Sara Barker’s elegant sculptures are light and spare in appearance. At first glance they are simple, but on closer inspection they reveal themselves to be full of incident, movement and intricate detail.
They are formed through an intuitive working process that uses a wide range of materials: from metals such as steel, brass or aluminium, to Jesmonite®, glass or cement. Barker sometimes begins a sculpture by using paint to make improvised marks on sheets of aluminium. Strips of metal are then cut and worked into three-dimensional structures. Canvas or other materials might be added to these structural elements.
Barker’s works have an obvious sculptural presence, but they often take up the space of the wall as well as the floor. They are characterised by line rather than mass or heaviness – so much so that they have often been described as being drawings or paintings in space. There is a rich tradition of sculpture as ‘drawing in space’ in twentieth-century art, but Barker’s approach is individual to her. In pieces such as Matters (2013) the artist investigates and refines a sculptural language that has emerged from her own working process.
The delicate lines that make up Barker’s pieces can resemble interwoven frames. In art the frame is usually the threshold between the artwork and the world outside it, and is intended to keep the two spaces separate. Barker is interested in what happens when such boundaries are less clear. This is important because it means that her works inhabit the real places in which they are displayed rather than remaining purely in a world of their own.
Literature is an important source of inspiration for Barker, and especially the writings of figures such as Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson and Doris Lessing. They were interested in how we invest spaces with meaning, and with how private ‘moments of being’ that occur exist within public spaces and situations.
Included in Barker’s 2013 exhibition THE THINGS THAT ARE SOLID, ABSORBED AND STILL was a work entitled The things that are fluid, changeable and unpredictable (2013). Most artworks are either solid or fluid, still or unpredictable. Barker’s works subtly combine these two ways of being a thing, and being in space.