Anna Barriball (3 stars)

The Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 28 Oct


‘Untitled (Wallpaper)’, Barriball’s first drawing on display here, is a heavy-handed graphite rubbing on tracing paper recently taken from the Ingleby Gallery’s wallpapered wall. This intimate relationship with the gallery is repeated, rubbings taken from the wood floor in ‘One Square Foot V’ and the back door in ‘Untitled (Back Door)’, creating rich, though emotionally detached drawings. Barriball’s re-interpretation of ordinary surroundings or objects, via drawing or sculpture, runs throughout the exhibition, drawing attention to the ephemeral or seemingly inconsequential.

‘Escape II’ also salvages the used, small pieces of found ribbon tied together to form a deliberately wimpy, useless escape rope attached to the ceiling, coiling to the floor in a delicate pile like the remnants of a girlish childhood game. More powerful is ‘36 Breaths’, found black and white 1920s photographs displayed as a tight group, each one tainted by a dollop of black ink. A seemingly simple idea becomes highly sinister; at times these ink splats seem like bombs falling from the sky onto a quiet old couple sunbathing in their deckchairs, or a lonely woman standing on a pier, others are reminiscent of enormous black dragonflies preying unseen on middle class youngsters in boats. While all Barriball’s works have a subtle materiality, at times she veers close to ornamentation, but the haunting humour in ‘36 Breaths’ is mysteriously evocative, revealing that she does indeed have a wicked side.

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