A solo exhibition of works by Anna Barriball (1972, Plymouth) from the past decade is on show at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh till 9 April 2012. The exhibition presents selected works developed from a practice centered on repeated engagements with and between the languages of drawing and sculpture.
Copper pipes is an example of the way that Barriball uses materials that she works with on paper, from paint, ink and pencil, to create drawings or paintings that embody a three-dimensional quality from the texture or sheen, amplified by its mode of display. Sheets of paper that are rolled and inclined against the wall appear as copper pipes, with a density and lustre anchored by the coats of copper-tinted acrylic paint. In Mirror Window Wall I, II, III, IV, strongly marked paper rubbings of a wall result in a series of drawings that are titled in recognition of its framing – installed behind glass that one can peer through as a window into a wall, or as a reflective mirror. The works speak to a preoccupation not only with acquiring transfers to capture the imprints and textures of surfaces, but also a deep interest in the way that surfaces are inhibiting and constrain, yet can be imbued to evoke an expansion of space beyond the architectural confines of interior and exterior.
From walls to doors and fireplaces, these surfaces that wrap around or border zones of habitation are treated as animate. Draw (fireplace) is a video installation in a darkened end of a room, of a sheet of tracing paper that is placed over the fireplace. From gentle movements of the tracing paper to intervals when it is adhered against the grate, the chimney as a passage through which air flows becomes personified as a person drawing in breath.
Draw (fireplace) is one of several works in the exhibition that seem to veer away from the technique of drawing. Yet, in this sculptural intervention re-presented as a video projection, the search for the life beneath with an undercurrent of seeking to attribute presence to the invisible, is a thread that runs through Barriball’s works. Perhaps, as aptly titled, one draws not just to form marks and lines, but as an expression of breath and life. As a way to enter Barriball’s works, this idea opens a view to seeing her works as explorations of air in motion – within and through objects and spaces, as breath and wind, and as passages between the animate and inanimate, life and death.
This idea takes form in 36 Breaths, composed from the blowing of a drop of black ink placed right in the centre of each of 36 photographs arranged into a grid, creating a symphony of splatters. As black and white found photographs of people from a previous generation, there is a sense that these are images of people perhaps no longer existing. The drawing and releasing of one’s breath becomes an unsettling gesture, as if wanting to breathe life into these unknown individuals, to reawaken them, whilst at the same time, with an exhalation creating a blotch that physically blackens and erases them from history.