Missing You Already!
Solo Exhibition, Artworks Project Space, London, 2021
Missing You Already!
Barbican Arts Trust Studios, 9th-17th October 2021
Open Sat/Sun 12-5pm and by appointment.
Missing You Already! brought together recent sculpture, drawing and performance work by Barry Sykes, each in some way examing aspects of leisure, respite and interaction.
The exhibition included a magnified wall drawing, a suspended sun lounger, a picnic bench, handcrafted picture frames, a sculpture of a laugh and tables of studio ephemera. It combined the output from several distinct projects - a residency at a naturist club, Laughter Yoga, the Sauna Reading Group. and a collection of zero birthday candles - that together examine the paradoxes of tangible absence and awkward pleasure, through collecting, making and participation.
Above: Installation view of Missing You Already!.
As Artist in Residence at Oakwood Naturist Club in Essex - part of Focal Point Gallery's Radical Essex programme - Barry studied this secretive suburban community via a number of inventive tactics – including life drawing, questionnaires and sunography, now using this material to develop informal frames and filing systems that have the casual clumsiness of human bodies.
Barry’s ongoing Activity (& Inactivity) Book started as a collection of puzzles, drawings and questions and has developed into a study of absence, stillness and negation. This now also incorporates his Laughter Yoga teaching, his Sauna Reading Group, stationary exercise routines and a growing collection of magic wands and birthday candles.
These works all involve gestures towards some kind of unreachable catharsis or epiphany, but in acknowledging their inevitable shortfall, find contentment. Whilst many of these projects have been developing for years, much of it has been completed during the recent lockdowns. Although not directly about the pandemic, it was already work concerned with the compromised ways we interact, self-reflect or navigate our surroundings.
Below: Survey of art works in the exhibition. All photos by Eva Herzog.
Above: Tick, 2017, Found Branch. 33 x 24 x 3cm; Not Knowing, 2020, Birthday candles, nails, Dimensions variable.
“I’ve been collecting zero birthday candles for a number of years, trawling gift shops and online for all available variations.”
Above: No Looking Back (Mary) x10, 2021
Billboard print. 210 x 297cm
“I spent an afternoon drawing the sunbathing naturists at Oakwood Sun Club, each time without looking back at the paper. This is a ten times enlarged print from a very high resolution scan of an original A4 drawing from the series.”
Above: Body Ascendant, 2021
Sun lounger, shoes, clothes, notebook, pen, book, bungee cords
45 x 130 x 50 cm
“The basic elements I had with me on my first visit to Oakwood Sun Club, that I then discarded when I felt comfortable, combined into a suspended sculpture that acts as a proxy for me as well as everything but me.
Above: Various works made from material collected when on my Radical Essex artist residency at Oakwood Naturist Club, 2017-18. These have subsequently been built into repurposed frames as ad-hoc filing systems.
Above: Mirrors of Oakwood #1', 2017-2020⠀
Inkjet print, tape, recycled frame, loose change, 1962 edition of Health & Efficiency magazine, epoxy resin, textiles (poncho),
62 x 93 x 9cm⠀
“From a series where I photographed the all the mirrors at Oakwood Sun Club. Framed as a kind of filing system with other ephemera, topped with the petrol money to get from my house to the club and back again (£7.22). Each one is arranged over a piece of fabric relevant to club naturism. ‘Textile’ is the naturist nickname for non-naturists.”
Above: Nothing’s Better, 2017/2021
Cyanotype print, recycled frame, coloured paper, wooden offcuts, CT1 adhesive, metal brackets
111 x 62 x 3cm
“‘Nothing’s Better’ is the motto of British Naturism. This print was also made on Oakwood’s sun lawn using the club’s tea bell and found grasses. The frame is surrounded by scrap wood from various significant eras.
Above: No Photography, 2017/2021
Cyanotype print, recycled frame, Health & Efficiency magazine, wooden offcuts, acrylic photoluminescant sign, bamboo, Ikea pencil, CT1 adhesive.
64 x 114 x 22cm
“A cyanotype print of my digital camera, that I wasn’t able to use at the naturist club, with other found elements.”
Above: Mirrors of Oakwood #3, 2017/2020⠀
Inkjet print, recycled frame, adhesive tape, loose change, epoxy resin, membership patch, leaf patches, twig, textiles (quick-dry beach towel),
107 x 89 x 15cm.
Above: Ø (All My Clothes), 2017/2020
Cyanotype print, recycled frame, decking, bamboo, pine, CT1 adhesive, metal brackets.
81 x 121 x 6cm
“A cyanotype made at the Oakwood, of all the clothes I took off, arranged on treated paper on their sunbathing lawn. Framed with offcuts of decking. The improvised design references naturism’s embracing of imperfection, resourcefulness, and the geometry of 1920’s domestic furniture, the era when organised naturism in the UK began.”
Above: Self Portrait as Laughter Yoga Teacher, 2020/21
Inkjet print, IKEA picture frame, AR70 museum glass.
25 x 25 x 3cm
“I drew myself in the mirror, holding a laughing expression, using pencil and the same blue and red MAC cosmetics I often use when leading Laughter Yoga sessions. I like that it is a photo of a drawing, of me pretending to fake laugh, in a cheap wood-effect frame, fitted with museum quality non-reflective glass.”
Above: Low Squat , 2020/2021 & Static Lunge, 2020/2021
Each 29 x 38 x 3cm
Berocca, beetroot, coffee, blue food colouring, cartridge paper, custom frames, pine dowel, CT1 adhesive
“From a series made in the first lockdown, using materials found at home as I couldn’t access my studio. Representing exercises you could perform easily at home. The bespoke frames are encrusted with replica berocca tablets made from sliced broom handle.”
Above: Vowel Laugh, 2021
Assorted woods, plastic pipe, epoxy resin, screws, metalwork paint, clown nose
39 x 40 x 33 cm
“An attempt to give form to a Laughter Yoga exercise, not only the sounds but the comparable effort to conjure a faltering replica out of raw materials and willpower. This is then also a hanger for elements of my own clown disguise.”
Above: Do You Want To Colour In This Question?, 2017/2019
Paper, felt tip, recycled frame
63.5 x 83 x 2.5cm
“A page from my Activity & Inactivity Book, that was enlarged and placed on my door for the duration of an Open Studios weekend.”
Above: Tick, 2017
Found Branch, nails
33 x 24 x 3cm
"This had been hanging up on my studio wall since I found it on a walk some years ago. It seemed fitting to add it to the installation, as the first work you pass but often the last one you notice until turning to leave the room."
The exhibition was activated in a number of ways. Firstly by the Activity (& Inactivity) Table in the centre of the room, where visitors of all ages were invited to respond to the show with questions, puzzles and drawing exercises. A selection of these were then displayed at the gallery entrance.
There were also two performances at the opening launch event:
An Introduction to Laughter Yoga invited the audience to join me in a series of exercises in fake laughter, moving from gentle breathing to arm waving, ersatz hysteria. More info HERE. (below photo by Kevin Sykes)
The launch afternoon concluded with An Isometric Q&A, where I offered to answer any questions people had about the show whilst I undertook a series of static exercises in my gym kit, each answer lasting for as long as I could hold the pose. (Below photo by Ed Milton)
Below: The installation was purposely designed to ape the formalities and interpretation methods of a museum display, but also have the casual honesty of a just-tidied-up studio visit. The gallery featured an L-shaped table of publications, ephemera and research strategies relating to the included projects.
Click on the below image for a 1 hour Instagram Live discussion about the exhibition between myself and the artist Emma Cousin.
For a 1 minute panorama of the exhibition install please click the badge below. The 'Missing You Already!' 2cm pin badge was an edition of 100 available at the gallery, as a souvenir but also a performative piece of sculpture, as the wearer now preares to say goodbye to whoever they meet whilst wearing it.