GUARDIAN ON ANNA BARHAM
Words fall like raindrops in Anna Barham's animation Proteus. True to the work's title, they are shape-shifters, morphing from one phrase to the next: "strange outline"; "up rears tail"; "el transmutation". Barham's poetry is one made entirely of anagrams. It's always surreal, packed with nonsensical asides as well as lines that are unexpected delights. "Tasting lemon rapture; purring at lemon taste" is one of the gems from her artist's book, Return to Leptis Magna.
These four words (and the ancient Roman city they refer to) are at the heart of the young London-based artist's work. She's revisited them over and over in her videos, drawings and performances, where they have yielded a staggering number of anagrams. For Barham, Leptis Magna is very much a city of the imagination.
The "real" site on the Libyan coast is now a ruin. She has never been there: her only physical encounter with it was in Windsor, where a number of its stones were transplanted from their arid home during the 19th century and resurrected as a folly in the lush surrounds of Virginia Water. Leptis Magna is also the place where the modern alphabet originated. For Barham, who studied sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art, letters become the building blocks for refashioning those ruins into something new.'
© Georgina Rowlands, all rights reserved