Friday, June 22, 2007

When Bad Objects Get Good

You sexy bitch, 2006

A number of contemporary artists are using old-fashioned figurines to express a very modern message. But none so effectively as Barnaby Barford, a London-based 2002 graduate of the Royal College of Art.

At only 20 years of age, Barford has developed an impressive list of international exhibitions and commissions, which include a whisky service for Brown-Forman, holiday windows for Saatchi & Saatchi and production pieces for retailer Thorsten Van Elten. Unlike most artists' CVs, Barford's also includes an employment history of visiting lectureships, a clear indication of the seriousness with which he takes his craft.

Barford's one-off ceramics come together from mass-produced, kitschy figures made over the last one-hundred years or so. The figurines are carefully broken and put back together, but not in their original way. An animal's head on a human figure, for example, results in a familiar-looking object but with an unusual twist. As the artist states, its "a reworking of tradition that leaves it recognisable but different, witty, edited." What's particularly remarkable about Barford's pieces - and what makes him so different from others doing this sort of thing - is the sheer skill with which the pieces are rejoined: nothing clumsy about them, these pieces are slick.

And slick with their message, too. Though some constructions are just plain funny, most tell a story, sometimes subtly and sometimes harshly, dealing with painful human issues of class, vanity, greed and jealousy. The non-threatening, cloyingly-sweet figurines speak with a razor-sharp clarity.

Plan for World Domination No.116, 2006 (detail)

Aaaaaaaaagggggghhhhhhh, 2006

Fancy a pint then?, 2005

Shit! Now I'm going to be really late, 2006

Well I think he's done a cracking job!, 2006

Nobody fucking move, 2006 (detail)

It's bullshit, he's lying, 2005

David Gill Galleries
60 Fulham Road
London, SW3 2HH

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