Sara Barker and Ryder Architecture, 'The Subtle Knife'
BALTIC CCA, Gateshead, UK.
15 November – 30 March 2013
'The Subtle Knife', is a new commission by Sara Barker and Ryder Architecture made in partnership and continuing Barker's recent move from object to environment. The pairing of Barker and Ryder exposes a common interest in the interwoven legacies of Modernism, often overlooked by a perceived purity within disciplines. Peter Yates, co-founder of Ryder and Yates Architecture in 1953 (now Ryder) was taught painting by Georges Braque, continuing to paint throughout his architectural practice. Ryder and Yates initially drew influence from the structured designs of Cubism and Constructivism which use interplay of form and multiple expressions of perspective.

Sara Barker's commission explores the language of Modernist architecture: rectangular sheets of architectural glass float in space like cantilevered sections, lengths of thin copper tubing look to be in movement but frozen in time - precariously slicing through the room. Stacked, porcelain plaster slabs hover between a Classical plinth - anchoring the structure, and an abstract staircase leading into it. Their poeticism follows from that of Carlo Scarpa, expressing sensitivity to changes in time, and history through materials. The form and method of construction hold similarities to Modernist exhibition design of trade fairs, which the Ryder firm practiced throughout the 1950's. Proponents such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe declared the field's import role in the experimentation with form and new materials. Barker's slabs are made using the same process as Ryder's stands for these exhibitions: wooden frames skimmed with porcelain plaster.

The expansive scale of this work obscures any one view of it, creating an environment where perspective is split, a collision resulting in an abstract reading. This technique, also used in Imagist poetry, combines two concrete instances to create an abstract concept. In this way Barker's work dwells on the edges of sculpture, built environment and poetry. Citing references such as Dorris Lessing, Jeanette Winterson and Virginia Wolf, her work describes the potentiality of the liminal state.