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Talk #95

Simeon Barclay

Simeon Barclay draws upon a rich vein of pop cultural sources, producing works that activate complex cultural histories, whilst exploring the ways in which we navigate identity, both imposed or self-curated. Combining a diverse range of media, Barclay creates reductive, sophisticated works that engage with aspects of aesthetics, British culture, subjectivity and memory.

After spending his formative years working in the manufacturing industry in the North of England, Barclay would attend night school, eventually obtaining an MFA from Goldsmiths University, London (UK). As a youth he became preoccupied with fashion, citing its vitality as a conduit for both embellishment and resistance. Fashion’s social and economic contexts were also relevant, providing a dichotomy between the artist’s fascination with Vogue magazine, a periodical whose glamour and theatricality provided aspirational imagery, and the stark contrast that was his everyday reality and life working in a factory. These insights would later foster the impetus for his involvement in various subcultural movements whose symbolic and alternative modes of expression defined themselves in opposition to social norms.

This personal development together with an understanding of wider social concerns around the rhetoric of belonging, and the place of the diaspora as stakeholder in the shaping of an evolving British culture, have contributed to Barclay’s sharp awareness of the psychological, socio-cultural and political contexts that inform lived experience. These are formally articulated through a complex interplay of the sonic, collage, an archival approach to the appropriated image, sculpture, video, objects and the re-interpretation of the gallery space through installation. Barclay’s background in industry directly feeds into his work, addressing narrow constructions of masculinity as well as informing the glossy surfaces and use of industrial fabrication techniques throughout his work. The seemingly disparate and contradictory influences allow Barclay to expand his research examining alternative narratives as well as addressing the complexity of inheritance, aspiration and desire.

Simeon Barclay (b. 1975, in Huddersfield, UK) received his BA from Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds in 2010 and an MFA from Goldsmiths College, London in 2014. Barclay is a member of the Arts Council Acquisition Committee since 2021 and a member of the advisory committee for the Freelands Foundation since 2018, and in 2020 he was selected to be included in the British Art Show 9. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally including at Southbank Centre, Tate Britain, South London Gallery, London; Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Workplace Foundation, Gateshead; Holden Gallery, Manchester; The Tetley, Leeds; Cubitt Gallery, London; The Bluecoat, Liverpool; Jerwood Space, London; Galerie Lisa Kandlhofer, Vienna; Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels; Arcadia Missa, New York and W139, Amsterdam. His work is in the Arts Council Collection, London; Zabludowicz Collection, London; Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery collection, Manchester.