Currently exhibiting at The Strand Gallery is Advertising Exhibitions’ show LINES. One of the artists featured is Joanne Barlow, an artist who likes to get her hands dirty. Her work uses an intriguing combination of ceramics and photography to explore notions of social structure, culture and identity. Her latest project Domestic/Industrial sees her revisiting familiar locations from her childhood to create site specific sculptures and witty installations.
Barlow’s entry into the art world was kick started by a shock (but not wholly unwelcome) redundancy from her previous role in retail IT. She used the opportunity to follow her creative dreams, enrolling on a Contemporary Applied Arts BA and spending the next two years knee-deep in clay, wood, metal, plastic and textiles.
There has always been creativity in Barlow’s life. Inspired by an old flatmate, she spent many years experimenting with photography and graphic design. Photography continues to play an integral role in her work, both for documenting her installations and as raw materials for use within her sculptures. Barlow’s mix of the printed image and traditional soda fired ceramics developed organically as a combination of the two mediums she most enjoyed working with, but the nature of these materials also add conceptual depth to her projects. She says:
The combination of ceramics and photography creates an interesting dialogue. We are exposed to both mediums on a daily basis; we are familiar with them due to their provenance. This creates a lot of conceptual scope for discourse and viewer engagement within an art-object and installation.
Barlow’s latest project Domestic/Industrial is as much about the where as the what. The project was inspired by her relationships with the small village of Langold and nearby Firbeck Colliery, two areas she remembers fondly from her youth. The work is not just about these places, but was actually made in and around them. Barlow created many of her sculptures in her aunt’s garden shed and living room in Langold, embedding objects such as gravel and stones into the surfaces and finally returning with the finished products for on-site installations.
My processes are concerned with documenting circumstances, so for D/I I made lots of plaster and clay ‘records’ on-site, took source photographs for design, and eventually contextual photographs of finished pieces back in their source environment. Someone taking photographs of ceramic houses next to piles of rubbish in a disused colliery is not something you come across every day!
Working out in the open has led to some interesting encounters with the inquisitive general public:
My most memorable encounter was being quizzed by two elderly ladies whilst taking in-situ photos. I think they initially thought I was really quite mad, taking photographs of bits of ‘pot’ in a scruffy old back-road. When I explained what I was doing, however, they were very interested in it all and went on to tell me some of their histories in the village, some of which were included in other pieces of D/I.
A selection of work from Barlow’s Domestic/Industrial are featuring in the exhibition LINES. Alongside preparing for the exhibition she has also been busy finishing work for her MA:
I am [continuing] to explore the idea of circumstance through material, process and site. I am utilising blindfolded and sighted drawing, plaster work, video, ceramics, projections, moulding, concretes, photography, graphics, and sewing, in order to explore momentary relationships with my surroundings. This body of work is more autoethnographic than D/I, in that it aims to reflect more of my emotions and thought-processes at the time of making.
For more information visit joannebarlow.com.
LINES can be seen at The Strand Gallery between June 12th and June 15th.