11th Gwangju Biennale
2. 9. – 6. 11. 2016



Claire Barclay

Woven bamboo, precision-machined brass, ceramic forms, and canvas fabric hang across a metal structure; they spread out, join, disassemble—poised between making and unmaking. Hold Together, Claire Barclay’s (b. 1968, Glasgow) sculptural installation for GB11, has emerged from thinking about the persistence of handmaking traditions and the vulnerability of “ntangible heritage.” The work brings together machine-fabricated elements with handcrafted parts, some of which have been produced in collaboration with expert makers in Korea and Scotland.

Hold Together has been influenced by conversations with a number of local Korean craftspeople working with different traditions, and observations of their workshop practices, including ceramics, bamboo and gat weaving, ornamental lacquering, bojagi patchwork, and wood carving. Of central interest in Barclay’s practice are the ways in which tools, the human body, materials, and the workspace become integrated in the evolution of functional forms. In doing so, imbuing objects with value and agency allows them to function not just practically, but also emotionally.

For Barclay, the departure from using found objects became a turning point in her process. They were, in a way, too intrusive, inferring too rigid a meaning onto the work. But her production is not therefore of exclusive or luxury items, but of precise and careful reconstructions of the found or mundane: forms that might have once been a bowl or a hat. These objects make up a visual language continuously expanded and refined. Each installation functions as a pause, Barclay explains—temporary stillness in a stream.

One of Barclay’s pauses, Reading off the surfaces (2011), presented at Skulpturi, Copenhagen, is like a living room, including something resembling furniture, minimalist design, and stainless steel, a carpet—but it is rather the impossibility of a living room. A tentativeness of the materials, a fragility in their composition, alienates them, in a moment of heightened awareness, from their surroundings. The room contains both a sense of abandonment and a presence that is fetishistic and hard: the leather and the fur, almost erotic.

Although critical of materials and their commodification, Barclay’s work never ceases to seduce, nor does it attempt to. As the viewer is invited to intuit her object configurations, one’s relationship to the work is disturbed by this associative dissonance: at once uneasy and titillating, familiar and strange. KM + AM


I studied at the Glasgow School of Art, and my tutors Sam Ainsley and David Harding made a strong impression on my artistic development. After graduating, I undertook a year-long residency in Australia, based at the Schools of Art in Canberra and Hobart, which included many adventures in the Australian wilderness. My work has also been influenced by Scottish landscape, heritage, and local craft traditions. Archaeological sites, like Skara Brae on the island of Orkney, provide inspiration for projects, as well as anthropological museum collections; the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, and the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, are among my favorites. Collaborating with dancer Janice Parker, as well as many other exchanges, has informed my work, including learning with craftspeople and fabricators. Teaching has also been an important influence on me, and in recent years I have been employed by Artlink, working with patients at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, a psychiatric hospital.