As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, Frieze London asked eight established artists to choose artists they admired for solo shows during the fair in its Artist-to-Artist section. Tracey Emin, for example, chose Vanessa Raw and Simone Leigh went for Deborah Anzinger. Here, Wolfgang Tillmans writes about why he picked Mark Barker (at gallery Shahin Zarinbal). October 11-15,

I have followed Mark Barker’s work since 2007 when he was a student at the Slade. Since then he has worked continuously at a carefully considered pace. Mark’s work has a peculiar sensitivity in the best sense of the word, it is at times uncanny and unnerving. At the heart of it I always sense a profound humanism. It’s work for our times.

Creamy sculpture which looks like a phallus and testicles but also a bent arm with a hand resting on a face
Untitled (2021) by Mark Barker © Courtesy the artist/Shahin Zarinbal

Originally from the UK, Mark now lives and works in Berlin. I would say he is primarily a sculptor, but his practice does encompass a wide variety of media, particularly now involving careful insights into drawing and photography. Mark’s work in whatever medium always seems to me to begin and end with sculpture. In his hands, buildings and bodies twist and turn, the forms in his drawings seem restless in the flatness of the paper, aching to propel themselves forward or recede ever further back; they are in the paper, rather than on it.

His work attests to the concreteness of bodily experience — digestion, desire, anxiety and shame — and these are only a few of the affects leaking out of his subjects. He creates what can best be described as a feeling of unheimlich: a displacement from the idea of the domestic and the familiar, intentionally crafted to leave the gaze of his spectator uneasy. He is fascinated by the permeability of the human body, how we all leak (physically and emotionally), and his subjects are in a persisting confrontation of form and collapse. His bodies push and they pull, oscillating back and forth.

Faint drawing of a creature which looks like a round turkey with a man’s head lying on the ground
‘Epitome’ (2022) by Mark Barker © Courtesy the artist/Shahin Zarinbal. Photo: Dan Ipp
Greyscale drawing of vents in a wall
‘Dixi ventilation screen, Berlin, d’ (2023) by Mark Barker © Courtesy the artist/Shahin Zarinbal

Recently, he has utilised key characteristics of certain architectures found in public spaces, such as the vents found on portable toilets, seeing parallels between them and the body, offering insights into the ways in which the body is traversed and regulated by the built environment, physically as well as psychologically.

These core concerns come out in Mark’s work in disparate yet interconnected forms, bridging the design of utilities with human and animal anatomy and corporeal processes. Mark presents a picture of the world — and of us as bodies — in which nothing is ever so settled or fixed, where perhaps we live on our nerves, from one moment to the next.,

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