Bar­clay’s race for space

The Herald - Arts - - VISUAL ART - Claire Bar­clay: Yield Point, Tramway 2, 25 Al­bert Drive, Glas­gow, 0845 330 3501, www.tramway.org Un­til 9 April. Bar­clay will be do­ing a free Artist’s Talk in Tramway 2 on Satur­day, Fe­bru­ary 18 at 4pm.

CLAIRE Bar­clay is an artist who is known for us­ing the space in which she ex­hibits as a stu­dio in the run-up to its open­ing. But there are spa­ces. And there are Spa­ces. Glas­gow’s Tramway 2 falls into the lat­ter cat­e­gory, with a cap­i­tal S. It is huge. No doubt about that. Tramway 2 housed four sep­a­rate shows for the 2015 Turner Prize very nicely, thank you.

Some artists would have been daunted by this chal­lenge but Bar­clay isn’t one of them, even though this is the big­gest space she has worked in dur­ing a stel­lar ca­reer span­ning three decades.

For the last four weeks, the Pais­ley­born grad­u­ate of Glas­gow School of Art’s (GSA) fa­mous en­vi­ron­men­tal art course has been qui­etly work­ing away in this space, cre­at­ing and as­sem­bling what is a beau­ti­ful – and strangely up­lift­ing – col­lec­tion of new work.

When I walked into Tramway’s gi­ant hall, which once rat­tled and rolled to the clank of trams be­ing ser­viced, I was struck by an al­most over­pow­er­ing feel­ing of calm.

At var­i­ous points around the hall, are sculp­tural works which look like they have al­ways been there. Us­ing a mix of metal, steel, dyed can­vas, la­tex, ce­ram­ics, ce­ment, tex­tiles, thread, soot, en­gine oil, grease and other ma­te­ri­als, Bar­clay has cre­ated a Zen-like land­scape.

Her colours-scheme is at once muted yet tem­pered with zest. Or­ange, rust and mus­tard min­gle hap­pily with mono­chrome.

Bar­clay has long been in­ter­ested in the re­la­tion­ships be­tween the hu­man body and places where hard man­ual labour takes place so as a space with a bona fide in­dus­trial heritage, Tramway is a per­fect fit.

She has made a virtue of what is ef­fec­tively a gi­ant hang­ing sys­tem by us­ing Tramway 2’s rafters and sup­port columns. As you walk in, a gi­ant mus­tard-coloured can­vas with rusty metal fringed pan­els along the bot­tom hangs be­tween two of the rooms ex­ist­ing columns, draped over ceil­ing joists from a great height.

At the far end of the hall, there’s a mas­sive or­ange can­vas bub­ble hang­ing from the ceil­ing. In­side, at var­i­ous points, clumps of black worm-like thread lie sil­hou­et­ted against the light.

Else­where, swathes of care­fully-cut la­tex the colour of Don­ald Trump’s skin hang limply from the rafters – sus­pended in mid-air over ei­ther blocks of con­crete or gi­ant clean cut pieces of can­vas painted with what looks like fin­gers in manic cof­fee-coloured swirls. Other la­tex pieces are be­ing prod­ded by shiny over­sized riv­ets – as if they are be­ing tested for signs of life.

Like dis­em­bow­elled body parts in a spot­less abat­toir, they all look like they are melt­ing. The ques­tion of what they are melt­ing into re­mains hang­ing in the air. It is up to you, as a viewer to make up your own story.

Bar­clay is known for in­hab­it­ing some notable spa­ces; in­clud­ing, in April 2016, the Kelvin Hall, as part of Glas­gow In­ter­na­tional and in 2015, at Vi­enna’s Kun­sthalle Wien gallery for the first Vi­enna Bi­en­nale. In 2003, ten years af­ter grad­u­at­ing from GSA, she rep­re­sented Scot­land at the Venice Bi­en­nale.

I find the artist qui­etly walk­ing round and round two white metal columns, wind­ing black thread as she goes, keep­ing the tension just so. The thread is be­ing ‘wo­ven’ prior to be­ing re­moved and draped over a nearby steel struc­ture which Bar­clay has made with the help of a Coat­bridge-based fab­ri­ca­tion com­pany.

This struc­ture is adorned with sec­tions of mus­tard-coloured fringed suede and shiny pre­ci­sion-cut bro­cade. Shiny domed metal columns line up like bul­lets atop the suede, while other “in­ter­ven­tions”, such as golden cones (think Madonna’s cone-bra) jut out from small rods on the struc­ture and small combs lie close to – or on top of – the fronds of black thread which Bar­clay is still in the process of mak­ing.

“I might not use this one but I am mak­ing it any­way,” she tells me as she walks round the poles. For Bar­clay, mak­ing and dis­card­ing is all part of the process. Even if it en­tails walk­ing thread for 3.7 miles around two poles.

“I have a cup­board full of things which didn’t make it into the ex­hi­bi­tion next door,” she laughs.

“The whole ex­hi­bi­tion has changed a lot in the time given,” she adds. “I am used to im­pro­vis­ing but I’ve felt very com­fort­able in this space. The minute I got into it about a month ago, I re­laxed. Usu­ally in the weeks lead­ing up to an open­ing, I’m like a project man­ager, but that hasn’t hap­pened here.”

Bar­clay never works with found ob­jects, pre­fer­ring to make and shape the work her­self. “I like it when there is an in­ter­est­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the ma­te­ri­als I use. I am us­ing soap and grease in this ex­hi­bi­tion and I find that in­ter­est­ing be­cause soap breaks down grease.”

Claire Bar­clay’s art it feels to me like a door open­ing into a par­al­lel world I didn’t know ex­isted. As I was leav­ing, I asked the artist about the small shiny metal combs scat­tered around the metal struc­ture at the heart of the ex­hi­bi­tion.

“They’re combs,” she says, “but the scales are all wrong so you start to imag­ine all sorts of purposes.”

Some­times it can be hard to an­a­lyse why art makes an im­pres­sion. Claire Bar­clay’s work is beau­ti­fully crafted and be­guil­ing in its pre­sen­ta­tion. Noth­ing and ev­ery­thing is left to chance. Rivet­ers and welders in the ship­yards took pride in mak­ing the finest met­al­work as part of the big­ger pic­ture. Bar­clay takes the same work­man­like ap­proach laced in with Shaman-like pur­pose.

Claire Bar­clay’s work, on dis­play at Tramway 2, on the south side of Glas­gow, un­til April 9, is beau­ti­fully crafted and be­guil­ing in its pre­sen­ta­tion

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