Lancaster University

Ruskin Library
Blue mineral

David Walker Barker: Objects of Curious Virtue

9 October – 12 December 2010

 Objects of Curious Virtue, at the Ruskin Library, Lancaster University from 9 October to 12 December 2010, is an exhibition by Leeds School of Design lecturer and artist, David Walker Barker.

This enthralling collection of cabinets and related artworks reflects David’s fascination for the geological realm, the connection between geological and human histories, and their relationship to the study and understanding of landscapes. It explores the function of the collection as an extension of an art practice initially located in painting and drawing.

Taking inspiration from John Ruskin’s fascination with minerals, the exhibition includes six newly constructed cabinets displaying mineral and fossil specimens, artefacts and fabricated objects from the artist’s extensive collections.  Accompanying these will be an range of David’s paintings, drawings and sketchbooks, and selected crystal specimens and geological material from the Guild of St. George’s Ruskin collection in the Millennium Galleries, Sheffield.


David Walker Barker,   Artist and Collector

David Walker Barker is an artist and collector with a long-standing interest in landscape environments. He is a lecturer in the School of Design at the University of Leeds, and exhibits both nationally and internationally.

His artwork and associated research is concerned with diverse aspects of landscape environments and has developed, in part, through fieldwork carried out at a variety of locations. Interest in aspects of geology and landscape evolution developed whilst at the Royal College of Art and has continued as a significant preoccupation providing reference points for a range of artworks including paintings, drawings, painted constructions and cabinets. These identify a fascination for land surface and the structural complexity of geological contexts, associated processes and their concealed dimensions. A central focus relates to the intersection of geological and human histories and their industrial and cultural impact upon landscape forms. Through his interest in geology and landscape he has established extensive collections of geological and historical material including fossils, crystalised minerals and associated artifacts from varied landscape environments.
David Walker Barker 2010

He completed an AHRC research project, ‘In search of a Hidden Landscape’, in collaboration with ‘Killhope, The North of England Lead Mining Museum,’ between October 2005 and May 2006, producing a range of art works relating to the Northern Pennine landscape and its extensive hard rock mining history. These were displayed in the museum throughout the summer and autumn of 2006. ‘Objects of Curious Virtue, Echoes of John Ruskin’ is the first major collaborative project following the ‘Killhope’ undertaking.

He is a Companion of the Guild of St George and a member of LAND2, a network for debate, research and exhibition among artists and others concerned with landscape and associated with Higher Education.
His art works are in public and private collections in the United Kingdom and abroad.

David Walker Barker writes:
Quarries and mine workings, both in operation and abandoned, became an inspiration many years ago though not initially for artistic reasons. As an artist fascinated by geological contexts and with a personality obsessed by collecting, the deep histories revealed in such excavations became a special focus. They are places where traces of those histories were made visible and were avidly visited in search of fossils and crystallised minerals. From the layers of time embodied in their disrupted strata came all manner of discoveries. Superb ammonites from abandoned alum shale excavations on the North Yorkshire Coast, deep toned amethystine quartz from the volcanic rocks of the Peak District of Derbyshire and from an abandoned quarry in the Northern Pennines the most spectacular and perfect crystals of colour zoned fluorite speckled with brilliant diamond like crystals of quartz.
Drawing by David Walker Barker

The quarried and mined environment and broader landscape contexts embody an extended history as a kind of document in which the text is continually erased and continually re-written. A sense of layering is a quintessential characteristic of this history creating the nexus for the convergence of geological, biological and human histories. Landscape becomes a portal into an infinite web of interconnections so aptly stated by Richard Fortey in his publication ’The Earth’

“All the intimate details of landscape and culture are rooted in geology. The true measure of the earth could be that slow overturning of the mantle that calibrates the march of the tectonic plates. The record of the rocks on earth is consistent with plate activity over some four billion years. During that time the planet has changed from barren to prolific. Earth and life became progressively interlinked and during all this slow transformation the motor of the earth reshuffled the continents and oceans, a leisurely progression to which life had no choice but to respond. Were it not for a thousand connections made through time, the outcome might have been different, and there may have been no observer to marvel and understand. We are all blessed with minds that can find beauty in explanation, yet revel in the richness of our irreducibly complex world, geology and all.”

David Walker Barker, September 2010.

David Walker Barker's Studio

David Walker Barker's Studio in South Yorkshire



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