Playful Scaffolds By Phyllida Barlow At Tate Britain

The Duveen galleries are the grand halls facing the main entrance of Tate Britain; their high ceilings and neoclassical architecture presents them as the traditional counter to Tate Modern’s turbine hall. However, recent exhibitions within this space have been disappointing and we have to go back to Fiona Banner’s hanging aircraft to find an installation that made full use of these lofty spaces.

Now comes the turn of Phyllida Barlow who has taken her signature style of sculpting with found objects to an extreme level in this latest commission. The first sculpture appears to be a random assemblage of a wooden scaffold with what look like shipping containers hanging off it at precarious angles, one even has its ‘innards’ of polystyrene poised to fall on to the floor. Next to it stands a faux pillar made of cardboard held together by multicoloured tape, standing in stark contrast to the polished support pillars of the Tate.

The installation continues with another sculpture that seems to have collapsed under its own weight, and one more overloaded with bags of material appears to be on the verge of joining its neighbour.

Finally, we have a piece that resembles a ramshackle stairway ascending towards the high set windows, as if inviting visitors to climb this rickety sculpture that would then collapse under their weight.

This installation acts as an ode to architectural folly and unplanned creativity; it could only work in this setting, as it is a stark contrast to the clean, sturdy and well designed galleries. It would be a confusing mess if presented anywhere else but here, within the walls of Tate Britain, it becomes a fun and engaging installation that’s worth exploring.

Phyllida Barlow: Dock is on at Tate Britain until 19 October.  Also still on at Tate Britain are the sinuous sculptures of Richard Deacon and the architecturally inspired Ruin Lust.

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