More More More, 2019

We are on the brink of irrevocable environmental disaster, staring down the precipice of the decay of social cohesion, and yet, we want MORE.

Barnaby Barford’s latest body of work ‘MORE MORE MORE’ presents the culmination of the artist’s investigation into society’s incessant need for more and the detrimental effect it has on us as individuals, as a community, and on the planet.

‘MORE MORE MORE’ continues Barford’s exploration of the politics of happiness but with a new source of inspiration: the Apple – nature’s ancient, primary object onto which we have long projected our myriad fears and desires.

It is the fruit that caused the downfall of humankind, it is The Judgement of Paris, the labours of Heracles, Cézanne, Magritte, it is Newton, Apple Computers, it is Freya, Alan Turing and The Beatles, it is even the American Frontier.

In mythology, art history and religious symbolism, the most unassuming of all fruits has been imbued with every imaginable human desire, both good and bad. It has been a symbol of immortality, death and beauty, innocence and experience, sin and redemption. These tropes are repeated in secular stories from William Tell to Snow White, and contain all the dilemmas and dualities of the human condition, epitomised by Adam and Eve’s original ‘more’ moment in the Garden of Eden.

The ‘MORE MORE MORE’ exhibition at David Gill Gallery centres around The Apple Tree from The Garden of Eden, a life-sized installation measuring almost 3m in height and diameter, laden with 92 bone china apples. Each hand painted fruit is emblazoned with a single word – love, money, sex, power, delusion, fear, freedom, empathy, likes – each promising something different. The stalks have been engineered so that when picked, each apple irreversibly snaps from the tree, which activates the work and inveigles the apple-picker in a re-enactment of the the downfall of mankind.

“Our incessant need for more… I asked myself is this a modern day construct or is this something inside us that has been there forever?”

B. Barford

Also in the exhibition is a huge wizened apple entitled ‘Land of Hope & Glory’. In contrast to the seductive, fairy-tale quality of the ceramic apples, the fruit is wrinkled, past its best, on the turn. It’s a piece that reflects Barford’s view on the state of the country right now, and also on what happens when the powerful exercise their unscrupulous want for more. The deeply creviced sphere is a call to action.

The urgency of this dilapidation is reiterated in Barford’s film , shot over 2 and a half months, of a real apple, scarified with the word ‘more,’ rotting imperceptibly. You cannot see the change until it has occurred. Much like the effect of our incessant need for more, the detrimental effect it has on us is imperceptible until it has happened and we are left wondering why we feel like this.

Barford talks of an ‘atmosphere of compulsive longing for more that surrounds us, like a fog or an invisible cage,’ and expresses this in brightly coloured drawings of apples partially obscured by impenetrable fences of words. In another series, he draws a single fruit, floating in black charcoal on white paper, with an intensity achieved by layers of drawing and rubbing out – our repetitive desires short-lived but indelible.

"Like all my work, this show is a critique of society but people respond in very different ways. They might be touched by those words on the apples and happy to participate by activating the sculpture; we all need more empathy, more emotion and more community."

B. Barford