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Glenn Barkley’s Great Clay Composts of History

Studio Visit

After working as a curator for 20 years at University of Wollongong Art Collection and MCA Australia, Glenn Barkley decided it was time to be on the other side of the desk… at least part of the time.

Today, along with running his impressive business The Curators’ Department, the writer, curator and gardener is an exhibiting artist – and therefore a very early riser!

Glenn’s latest body of work, Imayimightimust, opens at Sullivan+Strumpf in Sydney this Thursday; we recently stopped by his Glebe studio to see the layered pieces in development.

4th June, 2018

Inside the studio of Sydney-based artist Glenn Barkley. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

Pieces for Glenn’s exhibition, Imayimightimust at Sullivan+Strumpf. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

Words, drawn from popular songs or poetry, are emblazoned on his art, though purposefully hard to make out. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

The artist creates at Kil.n.it Experimental Ceramics Studio in Glebe (pictured), and at his family home in Berry. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

A student of horticulture, Glenn has a penchant for botanical motifs, particularly cacti and succulents. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

The forthcoming exhibition will feature 10 ceramic pots, new collages, paintings and a large-scale paste-up wallpaper. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

Works in development. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

Glenn admits he is an obsessive-compulsively collector and researcher of cultural artifacts. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

‘There is a sense that time is the great leveler and what is ephemeral is relegated to the skip bin of history,’ tells the 45-year-old artist, ‘ pottery has an inherent eternal potential’. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

Glenn’s use of colour is inspired by garden tones. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

Getting work ready for firing. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

‘I have compared my work to a compost pile of sorts,’ he tells. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

Glenn’s exhibition opens this Thursday, with an artist’s talk. Photo– Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

Photography – Jacqui Turk for The Design Files.

Elle Murrell
Monday 4th June 2018

Though he works with clay, artist Glenn Barkley hasn’t had a lot of training in ceramics. It has all been keen observation and intuitive, hands-on experimentation, bar a six-week hand-building class he took with Cath Fogarty at Clay Pool in Sydney. Employing ‘straight-forward’ coiling and other hand-building methods, he works out of Kil.n.it Experimental Ceramics Studio in Glebe, and also his family home in Berry on the New South Wales South Coast.

Following a lauded showing at the 2018 Auckland Art Fair, comes Glenn’s new exhibition, Imayimightimust. This title is a positive affirmation that appealed to the artist, and no, we didn’t forget our spacing there. ‘I tend to use language in that way on my work – I use words a lot and the words always run into each other. Like a hashtag,’ Glenn explains. ‘Quite often they are so dense and hidden in the pots that they are totally obscured.’

The words themselves, if you’re a keen-eyed-enough to discern them, are drawn from popular songs or poetry. This prose has been emblazoned on 10 ceramic pots – including one work made from 25 separate elements (!) – as well as new collages, paintings, and a large-scale paste-up wallpaper.

The 45-year-old artist admits he’s somewhat of an obsessive-compulsive collector and researcher of cultural artifacts. He’s interested in the idea of time as well as archaeologists Heinrich Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans – a fascination born from his first watch of Raiders of the Lost Ark. ‘I went and saw the objects that Evans collected at The Ashmolean Museum in May last year. There was a lot of pottery, including the amazing Minoan octopus jar,’ muses the ancient-history buff. And how do these inspirations come together in a cohesive body of clay work? ‘I have jammed everything together as if a great compost of history!’ Glenn asserts.

He doesn’t just mean ‘compost’ figuratively either. A student of horticulture, Glenn’s penchant for botanical motifs, particularly cacti and succulents, is clearly evident in his art. ‘I find that gardening is quite closely aligned to exhibition making,’ he says. ‘I use colours in my work that I think come from the garden, lots of different shades and tones of green for instance, and I have compared my work to a compost pile of sorts.’

When asked how Imayimightimust compares to past exhibitions, like Overundersidewaysdown and Yetmorecontemporaryart, the artist is characteristically tongue-in-cheek: ‘Most artists believe the newest body of work is the best one,’ Glenn hints!

Imayimightimust by Glenn Barkley
June 7th to 23rd
Opening night and artist talk Thursday, June 7th 6-8pm
Sullivan+Strumpf Sydney
799 Elizabeth Street
Zetland, New South Wales

Glenn Barkley will also be both artist and curator for the exhibition, Meditation on a bone: Albert Tucker beyond the Modern at Heide Museum of Modern Art in September this year.

‘Pottery has an inherent eternal potential.’ – Glenn Barkley.

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