Creating contemporary Hogarthian scenes by manipulating original figurines and placing them within new and often darker subtexts, Barford presented layered narratives where first appearances are invariably undermined on closer inspection – the titles being wry commentaries that underline the visual puns.
“Barford’s work always has an instant likeability which serves, at first, to hide its darkness or political position. But there’s always something sinister going on beneath the surface.”Journalist Caroline Roux
Love is… , 2011
Porcelain, Enamel Paint, Resin, Two-Way Mirror, Light Fitting, Fabric Tassel; H84 x L52 x D30 cm
There has always been a wide gulf between the poetic expectations of romantic love and the baser realities of lust. In his body of work titled ‘Love is…'(2011), Barnaby Barford tackles the endlessly discussed thorny issues around sex in the twenty-first-century with a pithy directness and, crucially, a sense of humour. There is no room for prudery around Barford’s work, for part of its power is in its exploration of the margins of what is socially acceptable.
Barford brings society’s anxieties around sexuality into the open in perhaps the least likely of artistic mediums: ceramic tableaux. With concise visual wit, Barford subverts the over-wrought sentimental ceramic groupings from which his characters are drawn, with subtle interventions that radically change their saccharine narratives to explore the ambivalence between innocence and depravity.
There is a deftness and lightness of touch in Barford’s unique narrative pieces, which belies the skill and subtle interventions that go into making them appear so effortless. They subtly mix together Japanese manga figurines, porcelain heads, imperceptible additions and artfully applied paint so that eras and cultural ideas are mixed and one can’t tell the objects’ provenance.
– Extract from text by Simon Martin