Sally Barker, independent artist (Hebden Bridge Open Studio)
North West England

The current, high-profile, sexual predator cases are incidental to Sally Barker’s work but the resonances ring clear.

Deliberately provocative and inevitable disquieting, Barker’s work challenges the viewer to consider the role assumed by some powerful men in a patriarchal society.  A role often re-enforced by women willing or manipulated to take part:  mostly they are the silent acceptor, accommodator pleaser…

Barker’s use of the man’s “power suit”, an expression coined in the 80’s for women’s clothing to enable female competition in a predominantly man’s world, has an obvious but no less powerful presence in her work.  Many a scorned woman must have cut and destroyed erring partners’ lounge suits but Barker’s autopsy like process lays bare the bones of its destruction and in doing so opens the unyielding under belly of the wearer.  Add to this the ceramic, latex and wire interventions; we become entwined in an accusational, visual language which not only speaks to our intellect but whispers to our hearts.

One particular piece stands on the floor on four wire legs.  Its movement echoes the swagger of power.  “Breasted Predator” is the remains of a dark jacket once all the flat fabric is cut away, leaving the lapels, seams and pockets exposed.  The naked, skin coloured pockets hang uncomfortably in the centre of the piece weighed by casts of breasts discernible through the fabric – one tucked in each pocket.  In a different setting these would resemble udders but the material, process and adjacent pieces leave no doubt to the intent of this raw expression of titillation, of objectifying women.

Barker’s work is developing and with the introduction of ceramic pieces reminiscent of black, gritty hearts forcing their way through pastel pink glazes, it promises to be as provocative and as disquieting as her work so far.