London based artist Barnaby Barford has got a certain something that catches the eye, whether it be content of the pieces or the names he gives them. We caught up with him to talk about the wonderful world of ceramic figurines and the transition into stop motion film.
Through the research I did I read somewhere that your work blurs the boundaries between art, craft and design? Is this how you see it and how would you describe your work?
When I first graduated from the Royal College I was working in many different areas, so in a way my whole working practice covered these different areas rather than the actual work crossing these boundaries. However over the last 7 years I have concentrated my efforts on my Art pieces, this is where my passion lies.
I also didn’t realise that you use found mass-produced ceramic figurines and objects that you dismantle and reapply to create new scenes. Is it always like this or do you have to produce your own elements?
The work is all made using found figurines. On some of the recent pieces I have added other objects into the scenes that i have made such as the KFC boxes and food in ‘Family Feast’. I cut the figurines, re-assemble them and am able to change certain forms using milliput. The way of working is more akin to ceramic restoration really. The pieces are then painted with enamel paints. I like using the found objects as they are all made by different hands, they have all had a previous life and I guess originally they had very different intentions for their lives. If I was to make everything from scratch it wouldn’t have the same effect, I think people bring their own preconceptions to these objects when looking at the pieces. They are after all objects that most people would, on principal, dismiss in their original forms. I also enjoy the challenge of making these often somewhat discarded objects relevant and desirable.
Do the pieces you find determine the outcome of the final piece or are you searching for the elements to make up an idea you’ve already got?
I start with an idea for a body of work, something that I would like to explore. My studio is full of figures and I will look through these whilst also looking for other figures that I feel would be suitable. I may want to say specific things and these develop in tandem with finding the correct figures to say this, I guess it is a kind of casting process done for a play or a film.
Would you ever do a mass produced version or is it all about the one off?
For me it is very much about making one-off pieces, I enjoy this way of expressing my ideas and it offers the most freedom and the least constraints. The way I am currently working does not allow me even to make an edition due to the nature of the pieces I find. I am not sure I would gain much more in terms of satisfaction if there were 1000 pieces made as opposed to just 1, the enjoyment and the work is in the conception of the piece.
The names of your work are almost as entertaining as the pieces themselves, such as ‘Stick that on YouTube!’, ‘Salads! I’ll give them fucking salads!’ and ‘Yeah but did you see her tits?!’. These are there to just add humour or is there more to it than that?
They are absolutely vital to the work. It is what brings the viewer into the scene, it clarifies the new context. I hope there is still a certain level of ambiguity left within the piece for the viewer to derive their own thoughts from the pieces. I like to think people might try and think what has happened before and after this moment in time. Primarily, it is essential the pieces work visually, then the title shifts your expectations, takes you off-guard. To a certain extent it is could be a bit of a shock. I find humour is a great way to engage with people but there is always something deeper within the piece. I like the fact they work on different levels, if you want to take it as a joke then that’s fine but if you want to think a little bit more then there is often a darker side to be explored.
So moving onto your first short film, ‘Damaged Goods’, are there any puns left to describe it? So far I’ve heard a lot of ‘A classic boy meets girl tale with shattering consequences’ and one of my favourites, ‘It might be a sad tale but it’s a smashing addition to Barford’s repertoire…’
It cracked me up…..urgh! Actually it was a fantastic process, although I think you forget quite quickly how hard it actually was. I worked with some really great people on the project which made the whole process a real joy. It was a bit strange as I wasn’t ever entirely sure of the next stage involved in the process. It has been really fascinating to have now finished an to now understand what goes into making a film. It was really interesting to see how much movement we got from the figures and to feel somehow that their expressions change at certain points.
How was the transition from creating the sculptures to stop motion animation?
It seemed quite a natural transition, as I mentioned before I have always seen my work as almost scenes from films, they are of course narrative works so it was a case of expanding that narrative and scaling up their world.
At face value there’s more that goes into directing a short film (the lighting, the story, the music), with it being your first short film are you happy with the outcome? Anything that you’d change or didn’t expect?
There was loads that i didn’t expect but nothing I would really change. As I said before I was never sure what was possible in the next stage of the process. Fortunately I was surrounding by true professionals which helped a lot. What was really great was the film ended up exactly how I had conceived it.
Presumably you had to go through a casting to find the lead roles, how many other contenders were there? And where are they now?
I am making a small amount of pieces based on scenes from the film, using the characters from the film for a show at David Gill Galleries in Feb 2010.
What’s next, are there any plans to shoot another film?
I would really like to make another film. I have quite a few ideas for other work at the moment so it’s a case of trying to fit it all in!
See the short film ‘Damaged Goods’ here, www.animateprojects.org