The faces of older images
This exhibition brings together a group of four wall based relief sculptures, Barker’s most elaborate and monumental in the series of tray ‘trench-works’ she has been producing for a number of years. Blurring the lines between painting, drawing and sculpture, the works sit between image and three dimension, like hybrid etching plates for collecting colour and reference or a ‘finds tray’ from an archeological dig for organising and grouping.
The works behave like portals looking out to an ancient landscape – it’s crafting and cultivation, where the brazed metalwork itself appears industrial and machine-like, and imagery, pattern and colour act as signifiers of people and place. In Barker’s work there is a drama in light and dark, reflection and fluidity through her use of materials, with the observation of line, texture and colour of landscape, evolved from her interest in the Modernist linkage to landscape in literature.
The work here also shows the influence of Japanese ink paintings and print, where strong black borders outline images of the exterior world and motifs. So too does it look to the Medieval woodcuts and the illustrations of William Blake, with images that relate to hieroglyphics or script. In this sense there is a looking back to a traditional past, to the nature of hand-work, crafting and making, and a connection to a modern future.
In each of the four works, pattern and line acts as code, spelling out something half materialised. Appearing in part like illustrative plates, fresco, tarot cards or flags, each offers a distorted journey, our view of the abstract and figurative blurred. As a result, in their use of fragmented imagery and complexly constructed layers and mark making, the work feels coded and encrypted with no set narrative or straight read.