“This is my studio.”
“Figurines that have been collected over the years.”
Barnaby Barford (b. 1977) graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2002. He has been the subject of several solo exhibitions in the UK, and has shown in exhibitions in the US and Japan as well as across Europe. He works with both mass-market and antique found porcelain figurines, cutting up and exchanging elements or adding to them and repainting them, to create sculptures which are often sinister and sardonic but invariably humorous. Barford has made projection based installations, worked with prestigious companies including Nymphenburg and has designed products for Thorsten Van Elten. He has also directed a unique film based on his highly acclaimed artwork made from ceramic figurines for Animate Projects which was broadcast on Channel 4 in September 2008. Damaged Goods is a tragic love story played out by porcelain figurines. (Barnaby’s full CV here.)
“Some heads and other parts of figurines – I don’t throw anything away.”
“The paints I use to paint my work.”
FROM YOUR DESKS:How do you work?
BARNABY BARFORD: I Barn work with found objects, I work with mass market/antique figurines cutting up, exchanging elements and sculpting onto them to create sculptures. I have increasingly been creating other elements to the sculptures. I work with an area of society that is interesting me at the moment I will then develop themes of pieces that I would like to explore. I look for figures amongst my own collection and buy others from charity shops and eBay. Specific ideas for pieces will sometimes come from playing with the figures.
These American brands are not just American anymore…
FYD: How did school play a role in helping develop your work?
BB: It opened my eyes to conceptual thinking and that there are no boundaries to your work, anything is possible. I found mixing with students from all different courses was really inspiring. It was very hard work and this carries through to your own practice.
FYD: Did you stumble into ceramics?
BB: Sort of yes. I went to study on the cross European Erasmus Exchange programme during my BA course. I went to Faenza in Italy which is a ceramic town. I started working with the medium there.
FYD: When finding discarded objects; do you consider the history behind those objects as you hold them in your hand?
BB: It is unavoidable. However what interests me more is their new life, I am not concerned with their provenance but what they can communicate, what stories they can play out in their new lives.
FYD: Everyone has access to everything these days. What’s your take on these ceramic figures, especially the children, surrounded by fast food, booze, toting guns and porn?
BB: I think the children represent all of us. They represent our innocence, they represent our care free attitudes. My work looks at all aspects of society. We think we are so advanced but as human beings emotionally we have not changed since the dawn of society. Our characteristics have not changed our desires our foibles have not changed. It is really up to the viewer to see what they want in the pieces. Maybe it is gluttony or greed or maybe it is uncaring parents. Maybe it is not the children’s fault but that of society.
FYD: How does popular culture, especially American pop culture,(McDonald’s, the Disney crew a la Mickey Mouse) play into your work ?
BB: These American brands are not just American anymore as are a lot of other things. We live in a global society so we are bombarded with McDonald’s KFC, Coca Cola etc as much as in America. I look at everything. I want to make work about our society now, our society in relation to history and to the future. In doing so I must use cultural references. These tend to be popular icons/symbols.
Maybe it is gluttony or greed or maybe it is uncaring parents.
FYD: I’m particularly fond of your “And This One is For Zidane” “Does That Mean We’re Not Getting Any Presents” and “Stick That on YouTube!” Your ceramics appear so harmless; how do you outfit them with guns, knives, bats?
BB: All the pieces are inspired by different things. The Zidane was done shortly after the 2006 World Cup when Italy beat France and Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi. Stick that on YouTube and Does That Mean We’re not getting Any Presents came from looking at ideas of lost youth and perceptions of children. I like to broach subjects and show narratives with these figurines that you would not expect.
FYD: Do you hope to make more films a la your Damaged Goods?
BB: I would love to make some more films but funding is a problem especially using stop frame animation.
FYD: Any films of recent inspiration?
BB: I love lots of different types of film from Fellini to Pixar. Being a new dad has sort of destroyed my film watching for a good while so I haven’t watched anything for a while!
Barnaby’s most recent work, an exhibition called Love Is…about love and lust getting mixed up is currently showing at David Gill Galleries, London. Check the latest on his site and follow him on Facebook.