Whitehot Magazine

May 2007, WM issue #3: Interview with Anna Barriball

May 2007, WM issue #3:  Interview with Anna Barriball
Anna Barriball, Bag Drawing, Marker Pen on Plastic Bag, courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery London All images copyright the artist

Interview with Anna Barriball



The contours of a window pane are traced with graphite pencil and the frame of a chair is delicately bound in ballet ribbon. Anna Barriball utilizes the discourses of drawing and sculpture to explore the poetic qualities silently latent within familiar objects.

In her graphite drawings the textured surfaces of wood or brickwork are enveloped and transformed into another skin-like incarnation, darkly shimmering and alive with association.

Barriball has had solo exhibitions at the Arnolfini, Bristol in 2003, Frith Street Gallery in 2004, Gasworks Gallery, London and Newlyn Art Gallery in 2005 and The New Art Gallery, Walsall and Ingleby Gallery in 2006. Her work is in many international collections including Tate. The artist lives and works in London.


  • Can you briefly describe a work or project you are engaged with at the moment?

I have been making ‘Sunrise/Sunset’ drawings. I am obsessed with windows and at the moment particularly with the stained glass sun motif. There is an optimism about the image which in the drawings is contrasted with the dense, heavy graphite. I was thinking about duration, light and dark, night and day.

  • Your practice spans drawing, video and installation; is there a unifying concern running through these different aspects of the work?

I don’t see them as different aspects, they all run into each other and inform each other. I like working on the edge of definitions – a video that is sculptural and also a kind of drawing - thinking about where something stops being one thing and begins to be another. The way a piece is installed is integral to the work. I am interested in drawing having a real and physical presence.

  • I am interested that drawing forms much of your practice and that this discipline transfers a certain haptic engagement with objects. In the graphite tracings of textured surfaces, representation also seems important. These works never quite go all the way over into abstraction. Do you feel that the act of drawing is always best rooted in representation?

 A lot of work I really admire is abstract or not straight forwardly representational. I do try to make a more abstract piece sometimes but it always pulls me back to something real in the end. I am very interested in the play between representation and the thing itself. I love Jasper John’s flag which is both the thing and its representation; an image, a painting and an object.

  • Most of your work deals with domestic or everyday objects, yet the 'ready-to-hand' is distanced by the act of drawing or covered over with layers of graphite. Can you comment on your intentions here?

There is a process of bringing things very close to an almost forensic level of engagement and for me the distance comes when the pieces are exhibited. Objects are stopped in their tracks and given a different consideration in the time and space of the gallery.

  • The materials and objects you work with, from found photographs to a Victorian fireplace, are very evocative.  You seem interested in qualities of place and time. Might there also be an inevitable sense of mortality here, in the work superseding its references?

Place and time certainly informs the work constantly. I think my work is riddled with mortality, the sense of time on a human scale and the fragility and anxiety inherent in that.


Tamsin Clark and Anna Barriball, 2007

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