THE CAC MALAGA FLOODS THE CENTRAL ROOM OF THE CENTER WITH SEVEN THOUSAND LITERS OF BLACK OIL
The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga is presenting FLUIDO by the Norwegian artist Per Barclay. The exhibition, curated by Fernando Francés, focuses on an installation specially conceived for the Centre’s main gallery in the form of a tank filled with black oil that reflects the building’s structure like a vast mirror. Visitors can walk around it and thus obtain a completely different view of this space within the CAC Málaga.
“My works have the effect of making you feel that you are always on the outside as they do not let you in. This […] creates a sensation of anxiety and results in a degree of violence; this is what I aim to express in my work, the idea of the extreme violence that exists in contemporary society.” Per Barclay (born Oslo, 1955) is particularly known for his tanks filled with oil, wine, blood or water. As with the present example on display at the CAC Málaga, in most of these works the opaque liquid produces a mirror-like effect, reflecting the structure of the room but preventing us from seeing what lies beneath the surface.
For Fernando Francés, director of the CAC Málaga, “As with other installations by this Norwegian artist, in his “Oil Rooms” (Rue Visconti, Paris, 2010, and Adolf Gun, Harstad (I), 2009) this example reveals Barclay’s interest in space and the way of occupying it and completely filling it. The viewer is offered an invitation to walk around the edge of the tank and is in a way challenged to look beyond what lies before his or her eyes. The artist is encouraging us to focus our gaze on the reflection produced by this black liquid, which reflects the structure of the gallery in the manner of a mirror, stripping it bare before the viewer. Barclay has thus conceived of this space as a type of room designed to contain and project a reality (real or imagined) of what that mirror wishes to convey to us. This aspect of his work reveals the influence of Edvard Munch in the way that it arouses emotions such as anxiety, fear of death and love. Even when using other liquids such as water or wine, Barclay creates a tension that shatters any sense of calm.”
The installation FLUIDO has been specially designed for the CAC Málaga’s principal space. It takes the form of a large, trapezoid pvc tank measuring 23 metres long, designed so that the viewer can walk around the outside and have continual access to details of the gallery that are not otherwise visible at first sight to visitors to the Centre. The setting created by Barclay involves the element of drama. The uncertainty arising from not knowing what lies beneath the surface is another emotion that the artist intends to provoke in the viewer, who finds himself or herself in the presence of a surface that can be looked at and approached but not touched. In this sense, the “hidden face” of the installation has the same importance as what is present on the surface.
The starting point for Barclay’s work as a whole lies in space and in the different ways of occupying it. However, the liquids that he uses to flood the surface, such as industrial oil or blood, involve a symbolic element. In addition to these different liquids his works deploy a range of different supports and materials for the structures including glass, steel and wood. They are designed for both interiors, recreating, for example, a glass house with elements suspended inside it (Untitled, 1993) and for exteriors, creating an image that depicts a sunset, the landscape, the surface structure that surrounds it and the colour of the sky (Lofoten, 2010). “My work aims to represent everyday tension, that type of anxiety that each of us perceives in the contrast between beauty and comfort”, the artist has said.
Another well known aspect of Barclay’s work is his use of photography, although he is reluctant to be categorised within this field. He uses this medium to create his works and also as the most adequate form of reflecting reality. “My photographs are prepared, therefore they are fiction. But however strange it may seem, for me they represent reality. My interpretation of the world may differ from that of others but as an artist I choose to reorganise it according to my own ordering”, he has commented.
Per Barclay began his studies in Art History in Bergen (Norway). He subsequently moved to Italy where he completed his training then moved to Paris in 1994. In Italy he made contact with the Arte Povera movement with its aesthetic of the use of “poor”, easily obtainable materials such as wood, leaves, rocks, sheets of lead and glass, plants, cloth, coal and clay. Barclay studied design and photography in Florence. His first installation involving liquids is Lokaal 01 of 1989.
Barclay first exhibited his work in Norway in 1984. Since then he has been present in museums, art centres and galleries in that country and in Italy. Among his exhibitions were those held at the MGM Gallery in Oslo (2001), the Fondazione Merz, Turin (2008), the Palacio de Cristal, Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2003), the Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea, San Sebastian (2002), and the CCC Centre de Création Contemporaine, Tours (2001). In 1990 his work was shown at the Venice Biennial.
Barclay’s work is represented in national and international collections including those of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid), Fundación Telefónica (Madrid), Es Baluard, Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma (Palma de Mallorca), the Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (Nice), the Bergen Kunstmuseum (Bergen), Galerie Jérome Poggi (Paris), and Galerie Guy Bärtsch (Geneva), among others. He currently lives in Turin and Oslo. The present exhibition has benefited from the collaboration of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Spain.