By Design is a free online talk series hosted by Sir John Soane’s Museum in partnership with Luke Irwin. Inspired by Soane’s own extraordinary collection, internationally renowned designers from across the world of design discuss their practice through a single object. In this talk, Will Gompertz speaks with artist Phyllida Barlow.

About the Speakers

Phyllida Barlow

For more than 50 years, British artist Phyllida Barlow has taken inspiration from her surroundings to create imposing installations that can be at once menacing and playful. She creates anti-monumental sculptures from inexpensive, low-grade materials such as cardboard, fabric, plywood, polystyrene, scrim and cement. These constructions are often painted in industrial or vibrant colors, the seams of their construction left at times visible, revealing the means of their making.

Barlow’s restless invented forms stretch the limits of mass, volume and height as they block, straddle and balance precariously. The audience is challenged into a new relationship with the sculptural object, the gallery environment and the world beyond.

‘There’s something about walking around sculpture that has the possibility of being reflective, like walking through a landscape,’ Barlow has said. ‘The largeness of sculpture has that infinite possibility to make one engage beyond just the object itself and into other realms of experience.’

Barlow has exhibited extensively across institutions internationally and in 2017 represented Britain at the Venice Biennale. Barlow was born in 1944 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. She lives and works in London.

Will Gompertz

Will Gompertz is the newly-appointed Director of Arts and Learning at the Barbican. Previously he was the BBC’s first Arts Editor between 2009 and 2021. As well as regularly reporting on the arts for the main BBC News bulletins, Today Programme and numerous other outlets, Will hosted his own radio show on BBC 5-Live, and has written and presented numerous primetime series for television and radio.

Before joining the BBC, Will spent 7 years as a Director at the Tate Galleries where he was responsible for its BAFTA-winning website and the UK's first Performance Art festival.

In 2012 Will wrote What Are You Looking At?, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on modern art, published by Penguin and subsequently translated into 20 languages. Will's second book, Think Like an Artist, is about creativity and was published by Penguin in 2015. It has been translated into 18 different languages.

Will is a respected and well-known commentator on the arts, and has written for The Times, The Guardian, and Vanity Fair among many others.

Back to By Design: Season Two


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