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Rebecca Barnard

Project title: The Machinery has Started
Location:Loft Gallery, Sadler Street, Wells
Date:28th October – 7th November

About the Artist

Rebecca Barnard’s creative practice is rooted in a fascination for the paradoxes and complexities of human behaviour; our relationship with ourselves and the planet over which we have temporary guardianship.  She is interested in the struggle for understanding and balance, both collectively as a species and as an independent human being. 

I am absorbed by the unintended consequences of decisions we make, both on a macro and micro level.  My work is inherently designed to echo that fragile place in form, process and viewer interaction.

Barnard’s multi-disciplinary approach incorporates sculpture, sound and film as well as her first love, oil painting.  She uses a variety of materials including clay, plaster, wax, found objects, paper and less identifiable detritus.

Recent works are predominantly sculptural, taking the form of the abstracted, precarious human figure, built with natural fibres and “dead” or unwanted materials in an experimental way, encouraging accidents and mistakes, often exposing structure in the finished form.  They evolve in a way which is intentionally unpredictable both in size and nature.  In this way, process and outcome meld together in a symbolic yet volatile story of the human journey.  Through the physicality of precarious and off-centred works, the viewer is invited to experience a world of the unforeseeable, ingesting that sense of something off-kilter and the erratic opposing forces which help shape our every day decision making. 

About the Project: The Machinery has Started

“She has started the machinery; it will work to its end.” (Forster, E.M. 1924. A Passage to India)

The project draws inspiration from Forster’s iconic literary reference extending his notion of the uncontrollable machinery into a multi-dimensional exploration that transcends the textual realm and becomes a tactile, off kilter visual experience. It encapsulates an organic process from conception to installation and takedown, symbolising unscripted momentum and potential for unintended consequences. The final outcome is an assemblage of abstracted, humanlike sculptures exposing structure and process, 380 stoneware “generic human” heads and a disquieting film and sound collage projected on brick walls, through sculpture. The sculptures are raw in nature, created instinctively using plaster, wire, jute and other studio detritus. These are “floating” precariously on steel rods, which move when touched. Heads connect to sculptures from the floor, niches and ledges presented by the space; a 19th century loft in a vulnerable state. Four cast-iron “momentum” wheels weave between sculpture groups and heads, again symbolising the notion of the unstoppable machine.

Viewers are encouraged to interact with works, engaging with precarity. The interactive viewer experience brings risk and uncertainty, with consequences unknown.

The project engages with theories of human agency, unintended consequences, Chaos Theory and the philosophical tension between human intervention and systemic momentum, exploring the complexities between internal decision making and the external forces that shape our lives.

In the context of today’s rapidly evolving world, the project resonates with the current drive towards technological innovation, notably AI, and a perceived notion of societal advancement. It engages with the ethical dilemmas and unforeseen ramifications that often accompany these advancements.

Barnard collaborated with Master Maker Thomas Pinkney to create unique, steel stands for the sculptures which moved when touched, echoing precarity. These stands became one with the artworks and were key to audience interaction.


Film and Sound installation (7.29 mins)

Film fades after 4 mins and sound is then privileged allowing intense audience focus with sculpture and sound mix.

Video Walkthrough (4.27mins)

For further information, please see Rebecca Barnard’s website at:

Special Thanks go to:

Thomas Pinkney, Master Maker – for his key input building stands for the sculptures

Dr Kate Wilson PhD, Ceramicist – for firing the heads and technical advice

Sarah Mitchell, my long suffering partner for all her patience


Posted on

December 18, 2023