A laid table

A souvenir of my long journey up the fjord to Fauske has stayed with me, and now has a place in my living room. I can well remember the excellent meal that was arranged in the local historical museum. What was striking about the arrangement of the table before we began to eat was the fact that it had been decorated with a great number of finely veined stones from the surrounding mountains. I took away one of the most manageable, shaped almost like an arrowhead, and it now rests on my antique Cuban mahogany table, next to two medals, one a replica of Pisanello, the other struck for Ian Hamilton Finlay a few years ago.

History and geography, though domains of science, can be communicated to us above all by the persistence and movement of material objects. Anthropologists track the movements of peoples around the globe by following the diffusion of precious metals back to their source.

Archaeologists are delighted to come upon a relic of bronze, or earthenware pottery, in a trench dug deep down into the earth. Artists have a less clearly defined, but more all-embracing role to play in the creation of meaningful networks, marked by correlations of objects, but also by their deployment in a particular scene, a determinate landscape. Their material configurations are always, in a sense, on the move: they mediate between the real and the imagined worlds, just as they set markers between the earth and the sky, the place of a footfall and the distance of a horizon.

What interested me right from the start about Per Barclay’s work at Fauske was its ability to convey the sense of a suspended transition. It inhabits neither the land nor the water, but a variable boundary between the two realms, continually redefined by the passing of time and tides. What is more, the two complementary elements that stand near to each other in the shallow water are suggestive of an offering made to the spectator, or to the sky. They do not form a mass or a substitute for the human figure. Instead, they seem to invite sociality and participation, like a table that has been laid for a meal. The aluminum members that hold the marble slabs in place are conceived in such a way as to stress the stability of this offering amid the flux of sea and sand.

Yet again, the vitality of this work involves us in piecing together a series of linked transitions, which begins with the boat shed, securely positioned on the shore, against a background of woodland. I cannot resist a comparison with an installation that has recently won for its author the increased notoriety that is the reward of young British artists: Tracy Emin’s Beach Hut, removed from its position on the Kent coast to grace a London gallery. Beach huts are, of course, a different proposition, both socially and anthropologically, from boat sheds. Beach huts can illustrate the personal mythology of an artist, rich as these huts are in nostalgic intimations of a popular culture, all the more poignant for being slightly out of date. The boat shed, by contrast, belongs to a purer, more archaic register of symbols. In Per Barclay’s work, it seems to generate the sculptured forms: marble and aluminum issuing forth from antique wood, like a mythical vessel setting out to sea. 

Stephen Bann

They almost died laughing.
A man from Fauske tells of the reaction of two men from Trøndelag to Fauskes contribution to Artscape Nordland. Nordlands Framtid 13.08.94

“The sculpture” at Fauske is insured against water damage even though the work of art is sunken in water. The Director of Cultural Affairs Arne Hartviksen admits to the situation’s comical side.
Nordlands Framtid 02.09.1995 under the headline “Sloshing marble sculpture insured against water damage”.

Many wonder what it is supposed to be, especially the elderly. But the resistance to the monument was greatest before it was erected.
Director of Cultural Affairs Arne J. Hartviksen. Porsgrunns Dagblad 12.03.97

Insanity affects people in the head and not in the butt.
Adage recollected by “Man from Fauske” when he saw Fauske’s contribution to Artscape Nordland.
Nordlands Framtid 13.11.93

Those who have allocated money to this scandal should have their heads examined – just to be sure!
The same “Man from Fauske”

A portrait of Fauske.
The artist Per Barclay explains his sculpture in Nordlandsposten 10.07.93

Marble sculpture sloshing in the water at Fauske.
Headline in Nordlands Framtid 02.09.1993