cardboard, fabric, timber, polystyrene, plaster and cement in the creation of her work. By re-contextualising these materials, Barlow manipulates and combines them in unexpected ways, often with a finish which masks their former material property.
Her large-scale sculptures move away from the norms of serenity, balance and beauty, favouring instead the creation of a sense of instability, obstruction and incongruity. They can often overrun the spaces they inhabit, instead of neatly complementing them. Barlow’s ambition to explore the spaces her work occupies encourages her to stretch the limits of mass, volume and height, with her invented, abstract and frequently ‘off-balance’ forms.
Humour is almost always present in her works due in some part to the appropriation of the material from which they are created, as well as striking an emotional charge in their ability to change the viewer’s physical relationship with the space.
The body of work within the exhibition will reveal Barlow’s exploration in the reduction of the number of elements in her work, establishing a sense of economy and leanness.
Phyllida Barlow, The Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries, Royal Academy, London.
23 February – 23 June 2019