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Barnaby Barford narrates his version of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' during LDF23
A Midsummer Night's Dream exhibition
Image: Courtesy of David Gill Gallery

Barnaby Barford narrates his version of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' during LDF23

The David Gill Gallery's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' display combines technology and nature and encourages spectators to slow down and reflect on the world.

by David Gill Gallery
Published on : Sep 26, 2023

David Gill Gallery showcases 'A Midsummer Night's Dream’, an exhibition of new works by British visual artist Barnaby Barford, in which technology and the natural world seamlessly intertwine. The design exhibition by the art gallery was unveiled on September 8, 2023, and is on display until October 3, 2023.

Over the past three years, Barford, who works fluidly across sculptural art, ceramics, moving images, drawing and painting, has immersed himself in the captivating embrace of Epping Forest. He sought solace and inspiration from within the forest, while also reflecting on the passage of time. The sculptural artist often takes on the real world in order to translate it into something abstract in his work. In early projects, he collected kitsch ceramic figures and used them to tell contemporary stories. The amalgamation of these found objects illustrated cautionary tales around cosmetic surgery, right-wing politics, and the perils of youth, all wreathed in darkness and humour. His 2015 project, shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum, involved photographing 3000 London shopfronts to create a six-metre-high ceramic Tower of Babel – a psycho-geographical critique of the consumer landscape. 

“I make art to make sense of the world and my place within it,” says Barford. Holding a mirror up to society is his raison d’etre, both metaphorically and sometimes as a literal physical object, too. A reflection on Barford’s journey through the forest's winding paths, the exhibition emerged from the peculiar conditions of 2020 onwards, when countless walks in Epping Forest led to him accumulating thousands of photographs of flora and fungi. “I walked miles each day with my German short-haired pointer Ruby and my camera. I was interrogating a different kind of London – the well-protected woodlands of the suburbs. Somehow, I am always collecting data, usually in the form of imagery. It is about noticing, looking, and recording, creating a wide net that eventually creates its own argument,” explains Barford.

Many of the images from his intensive walks have been transformed into four large-scale moving-image artworks that the artist calls Living Paintings. Shown alongside a series of images of initials, dates and declarations of love gouged into the bark of the forest’s ancient trees, a series of benches, and a light sculpture composed of 9,000 individually crafted celadon-glazed ivy leaves, which will throw a dappled light around the room. For the Living Paintings, Barford has translated hundreds of his images of natural phenomena into lush, pulsating assemblages. Barford overlays the photographs, crafting intricate layers that gradually evolve over a loop lasting an hour and a half. What was once a simple snapshot of nature, hypnotically blossoms into galactic scenes, microscopic realms, and even masks. It is as visually compelling and hypnotic to watch as the accompanying exhibition soundtrack is to hear, which Barford has made using sounds from the woodland in collaboration with composer Tom Haines.

"These works are an invitation to slow down, I wanted to create an oasis of calm in contrast to the velocity of the 21st Century life," the artist shares. As a further invitation to slow down, Barford presents benches and stools designed for the exhibition. Reminiscent of his word drawings and cut from steel, the products are evocative of tangled branches and the forest’s organic layering. Themes of repetition and abstraction are continued with the tree carvings or Arborglyphs works. “So many people have carved their initials or declarations of love into the trees to commemorate a moment, which in Epping are some of the oldest in England, the findable graffiti goes back to 1913 contributing to the forest’s sense of mystery and deep time,” the product designer shares. He has converted this perversion of the natural world into giclée prints, where names, hearts and jagged pictograms are jumbled in multiple layers.


London Design Festival is back! In its 21st edition, the faceted fair adorns London with installations, exhibitions, and talks from major design districts including Shoreditch Design Triangle, Greenwich Peninsula, Brompton, Design London, Clerkenwell Design Trail, Mayfair, Bankside, King's Cross, and more. Click here to explore STIR’s highlights from the London Design Festival 2023. 

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