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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Stopped clocks



John Barbour

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.




Media categories

Sculpture , Installation

Materials used

lead, steel, voile embroided with silk and cotton thread, ink, watercolour, silk dye?


195.0 x 470.0 x 50.0 cm :

a - textile, 400.4 x 136 cm

b - rod, 200 x 2.4 cm

c - wall piece, 82.1 x 5.2 cm

d - floor piece, 5.9 x 4 cm

e - floor piece, 31.1 x 23.2 x 2.8 cm

f - floor piece, 29 x 19.4 x 4 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Rudy Komon Memorial Fund 2013


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

John Barbour

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

  • 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

  • Exploded Textiles, Tamworth Regional Gallery, Tamworth, 28 Sep 2019–01 Dec 2019

Referenced in 1 publication


Ewen McDonald, John Barbour: hard/soft, Adelaide, 2011, n.pag. (colour illus.).