Objects and purpose...
How I got here
The name of my practise says a lot about my backstory, 43 being an age at which many things happened in my life. You could call it a pivotal point…
I’m Paula Barnard-Groves and I have been creating art for more than 30 years. I work from my north London, studio using new and reclaimed metal. When the piece of work I am producing is very large, which it often is, I collaborate with a nearby engineering workshop.
For 25 years I lived in Rochester, having gained a higher national diploma in interior design in 1989 from the Kent Institute of Art and Design (now the University for the Creative Arts). I enjoyed the town’s industrial feel and its history, especially that of Chatham Dockyard. In that thriving artistic community I grew my practice, enjoying being part of the hotbed of driven, creative people, collaborating and sharing exciting projects and theories.
In 2012, several things all happening at once caused me to consider a number of moves personally, professionally and geographically. I came to London, settling in East Barnet, and that’s when Sculptor 43 – and all that came with it – was born. I have never felt such clarity of purpose or been so excited about what would happen next.
Objects with purpose
I have always been passionate about working closely with materials. While at art school I realised I needed to make with my hands, not just design. This need for physical contact enabled a richer understanding of how things were connected and led me to train as a welder. Within a year I had set up my own company, which I named Bizarre.
Working with found objects I used my skills to make what I called functional metal art – candle holders, clocks, bookends – and I sold them in Greenwich Market. The purpose of the object determined its design.
As my method and abilities developed, my work increased in scale. By around 2005 the objects I was making had become stand-alone sculptural pieces. Previously, the function was the reason for making; now the creation of form was reason enough.
I am now, more than ever, working with other people to create beautiful outcomes. Process drives my enjoyment, causing me to aim higher, build bigger and get more pleasure from the sculptural journeys I find myself taking.
I began working with found objects from the outset. Being based in a very industrial area, material was easy to find, and there were no shortage of companies willing to let me raid their offcut bins. The metal had a history and a beauty, a story untold. Remnants became my inspiration, the starting point to a journey that celebrated an object’s entire life. Now I use new as well as used materials to create works to many scales and styles.
There is something satisfying about creating beauty from items that would have otherwise been discarded. Placed alongside fresh materials, the story becomes complex, unusual, multi-layered.
Most of my work is privately commissioned by clients from all walks of life. I have made small interior pieces as family gifts, large-scale outdoor works of art as bigger commemorative pieces, and weighty corporate sculptures – pieces of public art that take into account the surroundings as much as the specific brief and intent.