(Netherlands, Australia 18 Aug 1954 – 17 Apr 2011)
'Stopped clocks' presents a long voile panel pinned to the wall. The diaphanous fabric is coloured by shadowy, cloudlike stains, with delicate tonal gradations from intense black to soft grey. Areas of the panel are left untouched, highlighting its veil-like appearance, and yet there are moments of pure colour dotted across the fabric. To the far right, a series of numbers are embroidered onto the fabric using coarse black wool. Stemming from the same single zero, in two lines the numbers diverge unevenly across the draped silk surface of the work.
In contrast to the mellifluous quality of the wall panel, a group of metal pieces are arranged directly on the gallery floor on the left. Their physicality is paramount: they are held fast by gravity. They have the appearance of everyday things, of found objects, formed of metal.
The work encapsulates aspects of Barbour's artistic concerns: the space between perception and reality or between subjectivity and objectivity and how this can be translated into spatial and formal terms. It highlights the shifts between hard and soft in Barbour's practice: the physicality of materials their presence and potential to be re-formed (Ewen McDonald 2011). Its title references a poem by W.H. Auden titled 'Stop all the clocks' (1936/38), emphasising the work as a meditation on the brevity of life.
Ewen McDonald, John Barbour: hard/soft, Adelaide, 2011, n.pag. (colour illus.).
Accrued losses, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, South Australia, 05 Feb 1999–14 Mar 1999
Work for now, Australian Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, 11 Nov 2010–12 Dec 2010