Portrait by Teri Pengilley
It was a flat tyre that led me to Anna Barriball. I had been visiting Hurvin Anderson's studio in Bermondsey, South London, when I found myself stranded in the rain. Barriball, who works in the same complex, rescued me, taking me into her studio to wait for the AA.
Her studio is on the same floor as Anderson's in the former biscuit factory and shares his outlook – an open sky and trains zipping by on the aqueduct. She loves the beautiful sunsets, she says, apologising that she has to carry on working as she talks. Her pieces are due to go to the framers later today for her new show at Frith Street Gallery. Her assistant, Annabel, carries on painting a strip of fluorescent orange that will eventually be hidden but will cast its ethereal light across the final work.
Barriball often works on the same theme. One set of drawings is made using the mundane ceiling tiles often seen in 1970s buildings, by painstakingly piercing through the tiles with a pencil. I ask how long they take to make. “They take time. There is often a layering of time, in the making and the subject. I'm also showing video loops at Frith Street. They're made from still images edited together to give movement and duration.”
Barriball has been experimenting with different techniques and materials for the new show. A series of prints traced from the bevelled surfaces of windows were produced like photographs, by bathing the ink in water and then hanging the sheets up to see how they created chance patterns as they dried. “Discoveries are made through the working process, and these images reveal themselves slowly over hours.” The series is then “heavily edited”, leaving only those that she thinks are sufficiently interesting. Fragile door rubbings form another series. She shows me the soft, 100 per cent cotton paper that is normally used as archival paper for photographs. The material's flexibility and silver and black ink create ghostly images of doors and windows.
Born in Plymouth in 1972, Barriball studied at Winchester and Chelsea School of Art. She has had gallery representation since she left college, with residencies at the Camden Art Centre and a solo show at MMK in Milton Keynes that travelled to the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.
Barriball's quiet, meditative technique leaves the viewer space to add their own interpretations. Everything, however, attests to visual acumen and thinking. “The thinking leads the making and vice versa,” she says. “They go hand in hand.”
New Work by Anna Barriball, Frith Street Gallery, London (www.frithstreetgallery.com) to 21 DecemberReuse content