7×8 | 2020 | Series 7 | Robert Barnstone

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Robert Barnstone NSW – Gene Rosa


What’s your favourite aspect of being an artist?

The intellectual endeavour of developing a body of work, my work often is an exploration of spatial concepts and signifiers.  Forms of containment that force the minds eye to to imagine the depth of the piece.  I also enjoy the making of things and how my personal handwriting is expressed in the sculptural shape and textures, that the decisions and actions I have made can be read by a viewer.  Ultimately there is a satisfaction in making sculpture, like playing an instrument, a satisfaction that comes from  a good moment in life, a belief that what is being made is significant .

Do you have a favourite material you like to work with?

No I don’t just focus on one material, it has more to do with the particular concept I am investigating.  I spent the first 20 years of my career making large wooden pieces in the landscape, later I did a series of works that are poems etched onto stainless steel placed across the urban landscape to create a publication in public sculpture, see the narrative forest on my website. Upon arriving in Sydney and participation in SxS I did a piece that is 19 pairs of feet cast in glass.  The recent Body shell series is made of welded steel.

Would you rather share an Uber with Barbara Hepworth or Cornelia Parker or Antony Gormley?

Though I love the modernist movement and Hepworth’s sculptures they are formalist in nature and are of the time, very 50’s.  Parker is interesting but I am not enamoured with the work in that we have to imagine that the wires are not there and that everything is magically floating. They are there and that is a failure of the work. I do like many of the things that Gormley has done and have a deep respect for the craft and form of the fugitive work.

If you could meet any artist (from the past or present) who would it be?

Picasso, he is a great sculptor and broke through boundaries that people are still grappling with today. Often artists are making work for the marketplace, some in the intellectual marketplace of journals and galleries.

What are you most excited for about SWELL?

I have never shown in the Gold Coast area and that is new.

A world without art would be…

a world of desire without satisfaction. Soulless and fascist.

If you could pick a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) to describe your style what would it be?

Fernet, a bit bitter and dark.

Beach goer or city slicker or outback lover?

I grew up in Vermont on top of a mountain, spent two years in Kenya working with the East African Wildlife Society and for a safari company building bush camps among the Massi people.  Four years at Harvard for graduate school, many years in NYC, Koln, Greece, a year in Holland Teaching at the TU Delft, a year in London at the AA.  15 years at Washington state university and now in Sydney for eight years.

Do you find making art a therapeutic or chaotic process?

Both, in some ways it is best to threaten your work with a bit of chaos so that one might begin to reach boundaries that would not reveal themselves with out taking the chance. Again, I want people to read my work and hope that it can be read in many ways, that it stays fresh and not a sign but a signifier.

Where/how were you inspired to create your SWELL 2020 piece?

The initial derivations of the form began with the shell form and then seemingly offering a sentiment of protection found in the containment and volume of these vessels.

Arthropods arachnids and crustaceans all share in a process of molting also called ecdysiasts: the shedding of their exoskeleton. What is left is a fossil imprint of the body, a shell of an empty shape and yet fashioning a vessel of the imprint of life. The forms of the seashell in this way beckon the viewer to measure the silhouette for its gesture toward their bodies.

What do you want the public to see through your current artwork?

These shapes are articulated with anthropomorphism, determined by forms of the physique. While they have a geometric skin they are also hollow, empty containers, voids that prompt inquisitiveness toward identity and of the containment of space itself. Its sculptural prowess is in the emptiness of its form, the appearance of the void itself as a sculptural means. The void offers access to the space of the imagination the mythical becomes a temptation to measure our existence.  Contained space is a void until it is filled with something, before it become so occupied, it is resonant with a second presence.

Was the location of SWELL a contributing factor towards the inspiration of your piece?

Body shells, The cradle of Perseus, are vessels of containment and shell forms. These containers are fabricated of Corten steel and are scaled to the body and have been formed with a figurative geometry in mind. They suggest the form of a shell or of an Arthropod that has molted and shed its exoskeleton. These pieces are referencing forms of salvation like the mythic vessel as it drifts and hovers above the sea, the Arc, a vessel of papyrus on the Nile or like Danae and Perseus, put into the depth of a chest and cast into the sea.

Shelby Nelson is confident but still growing as a university student. Studying Public Relations and Business she has found a strong passion for all things events, especially when it comes to the arts industry. Growing up on the Gold Coast she lives and breathes the beachside lifestyle and aims to help showcase people with amazing talents, giving the community not only a chance to appreciate them but have an amazing experience whilst doing so.

Follow her on Instagram @shelbynelson1