Barry Sykes (born 1976, Essex, lives and works in Walthamstow, London) makes sculpture, performance and works on paper that push at the edges of originality, authority, and value. His hand-made, frugal, yet elaborate projects use various forms of entertainment, leisure and diversion to examine human connection, authenticity and awkward interaction. In recent years this has incorporated forgery, theatre, feedback metrics, social nudity and impersonating a part-time police officer.
Always working in response to a specific relationship, situation or location, numerous recent projects have come out of the pandemic context, including a charity fundraising series of watercolours about life in a shielding family; also activity sheets, online Laughter Yoga and workshops on art-making during Covid - for organisations including The Museum of London; Focal Point Gallery, Southend; Falmouth School of Art; Manchester School of Art and University of the Creative Arts, Farnham, Surrey. He is also the founder of the Sauna Reading Group.
*Regularly rewritten and archived. This version 25/05/2022.
“Barry Sykes's life as an artist has taken him down some offbeat, and perhaps not strictly legal, avenues. His artworks-cum-social experiments include impersonating a part-time police community support officer and replicating/ripping off work by such strange bedfellows as romantic minimalist Cerith Wyn Evans and painter Karel Appel. He's even got his dad to realise work for him, as with a series of photos carried out according to his instructions. Trust, originality and morality rank among this trickster's quarry, in projects that unpick what goes on behind the scenes in art.”
-Skye Sherwin, The Guardian
“(His works) are as witty and pithy as any fable, but without the overt links to morality, they covertly revise the way we engage and assess any situation (...) If there were any overt point or truth to these works it is Sykes' engagement with others as a stark refusal to settle for essentialism, in any form. Rather each work becomes an amalgamation of each person's subjective experience, habits and techniques (...) A work like the Dad Directives or The Ongoing Song reveals the limits and impossibility of objectivity, and the dialectic of power and control for artists working today who engage in collaboration, or even more loosely as an artist.”
-Dani Admiss, ArtRabbit.com
“Stuck for things to do and waiting for latex to dry, I went to the Arts Centre to find some inspiration. Barry Sykes is the resident artist and he was awful, worse than Gilbert and George and that last video installation of a woman smashing a bike with a baseball bat. Why would you want to re-enact being a PCSO?! What's the point? Or am I missing the point?”
-Hannah Helmsley, hannahhemsley.blog.com
>> The handbook for my Sauna Reading Group.
>> Buy Issue #3 of Hamam magazine, featuring an 8 page profile of my work.
>> 'Why Don't you Try Laughter Yoga?', via Focal Point Gallery.
>> 5 min speed lecture on my work for a University residency.
CODE OF CONDUCT*
I am currently focussed on making my working practices as responsible as possible. Finding this also leads to more surprising, interesting, valuable outcomes:
- Inclusion. When invited to participate in a project, I will be asking about the diversity of other participants, suggesting credible, talented alternatives if needed, or turning the opportunity down.
- Sustainability. In my studio and public practice I aim to reduce the use of new materials wherever possible, using up scraps and offcuts or salvaged material. Resourcefullness as an essential form of inquiry.
- Accessibility. Projects I participate in should make efforts to be both physically and digitally accessible as possible, Stating details of this provision in any marketing material and contact details to liaise with. Documentation should also be accessible.
*Continually revised and rewritten. This version 07/06/2022