Per Barclay and Turin: a Declaration of Love to an Underestimated City

by Mara Sartore
October 3, 2018
Mara Sartore

For the occasion of Artissima and the launch of our digital issue and App for Turin’s Art Week, we had a conversation with Norwegian-born, Turin-based artist Per Barclay to learn more about his projects and to discover his personal tips on the Piemontese town.

Mara Sartore: In many of your past and recent “oil room” installations you have engaged in a dialogue between architecture and photography. What is your relationship with these two media?

Per Barclay: The photography is a prolongation of the actual installation and becomes a separate entity in itself. It’s a duality I find intriguing. The installation itself usually disappears after a short time but with the photographs I can continue to explore what I found interesting with the space (architecture) in the first place.

MS: Could you lead us through the creative process behind your work, how  has your method changed over the years?

PB: At the beginning I had what we could say a sculptor’s approach. The photos were taken frontally and printed as big as possible. I wanted the spectators to have the feeling they could physically enter the image. With time I started to dig deeper into the images by drawing out parts of the architectural space, often rendering these cuts nearly abstract: perhaps a more painterly approach.

MS: You have been living in Turin for almost 20 years now, what made you chose this city?

PB: In 1989 I started working with Giorgio Persano gallery in Turin. At the time I was living in Naples. Persano suggested I worked in Turin, a choice I have never regretted. I was given amazing work conditions and through the gallery had the privilege of knowing artists like Franz West, Susana Solano, Mario Merz and Gilberto Zorio among others. A great school for a young artist. Turin is one of the most important cities in Italy for contemporary art. In addition to excellent museums, foundations and galleries, you find everything you need for your work as an artist, including extraordinary artisans.

MS: We love to give insider’s tips to our readers, could you recommend 5 not-to-be-missed spots in Turin for an art lover visiting the city on a regular day?

PB: In my opinion Turin is an underestimated city. The historical centre is beautiful. I always take my visitors to the church of Il Santuario della Consolata, in Piazza della Consolata. Don’t miss the famous ex voto in the back of the church to the right. Turin is known for its café culture. The town’s oldest café – Al Bicerin is just in front of La Consolata and a must. Not far, in the interesting quadrilatero district you’ll find Ristorante Tre Galli (Via Sant’Agostino, 25) my kind of kitchen and a good choice of wine. My favourite café is Caffé Platti (Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 72)…..for coffee and good cakes. In the beautiful Piazza Vittorio Veneto you’ll find one of the most typical Piemontese restaurants: Ristorante Porto di Savona (Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 2) with traditional food and great atmosphere. If you would like to take home some Italian specialities like parmigiano, ham etc go to Baudracco (Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 62): they have a super choice and they will vacuum pack for you what you get.

MS: Your most recent work is on show at Palazzo Mazzarino in Palermo for Manifesta12, this was your third big project in town after Palazzo Costantino and Bianco Palermo. Could you tell us about this experience?

PB: The Cavallerizza of Palazzo Mazzarino is an amazing space. I visited it for the first time two years ago during its restoration and totally fell in love. My dynamic gallerist in Palermo, Francesco Pantaleone agreed it would be perfect for an oil room project. I am most grateful to the Marchesi Berlingieri for the permission and great support during the whole process. I have always been fascinated by Palermo. A city of raw energy and wonderful enthusiastic public. I am honoured to have been able to work in some of the most important historical monuments of the city.

MS: Could you tell us a little something about your future projects, both in Italy and abroad?

PB: I am happy to say my schedule is quite busy these days. I have two gallery shows coming up in Italy next year: one in Bologna in January and one in Milan in April. I am also working on a public sculpture in Norway to be completed before May and then preparing two major museum exhibitions for next year and 2020 which will keep me well occupied!

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