Sara Barker & Barbara Kasten
Mary Mary at Laura Bartlett Gallery, 10 Northington Street, London, W1C 2JF
11 October-23 November 2013
From the Press Release
Running concurrently to her solo show at the Glasgow gallery, Sara Barker has produced for this London presentation, complex and delicate brazed and welded wall based assemblages combining painted aluminium, steel and brass. Unlike previous works, these pieces have been made with the site itself very much in mind, using corners and particular views as the pieces’ starting points.
Barker’s frame of reference often draws from language and literature through a process that gives material and meaning equality. Developing from numerous texts such as Bruno Munari’s ‘Design as Art’ and the work of Doris Lessing and May Sarton, descriptions and extracts lend themselves to titles, suggest colour and influence shape and form. Recently texts describing organic processes such as the conditions that effect plant growth, branches and leaves have been referenced, mirroring an organic process of making and an increasingly interlocking and over-lapping body of forms.
Barker works in a way that sees pieces ‘grow’ out of themselves as if branches of a tree, with each section aiding the development of the next and attempts to find unexpected qualities in materials, and a lightness in making that refutes the idea of sculpture as always solid, dense and volumetric. Increasingly the work has focused more specifically on the painted surface, with larger areas of brightly painted sections amongst the welded brass forms.
Alongside Sara Barker, Mary Mary is showing a selection of works by Barbara Kasten, including recent pieces as well as works from her Construct series from the 1980s. Since the 1970s, Barbara Kasten has been making abstract images, which promote a cross-disciplinary approach to image-making, dealing with sculpture, painting and installation within the photographic medium. For Kasten, these works do not primarily focus on photography but equally on an innovation in painting and sculpture, which see her build abstract installations made from mirrors, paper, fabrics and metal sheets. These are then photographed, with the final images depicting a sort of ‘stage,’ which is always abstract and non-narrative.
Through this process, Kasten presents us with a complex and fascinating portrait of the photographic image. By adopting a representing medium such as photography and using it to distort a subject, Kasten has shifted something, which normally purely documents into a transformative tool. In doing so, the camera manages to capture a working moment, a gathering of material and imagery and a study in working with light and colour. Indeed, in the more recent Studio Construct series, the camera has captured tiny scratches in Plexi-glass, small rips and tears in paper which are magnified to epic proportions through the camera and Kasten’s composition.
Influenced by the Californian Light and Space Movement of the 1960s and 70s and artists such as James Turrell, Robert Irwin and Agnes Martin, Kasten’s work also finds its origins in Minimalism and Constructivism. Whilst she has also talked of her interest in Kandinsky’s writings on the emotional affects of colour, we can also see links to Lázló Moholy-Nagy and the work of Man Ray. In turn, she has influenced many of the current generation of artists working in photography such as Eileen Quinlan and Liz Deschenes amongst many others, with a practice which was far ahead of its time and which continues to resonate today.