We had already invited Barbara Sykes SGFA to be our Image of the Month artist for July when we learned that her drawing Two People had not only been selected for the Royal Academy of Art Summer Exhibition 2014, but had also won the Hugh Casson Drawing Prize. In this article Barbara talks about some of the ideas behind her award-winning art.
“My work for the last 20-plus years has been concerned with the human condition from birth to death. It is often tinged with humour, female symbology and very occasionally mythology.
When I first saw drawings and prints by Henry Moore that showed Londoners sheltering in the Tube during the Blitz, I was very moved. I am also affected by the beautifully sensitive art of the 20th century German painter and printmaker Käthe Kollwitz.
I think I can say that they have both been a great inspiration for me. I also love Rodin’s magnificent drawings of dancers, and the fact that many things can be read into these drawings.
Henry Moore’s “sheltering in the Tube” drawings have influenced those of my artworks that show one, two or three figures in an empty space. They are based on certain narratives, but I also like to leave my art open to interpretation. My drawings are meant to leave you wondering what the people are doing, what they might have been doing or what are they about to do.
Mark-making is the foundation of all my work, be it painting or drawing. Sometimes you can’t tell if my art my is painting or drawing, but to me that doesn’t matter.
Charcoal and water-based paint are my media. I stain paper with paint, allowing it to flow as I pour. For me the process is organic and the results evocative, suggesting the visceral but uncertain relationship we have with our own bodies. The purity of marks I make with charcoal or graphite can evoke a strong emotional reaction, and for me that is a constant source of delight.
I am currently working on drawings of heads — Soliloquy is one example, Dialogue is another — that are concerned with the way we humans relate and communicate with one another and with our own selves.
Other titles in the series are Don’t Look Back and a diptych called Departure. This new body of work is for my next exhibition later this year at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.
In this photo I’m standing in front of the large head painting Five, which is part of a large body of work that occupied me for several years. Five refers to the five senses, and the head seemed to be a very appropriate place to start with this sensitive yet sometimes difficult subject. The painting is built up with layers of paint, paper, charcoal and varnish and it’s framed behind glass.
Behind me in the picture, though you can’t quite see them, are hands being held out. They are collages of my own hands. I will never part with with this painting. I return to it time and again.”
Profile of the artist
Barbara Sykes SGFA lives in Oldham and keeps a studio at Dean Clough in Halifax. She was born in Doncaster in 1944 and worked for many years as a textile designer for two Manchester studios, followed by freelance work in design. Barbara returned to full time education and graduated in 1993 from Bretton, Leeds University with a B.A. (Hons) degree in Fine Art. In 2005 she graduated from Bradford University with an M.A. in Printmaking and Art Theory.
Barbara has led workshops, given lectures and exhibited extensively in both municipal and private galleries. Her work is in public and private collections in the UK, France, the USA, Slovenia and Malaysia. She is a member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Art (MAFA) and the National Acrylic Painters Association (NAPA). Barbara’s next exhibition is at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery from 2nd December 2014 until 14th February 2015. For more about Barbara and her art, please visit her web site www.barbarasykes.com
Henry Moore’s Shelter Drawings at Tate Britain: With the advent of war Henry Moore gave up sculpture for drawing, but continued to explore familiar themes: “the Uncanny, claustrophobia, apprehension, the violated body…” His Shelter Drawings became official ‘war art’, [transforming] his reputation.” For more information please visit Tate Britain’s web site http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/henry-moore-0/henry-moore-room-guide/henry-moore-room-guide-room-5
The Käthe Kollwitz Museum, Berlin: Please visit the museum’s web site at this link http://www.kaethe-kollwitz.de/museum-en.htm