Clive Barker b.Luton, Bedfordshire 1940 -
Clive Barker studied painting at Luton College of Technology and Art from 1957 until 1959 quitting the course before it’s completion as it failed to live up to his expectations. Instead he chose to work on the assembly line at Vauxhall Motors.
After eighteen months he moved to London working at a pawnbroker’s by day and painting by night. His early sculptures use leather and chrome plated metal, materials with which he had become well acquainted. In the late 60s he selected objects from everyday life such as Coke bottles, buckets, even his father-in-law’s false teeth which were then given to fabricators to cast in metal and chrome. Not only were the items given a certain aggrandisement but spectators became participants as their reflections and that of the immediate environment constantly changed as the sculptures were viewed from one angle then another.
Pop can be an art about art. Another important strand to his work at the time was the tools of the artists’ trade. Two Palettes for Jim Dine and Gold Paint Box are prime examples.
For many of the general public an art gallery was a no go area. They might have only seen masterpieces as reproductions in books or magazines. Van Gogh’s Chair (1966), acknowledged to be one of Clive Barker’s finest examples of his ‘homage’ works, is not a three dimensional adaptation of the actual painting but is yet another reproduction, more ‘perfect’ even than the original.
During the next decade following the discovering of his father’s gas mask in an attic, a more sombre theme developed. This object was incorporated into several sculptures and along with War Head, the lower part of a toy tank fused with the upper half of a human skull, are in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.
A series of life-masks of Francis Bacon followed, one which is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.
Clive Barker continues to be a prolific artist, creating works that at first sight may seem obvious but require an extremely sophisticated mind to conceive.