For more than 50 years, British artist Phyllida Barlow took inspiration from her surroundings to create imposing installations that can be at once menacing and playful. She created tactile, seemingly precarious sculptures that resonate with emotional intensity and the urgency of their creation. These constructions are often painted in vibrant colors and the means of their construction left visible, revealing their inexpensive, industrial materials: cardboard, fabric, plywood, polystyrene, scrim and cement.
Barlow studied at Chelsea College of Art (1960 – 1963) and the Slade School of Art (1963 – 1966). She later taught at both schools and was Professor of Fine Art and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the latter until 2009.
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 Honours. In 2017, Barlow represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale. She was made a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in The Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2021.
In February of 2019, Barlow created an entirely new exhibition in our Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries, which she conceived as her own interpretation of a residential cul-de-sac. By closing the exit door in the final room, Barlow forced the viewer to turn around and revisit each sculpture anew, from the other side. She created forests of seemingly precarious structures, exploring the full height of the gallery space with looming beams, blocks and canvases.
Born: 4 April 1944 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, United Kingdom
Died: 12 March 2023
Elected RA: 26 May 2011
Elected Senior RA: 1 October 2019
Preferred media: Sculpture
Phyllida Barlow RA