What’s hot right now? Australian ceramicist Glenn Barkley is the dude to know about, even though some don’t think so. But no matter how you feel about him, you must see this unforgettably vibrant catalog that documents his recent show at Utopia Art Sydney. If you are already a cfile.member, view the catalog, or begin your 30-day free trial today!
Above Image: Glenn Barkley, sameolsameol, 2016, 53 x 53 cm.
Glenn Barkley: itsallright
Sydney: Utopia Art Sydney, 2016
Like I mentioned above, Glenn Barkley’s work is impossible to forget. And there is a lot to say about it. Though you might just barely glance at his works on your newsfeed; regardless, one of his chunky, eyelet pots is sure to make an appearance in your dreams. I’m telling you. Once its wedged in there, it’s not leaving.
Maybe that permanence is the major success of these pieces. They are so uniquely themselves and so bold that they remain with you regardless of how you feel about them. This is the strategy of many advertising and publicity campaigns: create an unforgettable product, or create an unforgettable situation for a basic product. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s enduring, or so absurd that we are driving to work just trying to figure out what it means. We can’t fault Barkley for channeling this method.
“I am still completely embedded in the art world, and I think these pots are like messages that can be read in the future– Ars longa, vita brevis. I worry about all the people doing kooky dancing, amateur house music, and post-internet art. Where will their work end up? To paraphrase Robert MacPherson its a fine line between the gallery and the rubbish dump.
“But I am part of this stupidity also. My only saving grace is that once fired pots are pretty fixed and its hard to get rid of them. You can destroy the form, buts it would take quite an effort to grind the bits back to powder.”
-Glenn Barkley, excerpt from the catalog essay
These pots do just that. They are so conspicuously adorned with sgrafitto and squirmy little pieces that resemble something Timon and Pumba might find under a rock in the Lion King. In his review of the Utopia show, Cfile Chief Garth Clark makes the point that these works are at home at a contemporary art fair, not so much a craft fair. Welcome to the future! At a contemporary art fair they might even go unnoticed (maybe). Further, as ceramic debuts over and over again as a medium of fine art, we will see more and more work with Barkley’s je ne sais quoi.
Barkley is in no way an experienced clay guy. He was not a maker at all until quite recently; he was a curator prior, which explains the astute innocence that pervades this body of work. If you work with clay (or any art for that matter) you know that you can never replicate the candidness with which you handled the clay in your first ceramic months, years. Barkley’s work, the way Barkley sees it, is about the age we live in… about art and emotions in the Internet age.
“If we treat Barkley’s work as art how does it fare? When I first saw it I wanted to hate it so badly. Much of the ceramics in art from newcomers to the medium are awful. And it raised that specter. His style or art is such that I usually have great affection for but happily my taste barriers are weakening, allowing me to enjoy more of what art delivers. I suppose what finally got me was the wit. His ceramics are cartoons that lampoon both sides of the art fence.
“A ceramics teacher I spoke to in Sydney dismissed his art because it was “naïve.” He was correct but not as a weakness. It’s Barkley’s strength, but it is also his Achilles heel. And hitting that innocent note without being pretentiously faux is a very delicate transaction. Get it right and his art is seditious, get it wrong and one has a piece of junk, which the artist understands.”
No matter how you feel about him, you must see this unforgettably vibrant catalog that documents his recent show at Utopia Art Sydney. If you are already a cfile.member, view the catalog or begin your 30-day free trial today!