It was a beautiful day to be wondering through Kensington Gardens in the late afternoon. May is a wonderful month with everything blooming. I am loving the horse chestnut trees this spring, full of flowers. And to add to all this vibrancy Phyllida Barlow is showing at the Serpentine Gallery alongside Nairy Baghramian.
What a great show, the way the two styles of sculptors were separated encouraged viewers to compare and contrast the different styles. For me Barlow steals the show. Always been a fan but the work in this show managed to tickle those nerve endings even more.
I’d describe Barlow’s work as gutsy, organic, sexy, abject and weighty full of colour and passion. Like all encompassing paintings that dominate the space and work on an emotional and physical level. I instantly fell in love with the cardboard cement boxes on the wall. The ‘Untitled: Double Act’ of two large balls of matter, that seemed like two enormous pubescent heads rolling about with their baseball caps on, brought such joy to my being. The physical body ever present amid the architectural structures that seem akin to debris of building sites.
By placing Barlow’s work adjacent to Baghramian’s the contrast of styles was heightened. Baghramian’s sculptures seem lighter, colder less emotional and more intellectual. Responding to the space in a careful reflective thoughtfulness. The work is calmer, but for me less exciting. I felt it was too contained and distanced from the viewer. This feeling of distance was heightened by the staff not allowing us to cross the black line to view the work up close. I found it hard to engage with Baghramian’s work on this occassion. for me the passion of Barlow’s work dominated. I think Barlow could have happily and effectively had a solo show. Maybe it is a shame that such a significant contemporary female British artist was not given that opportunity.
For a few of the highlights do check out this link for images:
And a good review at the Independent