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 c ontemplation in the viewer.
In the 44th Venice Biennale (1990), the Nordic Pavilion presented Barclay’s work. This was followed by solo exhibitions at Le Creux de l’Enfer in Thiers, France (1991), The Power Plant, Toronto (1992), Centre de Création Contemporaine in Tours, France (2001 and 2009), Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Retiro, and at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2003), among many others.