Phyllida Barlow, Tate Modern

Opening Hours

Monday to Sunday 10.00–18.00


Tate Modern, 


London SE1 9TG


ARTIST ROOMS: Phyllida Barlow, the latest in this series of free displays at Tate Modern, opens to the public today. It brings together a selection of Barlow’s celebrated large-scale sculptures as well as over 30 works on paper made across her sixty-year career.

Cutting, sawing, breaking, coiling, folding or covering: Barlow has been fascinated by the experience of handling materials since the late 1960s. Her work is playful and unwieldy, with layered surfaces and contrasting textures, often daubed or wrapped in bright colours. Her structures disobey the rules of gravity, balance and symmetry. They look as if they might collapse or tip over at any moment and challenge our expectations of beauty in sculpture.

Observation and drawing are key to Barlow’s process, but her intention is never simply to record the world around her. Barlow is interested in the act of remembering, and the details that are lost in the process. In her drawings and sculptures, real-world subjects become abstract versions of themselves. Her works seem to resemble houses, stages, awnings, and racks made strange. Barlow’s sculptures often reveal the means of their making, but her choice of materials can be deceptive. Sometimes wooden structures are covered with a thin layer of cement to appear heavier than they are. Colour is added using fabric, tape and construction foam alongside paint and dye.

For Barlow, ‘the sculptural object is restless and unpredictable in how it can use space. It is not necessarily a comfortable or comforting experience.’ Barlow’s sculptures interrupt and invade the space around them. They direct our movements and attention, encouraging us to look at things in new ways.

Phyllida Barlow was born in 1944 in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. She lives and works in London.

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