- Media category
- Materials used
- earthenware and slip
- 39.0 x 23.0 x 23.0 cm
- Purchased with funds provided by the Mollie Douglas Bequest 2021
- Modern gallery
- Accession number
- © Glenn Barkley
- Artist information
Works in the collection
These bizarre, brightly coloured and somewhat wonky hand-built sculptures, pots and vessels are the creations of Sydney-based ceramicist, curator and avid gardener Glenn Barkley. Barkley’s interest in pop culture, horticulture, and historical ceramic traditions are reflected in these intricately patterned ceramics. Each work is inflected with his trademark humour and assertively retains the mark of the maker. A joyous sense of horror vacui saturates the surfaces of Barkley’s vessels, where every inch is filled with curious motifs, decorations and jewel-toned embellishments.
Barkley’s ceramics have a strong link to museology and history, in part shaped by his background as a curator. Linking ideas, ordering information, arranging objects and images to create relationships and tell stories – all of these aspects are at the core of Barkley’s creative process. Barnacle-like clusters of shells, faces of historic figures, animals and fragments of text cling to the surfaces of his ceramic forms, accumulated histories drawn from Barkley’s surroundings, ideas and experiences.
Large vase with prunings and tokens, 2020 and Pot with branches, 2020 were made during the turbulance of the Covid-19 pandemic, when Barkley’s usual routines were upturned and he was spending much of his time gardening. The garden itself seeps into these works as unwieldy branches – the stumpy sticks left behind after pruning – jut out of the encrusted and pitted surfaces of ceramic vessels.
Medium size pink pox pot from an earlier 2018 body of work aptly accompanies these two souvenirs from the pandemic. The intricate pitted detail that covers the surface of the vessel resembles a rash – for it is a pox pot after all. But it also draws attention to Barkley’s preoccupation with the microscopic and the multiple, a fascination that has been fostered in the garden. As Barkley explains,
‘There’s a sense that you could get down on your hands and knees and look at the microscopic qualities of the soil or you can step right back and look at the garden as a whole environment…I want you to look at the form as one thing but if you keep looking you can look further and further and there’s always detail. Nearly all of myw'ork is covered in these holes and you can only make those holes with a skewer one hole at a time. It’s quite obsessive and it’s quite addictive.'
 Glenn Barkley speaking about his exhibition ‘What do the birds say?’ at Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney, April 2020 in video by Simon Hewson
Shown in 1 exhibition
Local Rhythms and Actions, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Jun 2022–08 Jan 2023