Anna Barriball is now showing at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery.
The first piece I notice is a framed almost-door propped against the wall. In fact it looks like an extremely thin sheet of lead that has been pressed and moulded over the surface of a panelled wooden door: I can see the four panels, the keyhole and the place where the doorknob once was, all slightly distorted and wrinkled.
It’s actually a drawing, a pencil rubbing, a graphite fossil of a door. I can see where the artist has made her marks, occasionally ripped the paper and forced the graphite into every crevice so that no white shows. It is a battle with surface.
There are other works here that use a similar technique; pencil and ink rubbings of various surfaces and openings, pairs of shutters, brick walls, that bubbly frosted glass you get in tired bathrooms. These things are all recognizable, but defamiliarised by Barriball’s treatment – presenting unsettled textures of domesticity.
Capturing both the surface and shape of these objects, Barriball has created works that sit between drawing and sculpture. She focuses on the usually overlooked apparatus of everyday life; never has a window shutter been replicated in such a fraught manner, or a drawing of a brick wall reflected the labour of the wall’s original creation so closely.
Along the back wall of the ground floor room the artist has constructed a large piece out of windbreaks. The work conjures images of childhood seaside holidays, the nostalgic evocation dislodged by the black marker pen that covers the surface of the whole piece. We can only glimpse the original primary colours of the windbreaks through the gaps in the black. Again, it is about disarming us, whipping the carpet of familiarity from under our feet.
There is also an underlying sense of humour in the show. Pieces like the golden five pound note – at once everyday and elevated, or the series of black and white photos which have been jokingly mounted so that only one small window is visible in each.
Typical for the Fruitmarket this show is full of understated works that reward attention. Yet again this gallery has foregrounded a lesser-known contemporary artist, allowed her work space to breathe and given us room to contemplate it.