Phyllida Barlow was one of the most important British sculptors of her generation, whose work often transformed quotidian materials—plywood, cardboard, cement, fabric, plastic—into what she called “very impractical and very illogical” pieces of unexpected beauty. Her death this week at 78 has left a sudden void in the art world, especially among the many artists whom she taught, mentored and befriended over decades as a teacher and a generous guiding light in her field.
Of her half-century occupation with everyday industrial and domestic materials in her work, she told the filmmaker Cosima Spender: “I think it’s, for me, a question of observing things that are to hand, and that are familiar. Taking the ordinary and seeing it as extraordinary.”
In celebration of Barlow’s life and work, Ursula magazine here revisits Phyllida, a 2019 film by Spender that follows the artist through her studio, home and her early years as an emerging artist, educator, mother and partner to her husband, the artist Fabian Peake.
Phyllida Barlow, 1971. Photo: John Malcolm Couzins. Courtesy the estate of John Malcolm Couzins/National Portrait Gallery
Fabian Peake and Phyllida Barlow, 1971. Photo: John Malcolm Couzins. Courtesy the estate of John Malcolm Couzins/National Portrait Gallery
This film was made in conjunction with “cul-de-sac,” an exhibition of work by Phyllida Barlow at the Royal Academy in London in 2019.
For those wishing to express condolences to the Barlow family and studio, please send messages to [email protected].