Phyllida Barlow

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Phyllida Barlow
Newcastle upon Tyne, England
EducationChelsea College of Art, Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London
Known forSculpture

Phyllida Barlow CBE RA (born 1944) is a British artist. Barlow studied at Chelsea College of Art (1960–63) and the Slade School of Art (1963–66).[1] After joining the staff in the late 1960s, Barlow taught at the Slade School of Art for more than forty years before retiring in 2009 and is now Emerita Professor of Fine Art. Phyllida Barlow has had an important influence on younger generations of artists through her work and long teaching career in London art schools. At the Slade School of Fine Art, her students included Turner Prize-winning and nominated artists Rachel Whiteread and Angela de la Cruz.[2] In 2011 Barlow became a Royal Academician and in 2015 she was made a CBE for her services to the arts in the Queen's New Year's Honours.[3] In 2017, Barlow represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale.[4]

Installation view, 'Phyllida Barlow. RIG', Hauser & Wirth, London, England, 2011

Early life and education[edit]

Although born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1944 (as her psychiatrist father Erasmus Darwin Barlow, a great-grandson of Charles Darwin, was stationed there at the time), Barlow was brought up in London. She studied at Chelsea College of Art (1960–63) under the tutelage of George Fullard who was to influence Barlow's perception of what sculpture can be. "Fullard, among others, was able to impart that the act of making was in itself an adventure. A sculpture that falls over or breaks is just as exciting as one that reveals itself perfectly formed. All the acts of making in the world are there to be plundered and contain within themselves the potential to be transferred to the studio and adapted."[5]

Whilst studying at Chelsea, Barlow met her husband, the artist and writer Fabian Peake, the son of Mervyn Peake, author of Gormenghast. She later attended the Slade School of Fine Art from 1963 to 1966 to further study sculpture. Barlow and her husband have five children together.


Maybe I don't think enough about beauty in my work because I'm so curious about other qualities, abstract qualities of time, weight, balance, rhythm; collapse and fatigue versus the more upright dynamic notions of maybe posture ... the state that something might be in. Is it growing or shrinking, is it going up or down, is it folding or unfolding? – Phyllida Barlow, The Guardian 2016.[6]

Best known for her colossal sculptural projects, Barlow uses "a distinctive vocabulary of inexpensive materials such as plywood, cardboard, plaster, cement, fabric and paint" to create striking sculptures.[7] Drawing on memories of familiar objects from her surroundings, Barlow's practice is grounded in an anti-monumental tradition characterised by her physical experience of handling materials, which she transforms through processes of layering, accumulation and juxtaposition.[8] "Obtrusive and invasive, Barlow's large-scale sculptural objects are frequently arranged in complex installations in which mass and volume seem to be at odds with the space around them. Their role is restless and unpredictable: they block, interrupt, intervene, straddle and perch, both dictating and challenging the experience of viewing."[9] Her constructions are often crudely painted in industrial or synthetic colours, resulting in abstract, seemingly unstable forms.

Barlow's work has been presented in solo exhibitions around the world. In 2014 Barlow was commissioned to create new work for the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain, London, England.

In 2016, Barlow presented a solo exhibition of new work at the Kunsthalle Zurich. Barlow is one of four artists to be nominated for the inaugural Hepworth prize, the UK's first prize for sculpture, and her work will be on display at the Hepworth Wakefield from October 2016.[10]


  1. ^ "Townsend Lecture 2014: Phyllida Barlow". Slade School of Fine Art.
  2. ^ "10 minutes with Phyllida Barlow". Royal Academy.
  3. ^ "Sculptor Phyllida Barlow gets CBE for 'services to art'". The Telegraph.
  4. ^ "Phyllida Barlow to represent Britain at Venice Biennale". BBC News.
  5. ^ "Phyllida Barlow. Learning Experience". Frieze.
  6. ^ "Phyllida Barlow: an artistic outsider who has finally come inside". The Guardian.
  7. ^ "Phyllida Barlow to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale 2017". British Council.
  8. ^ "Artist Rooms: Phyllida Barlow". Tate.
  9. ^ "Phyllida Barlow: dock". Tate.
  10. ^ "The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture". The Hepworth Wakefield.

Further reading[edit]

  • Barlow, Phyllida, Phyllida Barlow: Mix. Vienna: Verlag Für Moderne Kunst (2015) ISBN 978-3-903004-70-2
  • Bradley, Fiona (ed.), Phyllida Barlow: Sculpture 1963 – 2015. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz (2015) ISBN 978-3-7757-4011-1
  • Harrison, Sara (ed.), Phyllida Barlow: Fifty Years of Drawings. Zurich: JRP|Ringier (2014) ISBN 978-3-03764-366-2
  • Vicario, Gilbert (ed.), Phyllida Barlow: Scree. Des Moines: Des Moines Art Center (2013) ISBN 978-1-879003-67-5
  • Brigitte Franzen (ed.) Phyllida Barlow: Brink. Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König (2013) ISBN 978-3-86335-272-1
  • Feuvre, Lisa Le (ed.), Bad Copies: The Drawings of Phyllida Barlow. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute (2012) ISBN 978-1-905462-38-4
  • Phillips, Lisa, Carrion-Murayari, Gary (eds.), Phyllida Barlow: Siege. New York: New Museum (2012) ISBN 978-0-9854485-1-6
  • Baghramian, Nairy; Barlow, Phyllida; Peyton-Jones, Julia; Obrist, Hans-Ulrich (et al.) Nairy Baghramian and Phyllida Barlow. Cologne; London: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König (2010) ISBN 978-3-86560-839-0
  • Simpson, Ronnie, Phyllida Barlow: STINT. Warwick: Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre (2008) ISBN 978-0-902683-89-1
  • Godfrey, Mark; Wood, John (et al.). Objects for...and Other Things Phyllida Barlow. London: Black Dog Publishing (2004) ISBN 978-1-901033-59-5

External links[edit]