London Olympic Stadium nearing completion
2012 by Jeanette Barnes
Mall Galleries until 7 July 2012; http://www.jeanettebarnesart.com
Barnes’ work was part of Built at the Mall Galleries, an exhibition examining four artists’ recording and reaction to the construction of buildings in the UK (other artists were Patricia Cain PS, Anthony Eyton RA & Julia Midgley RE). The exhibition was fascinating, not only in its depicting the different stages of building across of a breadth of different architectural designs, but also in the medium they were examined in – Eyton working in paint, Cain in pastel, Midgley in water colour and Barnes in compressed charcoal. Seeing these cages of complicated structures – scaffolded, half-built, ripped open – in such emotive mediums is eye-opening, contrasting with a clinical pencil drawing as we might expect of such subjects. Barnes’ work is particularly poignant as she takes the soft and fluid medium of life-drawing and applies it to rigid structure, here the overbearing angles of the Olympic stadium. Her technique brings these structures alive, showing not only the sharp teeth of the stadium, looming in the distance, but the teeming of the life that built it – whether it be the lurching necks of the mechanical cranes or the toy-like diggers scattered beneath them. The atmosphere Barnes creates is electric, injecting the objects and the air around them with energy in the movement of her scratches and etchings; there is barely any white space left, so filled is this image with the ebbs and flows of the workings of the city. What is so clever about these lively drawings is, despite their activity, their architectural documentation is still perfectly clear. The buildings she depicts (the Gherkin among others in the exhibition) are immediately recognisable, making her work valuable memories of moments of construction which, of course, are in reality always fleeting.