from 12 May 2017
to 26 November 2017

Barbed Circle

Sculpture by Harry Schaffer I Switzerland 2017

The “Barbed Circle“ is a metaphorical figure that expresses the theme of exclusion, an issue that has come to dominate the current political and social climate. This includes, amongst other things, not only the refugee crises, the building of walls, either physical or geopolitical, throughout the world, all of which are happening in the immediate present, but also from a historical perspective, the political movements which lead and have led to enmity and war.

However, the artist wishes to present an evocative icon, which as well as being an aesthetically pleasing object, a shining and beautiful ring, offers also an escape route, a way towards freedom from oppression and suffering. In this sense, the sculpture represents resistance and can bring to mind, for instance, the fleeing soldier at Checkpoint Charlie, reminding us that through hope, art, unity and love, we can overcome the violence of tyranny.

As a Swiss, he further wishes to bring to our attention the great humanitarian tradition of his homeland as a refuge for the oppressed, particularly in the recent past, which is now being overwhelmed by the rising fear of foreign infiltration, a deep-seated anxiety that the indigenous folk are about to be dispossessed of their own back gardens.

The Work

The work, consisting of a ring of 10 kilometres of barbed wire, with a diameter of 2.5 m. weighing about 1.2 tonnes, stands in the open air.

The circle is one of the most universal symbols of human art, yet one of the most ambiguous, if not contradictory, depending on a myriad of contexts and shared cultural meanings. It is at once an image of wholeness and completion, amity and open-heartedness, indeed, of universal, spiritual  and personal love (think of Stone Henge or the wedding ring), but here, in stark contrast, there is the material of the barbed wire, which can wound and reject, a sign of repudiation and obstruction, of hostility and exile.

The artist would like to exploit this ambivalence or interaction of conflicting meanings in the mind of the spectator and promote a complex process of integration and harmonisation. It is through paradox that we find truth and in antitheses we find synthesis.

The artist

Harry Schaffer, born 1963 in Switzerland, has worked for over 30 years as a sculptor, using different materials and forms in natural settings. His works are to be found in many countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Poland and the USA. He has often worked in close collaboration with the German-French artist Wolf Warnke.  Schaffer’s work can be firmly placed within the artistic movements associated with Land Art, in which the landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked, in which the sculpture is not merely placed within a landscape but the landscape itself is an essential part of its creation. His work increasingly tends towards Minimal Art, whereby natural materials, steel, wood or granite, often in the form of a circle, square or cube, are placed in an outdoor location, an intervention of human consciousness in the natural environment.