British Council Scotland is celebrating their 70th anniversary by spotlighting works from the British Council Collection that map the vitality and record the activity of just some of the artists who were born in, or studied, lived or visited Scotland in the last 70 years.
For the fifth in a series of blog posts about seven of these works, Susanna has written about a sculpture by Claire Barclay:
Claire Barclay frequently pitches the soft and yielding against the hard-edged and the manufactured. Swathes of leather, hand-fashioned clay and stretches of cotton are positioned in material opposition to the machine-made, the engineered and pristine. In turn, her sculptural installations create charged scenarios. Carefully choreographed components mark out territory, create dead-ends or shyly suggest the sensuous. Together they stir up a sense of the precarious. Contradictions abound, Barclay’s work is homely and threatening, hospitable and hostile.
Barclay studied environmental art at Glasgow School of Art. This highly influential course established by the artist and tutor David Harding in 1985, gave focus to commonplace materials and working beyond the conventional gallery setting. And Barclay, with her rigorous interrogation of everyday materials, establishes tensions to suggest psychological dramas. She invites the viewer to 'play imagine'.
Fallen is an installation from 2015. A shock of red leather is suspended from the ceiling, attached are pieces of silk, blooded with red paint. Just beyond, like a pool of blood, lies a further piece of leather. On this lies a twisting array of precisely cut stripes of more red leather. One thinks of entrails. Leather is of course (animal) skin.
Barclay’s work is undoubtedly visceral, and made during the centenary of the First World War, Fallen is perhaps an act of remembrance.