Bo Bjerggaard

Anna Barriball

23 Aug - 26 Oct 2013

© Anna Barriball
Sunrise/Sunset Door with Fire Red, 2013
Ink, paper, coloured pencil and acrylic spray paint on board
213 cm x 95 cm (unframed)
23 August - 26 October 2013

On the representation of everyday life in the work of Anna Barriball

"The relationship between words and images reflects, within the realm of representation, signification and communication, the relations we posit between symbols and the world, signs and their meanings." W. J. T. Mitchell (1)

An object can be represented in many different ways, but it will always be a question of a kind of interpretation or "translation". Photography is considered the most "truthful" representation of reality, the most objective depiction. The camera's apparatus cre- ates a distance that "guarantees" the objectivity. In C.S. Peirce's semiotic terms, photography is an indexical sign, like a footprint in the snow, i.e., a direct imprint of reality.

Although this notion of photography has been called into question in the meanwhile, the understanding of the picture as an indexical sign is still meaningful with respect to many of Anna Barriball's drawings - those known as rubbings - where she rubs a pencil over a piece of paper to create an image of the underlying material. An example is Window IV, where the drawings reflect the window glass's scratches, inasmuch as the paper has taken on the form of the glass in the process. The work consists of four framed drawings hung in a grid. While the individual drawings do not provoke immediate associations to a window, the four-paned form of the hanging establishes the reference in its resemblance to a window.

Many of Anna Barriball's drawings and objects present passages such as windows, doors, a hearth and crossings between interiors and exteriors. There is a kind of transit object, where one goes from one place to another - both physically, but also mentally. Since the drawings insist on the surface, these passages are always closed and if one wants to reach the other side, it can only be done mentally, by force of imagination. However, it is not so much a question of what is behind the door or window as it is of the sensory experience of the thing in itself. The surface is important - both because it carries traces of the work process, but also because it incarnates the representation. On the question of her method and how she came to create this kind of drawings/ rubbings, Anna Barriball explains: "These drawings first started out of frustration with representation and its inevitable gap from life. The drawings are like slow photographic exposures. The accumulation of marks imprints the real through touch. They can be seen as records or documents, made with light and dark or light and shade, often focusing on architectural apertures. Details are heightened and it is almost as though you see more".(2)

Perception - i.e., the way we perceive an object - is at the very centre of Anna Barriball's work. In her drawings/rubbings it is not so much a matter of the visual representation of a window or door, for example, as it is of an imprint of the object itself. She plays conceptually between our notion of an object and the object in itself. What is the true picture of an object: a photographic or drawn representation, a verbal description, an idea, or an impression such as one of Barriball's rubbings? The interesting thing here is obviously not the answer, but the question and the considerations it prompts. As a kind of imprint of the world, Anna Barriball's drawings have something in common with photography. At the same time, by virtue of their quality as objects - due to the thick pencilled layer, etc. - they also have a certain sculptural character. In other words, they elude simple categorisation. This could also be said of Barriball's practice generally. She does not work in any single expressive medium, but rather in the intersection of drawing, photography, objects, video and installation.
"I use different media and move freely from one to another. I am interested in where one discipline meets another and becomes less fixed, less easily defined. Often the work holds all three elements, the three dimensional, drawing and photography. Not being comfortably described lends the work a stranger presence."

This intersection also includes found objects, processed ready-mades as in Untitled (80 slides) from 2005, consisting of a stack of found slides in classic, variously coloured plastic frames. The slides are taped together so that the individual pictures are not visible, making the work appear more like an object than a series of pictures, more like an image of the reminiscence of a memento than a picture in itself.

The use of found objects has a history in Anna Barriball's work. She has particularly worked on found photographs in several ways, but has also used many other everyday objects such as plastic bags, fabric, etc. These objects represent another time and trigger memories, reminiscences, thoughts or feelings. They are often things she has found at a flea market or other place where she happened upon them. It is crucial in using found photographs that an exchange is created between the photograph's unknown original context and their new context in Barriball's work. However, this linkage of different temporal contexts by virtue of a memory, for example, is also relevant in relation to other found objects. An example is 2011's installation Yellow Leaves, where autumn leaves, clipped from an old pair of curtains Barriball had found at a market, lay spread out across the floor. As she explained in an interview with Anthony Spira (2), she worked with that particular curtain because it matched one from her childhood home. Time as memory or reference is one type of temporality in Anna Barriball's work; another is time as a process - the time it takes to create the large drawings, for example.

However, she also works more directly and concretely with time when she makes videos of a certain duration. Night Photographs (studio) from 2013 shows a series of negative black & white photos taken indoors through windows at night with a flash and autofocus. Thus, the camera focuses by chance on scratches or reflections on the glass or the flash reflects back to spectacular effect. Several layers of visual information are integrated in clipping the photos together, giving one the impression of movement in time and space, underscored by the video's running as a loop.

Another temporal aspect of Anna Barriball's works lies in the time it takes to see them, the time of perception. Just as her works are not narrowly defined within a single expressive category, neither are they trapped in their own being, but are part of a wordless exchange with each other. Thus, in an exhibition context - through the knack of installation - both a temporal structure among the individual pieces and a spatial dialogue between the pieces and the place emerge. At the same time, the viewer's encounter with the work is also important for Barriball: "I am interested in the encounter, the experience of standing in front of a work or within and looking - a kind of bodily looking where you are conscious of your own physicality."

For her Galleri Bo Bjerggaard show, Anna Barriball has worked with the exhibition gallery's various surfaces to create an overall installation statement, where one pass- es through the different exhibition rooms. The new works refer back to many of the artist's earlier pieces and elaborate her visual reflexions on perception: "The drawings and the floor piece hold a strong sense of interior space, domestic doors, a window and curtain fabric. With a flip in perception you might be on the outside, standing with the leaves on the ground."
It is also a matter of representation of what seemingly trivial everyday objects represent for us, and how they are represented in visual expression. Kristine Kern Director of Fotografisk Center, August 2013

1 W. J. T. Mitchell, Iconology, Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 1986, p. 43.
2 The quotations are from an email exchange with Anna Barriball in July, 2013.
3 Fiona Bradley (ed.): "In conversation. Anna Barriball / Anthony Spira" in Anna Barriball, MK Gallery and The Fruitmarket Gallery, 2011, p. 92.

Tags: Anna Barriball