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An artist’s view of the Barbican

Artist James Sinclair, a Barbican resident with a studio in the Cotswolds, finds the Barbican’s architecture inspirational as far as his painting is concerned. Some of his Barbican related illustrations, and their context, are set out in the article below.


have many thoughts and feelings about the Barbican. It is a great place to live, safe, comfortable and stimulating. But it’s never had a simple impact on me. There is no obvious spectacle that can easily be seen. Though, the more time I spend here, the more I discover that it has a great deal of beauty.

There are great views but they need discovering. There is also quality in the detail. The effort and

thought that went into it becomes apparent. And along with the feelings of comfort and safety I have a recurring idea of the Barbican being deserted. The thoughts this triggers vary on time of day, the way in which light and sound interact with the concrete, glass, water and grass. You can pass through the same place any number of times and get very different impressions. I've always had these experiences when visiting the Barbican. Probably they started with the walkways. They raise you up from the ground, a safe distance from events below. Once on a walkway there are only really two choices, forward or back. I can focus on the end of the walkway and think about what is around the corner. There is always this idea that you can encounter something. It could be dangerous, the only option is to turn and run. For me it is all about safe thrills and I want to get them down on paper. Often this is what my illustrations are about, more extreme versions of reality.

Art Gallery and Robot A number of my thoughts about the Barbican stem from the types of movies I grew up watching and the comics I read (my wife is laughing here, she doesn’t believe comics need reading). Sci fi , horror fantasy, “Silent Running”, “The Omega Man”, “The Forbidden Planet”. Being in the Barbican brings back memories from some of these movies. It is an easy transition. The Barbican looks like an old version of the future. Being so self-contained makes it is easy to imagine that you are in a different place, a different time, an alternate future. The “Robot”illustration presents one of these possibilities. The Barbican is relocated to a different time and place. The ideas and thinking that led to the Barbican are from the same period as the movie “The Forbidden Planet”. So I thought that placing Robot from “The Forbidden Planet” in the Barbican would be a good fit. The movie, alongside its display of really cool technology carries a health warning about the unintended consequences of progress. A civilisation despite its high ideals manages to destroy itself. In the illustration the Robot is carrying a girl away from the gallery. The Robot looks industrial, like it will endure whereas she appears fragile and vulnerable.

“Welcome to the Barbican This is a descendant of a series of films, mostly made in the 70's , which can be described as lonely man sci fi. They are about the impact of progress on individuals (physically and psychologically isolated); “Silent Running”, “The Omega Man”, “Planet of the apes”. I keep returning to the main gallery entrance (Shakespeare Tower side) and try to get a grip on what it’s about. If you take away the gallery sign it could be so many things. Broad steps leading


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