Advertisement

Claire Barclay

Tramway, Glasgow, UK

The first thing that struck me as I entered Tramway’s vast main gallery space was the smell. Evocative rather than unpleasant, it was the odor of the factory and workshop, of engine oil and machinery, grease and metal, precision engineering and brute industrial force. There were more odours of industry as I walked round this former tram shed, navigating a series of eight installations (Yield Point, 2017). Consisting of fabricated objects that foreground the materials and processes of mechanization, each element at the same time betrays its lack of utility, form hinting at but not delivering any discernible function.

cb_tw_02900cb_tw_02jpgcb_tw_02.jpg

Claire Barclay ‘Yield Point’, 2017, installation view, Tramway, Glasgow

Claire Barclay ‘Yield Point’, 2017, installation view, Tramway, Glasgow

Claire Barclay’s carefully configured sculptural arrangements occupy the space with a mix of menace and forlornness. They are made from, amongst other things, steel and cast-concrete, machined aluminium and rubber, brass mesh and white ceramic, canvas and printed fabric – practical, purposeful materials born of the industrial age. These works appear robust and reliable yet, as suggested by the exhibition’s title – in mechanical engineering, a ‘yield point’ is the moment at which a solid material loses its elasticity and becomes permanently deformed – there is tension and uncertainty, too. Drama fills the gallery. Grease is smeared on metal, oil soaks into suede and black thread, and the smells of the factory floor are complemented by the colours of the same: bright orange powder-coated steel, jet-black rubber drive belts, the silver sheen of aluminium, roughly stitched mustard-yellow canvas.

cb_tw_03900cb_tw_03jpgcb_tw_03.jpg

Claire Barclay ‘Yield Point’, 2017, installation view, Tramway, Glasgow

Claire Barclay ‘Yield Point’, 2017, installation view, Tramway, Glasgow

The forensic focus on materials and their ability to evoke memory and emotion is a constant in Barclay’s practice. So, too, is the importance of process in her work: these installations, like those in previous shows, were created in-situ, with the gallery space acting as a temporary studio in the lead-up to the exhibition’s opening. Yield Point responds to Tramway’s late-Victorian industrial architecture and can, in part, be seen as continuing the artist’s dialogue with her home city’s manufacturing history. Her commission for last year’s Glasgow International, Bright Bodies (2016), was installed in the part-derelict Kelvin Hall – host to the 1951 Festival of Britain’s Exhibition of Industrial Power and for many years the home of a popular circus.

tcb-0217-0068.jpg

Claire Barclay ‘Yield Point’, 2017, installation view, Tramway, Glasgow

Claire Barclay ‘Yield Point’, 2017, installation view, Tramway, Glasgow

Yet, while Bright Bodies referenced the decline of traditional industries and the cultural and societal changes associated with this, Yield Point – though much larger in scale – is more intimate in tone. The tension here seems to be between the hardness of mechanization – its repetition and exactness – and the vulnerability, the waywardness, of human behaviour, of flesh and bone. In oblique ways, the human body exerts a kind of ghostly presence throughout the exhibition. A grouping of three interlinked cage-like steel structures in the centre of the gallery calls to mind workplace lockers, stripped back to their frames and peppered with welded-on metal prongs that point slightly upwards, like oversized coat pegs. Elsewhere, cast-concrete ‘sinks’ have been filled with now-set liquid soap, evoking scenes of grime being scrubbed from hands at the end of a factory shift. More menacingly, smooth, flowing shapes cut from pinky-orange rubber hang on hooks like flayed skin.

cb_tw_09900cb_tw_09jpgcb_tw_09.jpg

Claire Barclay ‘Yield Point’, 2017, installation view, Tramway, Glasgow

Claire Barclay ‘Yield Point’, 2017, installation view, Tramway, Glasgow

These hints of the human form suggest industrial workers that both facilitate and disrupt the manufacturing process: the oil and poison in the industrial machine. While mechanization in all its forms can dehumanize and desensitize, the message of Yield Point seems, ultimately, to be an optimistic one – that the point of no return is yet to be reached and that the human spirit is not easily broken.

Chris Sharratt is a freelance writer and editor based in Glasgow. 

Issue 187

First published in Issue 187

May 2017
Advertisement

Most Read

The whisteblower and former intelligence analyst will speak on algorithms’s impact on democracy, LGBTQ rights and...
The arrest of the photojournalist for ‘provocative comments’ over Dhaka protests makes clear that personal liberty...
The auction house insists that there is a broad scholarly consensus that the record-breaking artwork be attributed to...
‘We need more advocates across gender lines and emphatic leaders in museums and galleries to create inclusive,...
In further news: artists rally behind detained photographer Shahidul Alam; crisis talks at London museums following...
Criticism of the show at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest comes alongside a nationalist reshaping of the...
A retrospective at Munich’s Museum Brandhorst charts the artist’s career from the 1980s to the present, from ‘fem-trash...
At the National Theatre of Wales, a performance alive with wild, tactile descriptions compels comparison between the...
There are perils in deploying bigotry to score political points, but meanings also shift from West to East
‘It’s ridiculous. It’s Picasso’: social media platform to review nudity policy after blocking Montreal Museum of Fine...
Poland’s feminist ‘Bison Ladies’ storm the Japanese artist’s Warsaw exhibition in solidarity with longtime model Kaori’...
An art historian and leading Leonardo expert has cast doubt on the painting’s attribution
How will the Black Panther writer, known for his landmark critical assessments of race, take on the quintessential...
The dissident artist has posted a series of videos on Instagram documenting diggers demolishing his studio in the...
In further news: artists for Planned Parenthood; US court rules on Nazi-looted Cranachs; Munich’s Haus der Kunst...
A mother’s death, a father’s disinterest: Jean Frémon’s semi-factual biography of the artist captures a life beyond...
Jostling with its loud festival neighbours, the UK’s best attended annual visual art festival conducts a polyphonic...
It’s not clear who destroyed the project – part of the Liverpool Biennial – which names those who have died trying to...
Dating from 1949 to the early 1960s, the works which grace the stately home feel comfortable in the ostentatious pomp...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018