Barnaby Barford, as we reported in an earlier post, is well-known for his ceramic figures, tchotchkes from hell which serve as platforms for the UK artist’s political views and dark, satirical sense of humor. His The Seven Deadly Sins exhibition at London’s David Gill Gallery last year used similar themes but turned them back on the viewer through mirrors. The following statement from the gallery further clarifies the troubling and confrontational body of work:
“I think it’s all about love gone wrong,” said Barford, when contemplating the meaning of The ‘Seven Deadly Sins. For centuries, the extremes of human desire or motivation have been articulated by the seven words: Pride, Sloth, Gluttony, Wrath, Lust, Envy and Avarice.
Each of Barford’s seven pieces takes the form of a mirror. Most reflect the viewer in full length, challenging their perception in terms of their form and message. The initial response is to marvel at their beauty and delight at the intricate detail which has gone into the construction of each piece. All of the mirrors feature an arrangement of clusters of filigree flowers and foliage. However, when seen close up, the visual message can be surprising since many of the hand-made ceramic flowers and leaves bear the patina of images loaded with emotional messages.
Barford’s interpretation of the sins is beguiling in the sense that the pieces are beautiful but the emotion which is projected is not. In fact, it can be quite visceral and often brutal in its depiction.
Barford spent a year considering the way society measures and values extreme sensations. “We are all hard-wired to desire power, love, possessions. That’s probably the way all humans have been like,” he said. “It’s not fundamentally bad to desire things but what interests me is the way these ‘sins’ can motivate people. How does the idea of ‘sin’ affect people these days when we live in a largely secular society? What are the consequences?”
In confronting what he sees as uncomfortable truths about contemporary society, Barford decided that the viewers of his work should find themselves not just reflecting on the ideas he has presented to them but also, literally, reflected within the mirror. “You see the piece and you see yourself within it,” he said.
David Gill said of the exhibit: “Barnaby’s talent lies in his ability to fuse the visual and narrative elements in his works. His clever choice of titles for his pieces transforms (them) into the embodiment of ideas which goes far beyond the sculptures themselves.”
Bill Rodgers is a Contributing Editor at CFile.
Above image: Installation view of Barnaby Barford’s The Seven Deadly Sins exhibition at David Gill Gallery. Pictured here are Gluttony, Sloth and Pride.