Jeanette Barne’s art is undoubtedly about architecture and this particular exhibition at Anise Gallery is all about London. Vibrant drawings along with objets trouvés recovered from Thames banks and reconstituted into sculptural works, paint her view of the city. What makes her work vibrant though is not colour because her palette is rather monochrome. Countless axes leading towards all possible directions intersect and seem to capture buildings in motion. Looking at them many images emerged from my memory: Duchamp’s Nude descending the stairs, photographs that I have taken from moving trains and of course time-lapse videos that architects make to document their buildings’ construction.
Barnes is interested in large buildings hence Canary Warf, the Olympic stadium, new high-rises in the City and bridges and cranes are in the centre of her work. Having lived in London for almost a decade myself, I can attest that the change in its cityscape is at times frantic. One day you notice a hole in the urban fabric with the demolition of some old building. In a few weeks the concrete core of the a stairwell or elevator shaft pop-up like a concrete mushroom. Then floor after floor the slab layers appear and finally the metal and glass skin wraps them. I believe I have mentioned in this blog my opinion about skyscrapers more than once so I do not want to elaborate. I will only say that the awe inspiring grandeur of their scale and their existence as engineering achievements cannot leave an architect indifferent. On the other hand the companies they house and what they represent politically is an important enough reason for me not to admire them for their physical superiority.
I am not sure if it is my own reading of this artist’s work and not her actual intention but to me it was obvious that the massive structures that swiftly rise take over the city and leave behind them relics which the river devours. Perhaps this is why Jeanette chose to work with bones and old pieces of metal that she found and display them next to her dynamic drawings. Although my interpretation of this fascinating work left me rather sad it also brought to my mind a wonderful memory of my student life. When I first started to understand what it is to design a building and made my first efforts to sketch, the drawings always involved innumerable criss-crossed lines like these ones, either in plan or elevation. I do not think though I drew like that intentionally, nor in order to express movement but rather because of indecisiveness and exploration of my rough drawing skills in the making. The outcome though, within its innocence kept in its heart some utopian dream, not making companies or even myself richer.
Another thing that I have mentioned only too often in this blog is that much as it is exploited by profit architecture is undoubtedly an art. In its goal to house the human body speaks of the human existence both individually and collectively. Its ability to preserve history and imagine the future is often appreciated only by architects who know how to speak its language and see the beauty in technical drawings. Barnes shares an interpretation of the architectural process in a more visceral dialect that can be understood without the need of technical training and this is what I loved the most about it.
Visiting the Gallery some days ago I was very lucky to meet Jeanette and have an interesting chat with her. She is as vibrant in person as her work is and she generously shared stories about how she gets her inspiration and the way she observes buildings before she paints them. What stayed with me the most though was her pointing at the river in one of her paintings when she was telling me how enchanted she was by the ripples a swan made when she was sketching. She spoke of the swan passionately and kept pointing at the painting and although in reality there was not such detail there, I really think I saw it.
The exhibition will be open until December 5th 2015. Anise Gallery is at:
13a Shad Thames, SE1 2PU.