An Artist on the Barbican Estate
I live in the corner flat of Frobisher Crescent on top of the Barbican Arts Centre. My studio is my home. My inspiration is the brutal landscape that I see outside the glass windows of my studio walls and the City beyond. I call myself an artist-anthropologist because I am actively engaged with documenting the creative experience of living here. I am constantly watching, observing, being here. For me, the Barbican is my personal space. It’s what I live, eat, breathe. It is the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing I see before I go to sleep. The society I am studying is part human and part material. I am not so much living on top of the Barbican theatre and concert halls as actually living inside the drama of a brutal landscape. There’s the action right below me daily: a gigantic panoramic vista of sculptural concrete air vents that march across the Barbican Centre Roof; a drama that is continually played out in different acts depending on the time of day, light, weather. There is also the constant reminder of the City that forms a back-drop to Barbican: ancient Roman walls, St Paul’s post-modernist buildings, cranes, planes and helicopters: a seemingly endless interaction with a constantly emerging world beyond the Barbican. There are human actors in my drama: window cleaners, gardeners, construction workers, sunbathers in the Sculpture Court, residents on their balconies tending their geraniums, teenagers on scooters on the podium. And there is my own reflection on the studio window at night. Night is a whole different sequel: I paint the humans by numinous screens, shadows by the windows, Hopper-like lamps, devastatingly beautiful sunsets over St Paul’s and the vivid colours of tower blocks and cranes on a night sky. The Barbican however is my central protagonist: its view is my litmus test, it is my heavens’ embroidered cloth and the dreams under my feet. I am processing, through my work, both the grandeur of the Estate, as well as its details, fragility and delicacy. I am both documenting space and contextualising details within a narrative which is sometimes abstract and at other times figurative. My search for the "colour of concrete" and its textures throughout the year is explored through a variety of mixed media as well as through etchings, lino cuts and collage work. My process of painting explores how an individual reclaims creative space within an urban environment. By reversing and recycling fragile and encrusted palette papers, my work becomes a palimpsest of previous endeavours carefully preserved. Combined with a spontaneous charcoal or ink expression, the images reflect the ephemeral yet constant textures, colours and life I observe. My process, like the City, is in a constant state of salvaging, reutilising and re-emerging. Evolving ways of employing the recycled palimpsest express a tension between retaining the integrity of the unconsciously created work and my need as an artist to create deliberately. The ways I facilitate and preserve whole recycled palette papers with only subtle finishes as opposed to a more deliberate, proactive tearing of fragments in new pieces, raise questions about whether recycling can alleviate anxiety about the future. This was highlighted in the series of cardboard paintings and "Barbicania" sculptures which were painted entirely on the recycled cardboard packaging of a Dyson fan. But this theme of reconstruction is also present in my panoramic views of the Barbican and the City of London where, for example, St Paul's is obscured by the adjacent modern high rise buildings. To what extent should we be preserving the past in a modern, diverse world? By exploring how the individual carves out rights to the city in her own space, and by exploring the relationship between urban and natural worlds, I am seeking to understand what we want and need to preserve in our society.