Per Barclay was born in 1955 in Oslo, Norway. He trained as an art historian, notably in Italy, where he studied in Florence, Bologna, and Rome. He currently divides his time between Turin and Oslo.
Space is one of Barclay’s great fascinations. It informs his sculptures and installations, some of which include ladders and windows, which seek to explore the concept of space and to connect the here and the elsewhere, the visible and the invisible. A protean artist, photography has come to the fore of his work over the years.
The perception of space, the loss of logical bearings, and the beauty of even the strangest sites are notions that he explores. In the Chambres d’huile series, Barclay covered various sites, including a Sicilian palazzo, an industrial building outside Paris and a medieval chapel, with richly symbolic liquids, such as motor oil, wine, blood, water or milk. His chosen locations, many of which are abandoned, are characterized by the temporary or permanent absence of human beings. Through his images, the artist preserves the memory of these spaces whose glory days seem far in the past – their beauty, even when in ruins, is fully affirmed by Barclay’s photography. The works themselves can be quite disorienting; through reflections, a floor becomes a mirror, echoing the interior, turning the ceiling into the floor. Elements come together in a game of symmetry, modulation and chromatic effects, and through his large scale format, Barclay reveals details, characteristics, and particularities that would otherwise elude our attention. The works exude a sense of grandeur and silence, inducing a state of meditative contemplation in the viewer.
During the 44th Venice Biennale in 1990, the Nordic Pavilion presented Barclay’s work. Since then, the artist has been featured in numerous international solo exhibitions, among others at Galerie Guy Bärtschi, now Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland), Carpintarias de São Lázaro (Lisbon, Portugal), Sørlandets Kunstmuseum (Kristiansand, Norway), Bergen Kunsthall (Norway) and Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid, Spain). Recent group exhibitions include ones at Galerie Guy Bärtschi, now Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland), National Gallery Washington D.C (USA), Moderna Museet (Malmo, Sweden), Museum of Contemporary Art (Oslo, Norway), Kunstmuseum Brandts (Odense, Norway), Es Baluard Contemporary Art Museum (Palma de Mallorca, Spain), Centre d’art Contemporain (Meymac, France), Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid, Spain), Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (Spain), MoMa PS1 (New York, USA), Museum Folkwang (Essen, Germany), Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (Tokyo, Japan) and Kunsthalle Krems (Austria).