5 - 30TH MAY 2018

The Touching Side of Life...

John Barbour (1954-2011) established a practice that explored material and its malleability, its physicality and presence and its potential to be reformed. Oscillating between opposites hard and soft, the touch and trace associated with artistic work in Barbour's hands becomes an ongoing fascination with tangibility and truth... the realities of the world and the human predicament.

Some installation projects comprise constructions of lead, copper, sand-blasted aluminium, wood, cardboard, glass and mirror; others by comparison - like the veil paintings and embroideries featured in this exhibition under the umbrella title 'Dark Star' - seem tentative, wistful and fleeting.

Juxtaposing materials considered to be cold, solid, formidable and difficult to shape with softer, pliable, more forgiving and fragile stuff, the artist undercuts any supposed affirmation of hard, empirical reality with a nuanced but enduring counterpoint… one focused more on the touching side of life.

The softening made manifest in this selection of works, one could suggest, is to be found in the folds: not just in the layered fragments of stained satin, voile and silk upon which trailing and tangled texts have been hand-stitched, but in the artist's attempts to peel back the surface and skin of things, to plumb the depths of being.

The somewhat painful and simple truths revealed however, suggest an indiscriminate human vulnerability. The threadbare thoughts Barbour finds and scrawls at the edge of things exposes a life flawed and frayed: in his words, a world barely stitched together, a cold hard place in need of a tender touch.

Ewen McDonald
April 2018

Image: John Barbour
Untitled Object (Winners rule forever losers die slowly) 2003
Silk, cotton voile, 108 x 95cm
Image courtesy and © the artist

The lost routes to lovely (2001) Oil, gesso, glue, tape, carboard, 11 components, dimensions variable

Untitled (think) 1990 Enamel on canvas, two panel each 90 x 210 cm

installation view

Untitled Object (Pure Joy) 2002 voile, silk, thread, 148 x 108cm

Untitled Object (Practice Joy) 2002 voile, silk, cotton 140 x 71cm