Phyllida Barlow’s mad furniture factory explosion and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

This year’s Tate Britain Commission is a real feast for the eyes, with Phyllida Barlow’s massive ramshackle wooden constructions almost filling every inch of the gallery’s voluminous Duveen Sculpture Court.

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

Entitled Dock, the piece is dominated by five battered containers, suspended on what looks like a particularly precarious assemblage of wood scaffolding, straps and braces.

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

Like a supersized child’s balsa wood fantasy, the work dwarfs those walking under it, with its crazy selection of bolted on joints and criss-crossed beams making it almost impossible to work out what is supporting what.

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

Walking through the hall, you come across a tall column that looks like its made of a giant battered piece of cardboard, held together with brightly coloured electrical tape.

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

An almighty pile of wooden pallets supporting a half-toppled array of roughly painted sheets of thin wood follows.

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

At times it looks like the aftermath of an explosion in a furniture factory, with pieces of wood hammered on at random angles, while the huge suspended tube looks likes it’s ready to be used in a mediaeval siege.

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

I loved the work. It was unexpected, fun and chaotic and I think I enjoyed it almost as much as Adrian Searle at the Guardian:

What an exhilarating work this is. Gothic, slapstick, over-reaching, trammelling, dock presents the world as theatre set, a gigantic child’s play of sculptural ambition, an anti-monumental act of deconstruction, a huge bricolage.

It is also a wonderful parody of sculpture’s history of self-regarding masculinity, all that conspicuous labour and heft and muscle-flexing strain. Dock is a summation of Barlow’s work to date. There’s a word for this: Wow.

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

Once my senses had sufficiently recovered, I took time to explore some of the British collection, soaking up some of my favourite works of art, including John William Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott from 1888 (below).

Phyllida Barlow's mad furniture factory explosion and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

His work isn’t particularly  fashionable, but I’m always drawn to the industrial noir of Atkinson Grimshaw (below), with Liverpool Quay by Moonlight from 1887 being a painting soaked in winter mist, glistening gas lamps and atmosphere.

tate-britain-art-1

Phyllida Barlow's mad furniture factory explosion and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

I couldn’t afford the hefty £14.50 to view the British Folk Art exhibition, so instead immersed myself in the books that accompanied the exhibition, and saw some fantastic work.

If you’ve the cash to spare, I’d suggest that it’s well worth a visit – otherwise head for the bookstore!

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

Students show off their work inside the gallery – various projects were being held the day I was there.

Phyllida Barlow and British Folk Art at the Tate Britain, Millbank, London

A look up at the impressive dome of the 1897 gallery.

More: Tate Britain site