See this: Phyllida Barlow DOCK

phyllida bralow 05Breaking news…Amazingly, older women artists can still do great things! You may remember we have a bit of a thing about how women in art are represented (ie, very badly). Well, here’s a bit of good news on that front.

This is the artist Phyllida Barlow’s wonderous and giant sculpture, DOCK, which opened today and fills the entire Duveen gallery (the entrance hall) at Tate Britain, I would urge you to go and experience it if you are close by.

Phyllida is 70 this Friday (April 4th) and we wish her a very happy birthday. As an artist, she appears to be turning out her best work in her later years. She taught art at Slade art school until 2008, when she retired and ever since has been producing bigger and more impressive sculptural installations that have garnered huge praise.

She is well known to middleagedad and his fellow Chelsea Art BA undergraduate mates, as she gave a very inspiring guest lecture to them recently that had them all swooning. She is apparently very unpretentious and clear about her work, is completely free from arty bullshit and champions finding beauty in material that others would throw away. She also does quirky things like matching her socks to her shirt collar, according to my sources.

phyllida barlowLast week middleagedad took this sneaky picture of her as she directed proceedings. He got a bit star struck, but she chatted happily to him about what she was doing and said she couldn’t have done any of it without her studio manager. Interestingly her entire studio staff are listed on the credits for the work, so they can all enjoy the thrill of being officially recognised at Tate Britain. I think this show what a warm and kind person she is, does Damian Hirst list his studio staff on his work I wonder? Anyone?

phyllida barlow 02Phyllida told MAD she really wanted people to get in amongst the work to experience it and think about how it made them feel. The official notes state

‘Made of lightweight materiels such as timber, metal, polystyrene, tarpaulin, cardboard, canvas and rope, the works in DOCK look battered and ravaged, and offer an antagonistic counterpoint to the austere Neo-Classical galleries. Suspended, collapsed, stacked, wrapped, folded or jammed, the sculptures have taken over and create a dynamic space that challenges the experience of viewing.’

phyllida barlow 01I loved the whole giant-ness of it, at times you wonder if the piles of timber are going to topple down on you, but it also fells cathedral like and safely embracing too, so for me there was a contradiction of emotions which made it very dynamic. I also loved the colours.

phyllida barlow 04

Phyllida Barlow’s installation DOCK is on at Tate Britain, check website for more info and a proper arty analysis. If you get a chance, pop along to the adjoining galleries which have been brilliantly re organised to coordinate with Phyllida’s work. You can see more work by older female artists, including works from one of my favourite, Gillian Ayres (74), below.

gillian ayres


  • Osnat says:

    I love her work and am so glad this exhibit is going till October so that on my summer visit I can see it. Great that women artists like her who have for too long been overshadowed by men artists are getting the recognition they deserve, in particular in the medium of sculpture . I love the way she remains so unaffected through it all.

  • amanda says:

    Second that Osnat! I’m sure you’re going to love it A

  • Janet says:

    Love Gillian Ayres work, her use of colour so exhuberant.

  • We’ll be in London for a couple of days in early June, so I quickly checked the exhibition dates — we’re in luck, and I’m looking forward to a day at the Tate — thanks for the heads-up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *