Phyllida Barlow, Untitled, wall blob, 2010. Cement, plaster, scrim, spray paint, and paint over polystyrene core, 60 x 50 cm.

Phyllida Barlow


Serpentine Gallery

Phyllida Barlow has felt the need to assemble and experiment since she was a child. As one of Charles Darwin’s 16 great-great grandchildren, perhaps she was genetically predisposed to such a trait, but even though Barlow grew up in the aura of her famous relative, her mother always emphasized the need for self-achievement. lt was later in life—when Barlow inherited Darwin’s complete published letters—that she began to realize the existence of a powerful creative identity in her ancestor’s accounts of his scientific endeavors.

Darwin often pursued a means of experimentation in which the end result could not be assured. Similarly, the element of surprise plays an important part in Barlow’s practice. Her materials—such as plaster and cement—mutate from a dry powder, through a liquid stage, to solid form. She enjoys the physicality of the working process and habitualty returns to plaster, which requires immense energy on her part. Physical exertion cleanses the soul and abates the psyche, and Barlow has spoken of her…see the entire review in the print version of July/August’s magazine.