Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Back to Life

Discarded materials of all kinds, from wire to old keys or clock parts, to cutlery, dog collars or cupboard handles are skilfully metamorphosed in the hands of sculptor Barbara Frank into animals, plants and other organic shapes that come back to life for the pleasure of our eyes and senses.

She has gradually been using more and more discarded materials as a result of her fascination for objects which carry in them a past (hi)story, thus offering an added challenge to her work as well as an increasing and more familiar interest to the final product. The fact that she resorts to the use of such materials further enhances the connection viewers may create with her sculptures when they find themselves identifying the different elements which make up the artwork at which they are looking.

In the artist’s own words, she acknowledges how attracted she is by the sheer elegance and the feeling of movement conveyed by the creatures she depicts, which relentlessly provide her with a never-ending source of inspiration. She further refers to the important role played by the fluidity offered by movement, which sometimes works as the leading line along which she develops her work.

Bearing in mind our purpose of dealing with innovative and, hopefully, touching and awe-inspiring artworks, and since we have brought to you in previous posts the Tree of Life sculpture, made in Mozambique of decommissioned dismantled weapons, we think it may be particularly interesting to show you now the Imperium Tree (2008-2009), by Barbara Frank. This work was commissioned on purpose for the new Imperium office building in Reading, U.K., and it is made of a welded steel armature, wire netting, recycled biscuit tins, recycled copper wire and various found objects.

Standing 3m high, its welded steel structure was then clad in wire netting and the recycled biscuit tins, which were cut, hammered and then stitched onto it with copper wire. The different animals we can see climbing up or standing on this dream-like tree - all of them indigenous to the British Isles - have been made from patterned tin and a variety of found objects.

Eerie and whimsical as it is, this piece of art stands in the main atrium of the building, surrounded by seating areas and a cafeteria, as if inviting visitors to stop by, take a sit and contemplate it in a more intimate way. According to the artist herself, she actually “wanted it to evoke a feeling of calmness and to bring a smile to people’s faces as they look up and recognise the various creatures.”

This inevitably evokes of the idea that pieces of art such as this appeal to a wider range of feelings rather than merely sight, touching our hearts and inviting us to interact with them in a more direct and intimate manner.

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