Barclay is one of her generation's foremost sculptors. Emerging from the Scottish art scene in the late nineties, her practice explores formal and conceptual concerns through both large and smaller scale installations. One of the key influences in her working practice is an ongoing fascination with historical and anthropological artifacts. Barclay is drawn to the more ambiguous objects that spark a curiosity as to their uses and meanings. The objects in her work are unfamiliar yet suggestive of function through their forms and material characteristics, which we interpret in order to imagine how people might interact with them. Turned wood, rawhide, soft leather, machined brass and woven straw are some of the materials that coalesce as the precious and the everyday, the hand-woven and the mechanically produced, and are brought to the fore in Barclay's practice. Each sculpted piece teeters somewhere on the brink between the figurative and the abstract, between the ambiguous and the referential.
In recent years, print-making has become an increasingly important part of Barclay's practice with the artist viewing a direct correlation between the print process and the intuitive way in which she makes sculpture. Characterized by a bold simplicity of design, Barclay's prints hover between the geometric and the organic. The bold simplicity of design conveys the process of the printmaking, and a concentric energy that is concerned with the same principles as her sculpture.
Notable solo exhibitions include ‘Deep Spoils', Mission Gallery, Swansea, Wales (2018); ‘Yield Point', Tramway, Glasgow (2017); ‘Longing Lasting', Stephen Friedman Gallery (2015-2016); ‘Claire Barclay: Overworkings', Touchstones Rochdale, Lancashire, UK (2015); ‘Claire Barclay, Another Kind of Balance', Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (2013-2014); ‘Reading off the Surface', Skulpturi, Copenhagen, Denmark (2011); ‘Shadow Spans' at the Whitechapel Gallery, London (2011-2010); ‘Pale Heights', MUDAM, Luxembourg (2009); ‘Claire Barclay', Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, UK (2009); ‘Open Wide', Camden Arts Centre, London, England (2008); ‘Fault on the Right Side', Kunstverein Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany (2007) and ‘Half-Light', Tate Britain, London, England (2003); Zenomap, Palazzo Guistinian-Lolin, Venice Biennale, Italy (2003).
In 2016, Barclay presented new work as part of Glasgow International, Glasgow, Scotland and the Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea.
Recent group exhibitions include ‘The Weather Garden: Anne Hardy curates the Arts Council Collection', Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, UK (2019); ‘William Hunter and the Anatomy of the Modern Museum', The Hunterian, Glasgow, Scotland, travelled to Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, USA (2018-2019); ‘Strange Foreign Bodies', The Hunterian, Glasgow, Scotland (2018); ‘Vienna Biennale 2015: Ideas for Change', The Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria (2015); ‘Generation: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland', Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (2014); ‘Funktion/Dysfunktion', Kunstzentrum, Neues Museum, Nürnberg, Germany (2013); ‘The Sunday Curators', SWG3 Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland (2013); ‘21 Revolutions: Two Decades of Changing Minds', Glasgow Women's Library, Glasgow, Scotland (2012); ‘You, Me, Something Else', Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland (2011); ‘Structure and Material: Claire Barclay, Becky Beasley, Karla Black', Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire, UK; ‘Travelling to The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall', UK (2011); ‘What Matters', Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, UK (2010); ‘Material Intelligence', Kettles Yard, Cambridge, UK (2009) and ‘British Art Show 6', Baltic, Gateshead, UK (2005).
Barclay's works are included in prominent collections, including Touchstones Rochdale, Manchester, UK; Scottish National Galleries, Edinburgh, Scotland; British Council, London; Tate, London; MUDAM, Luxembourg; Arts Council Collection, London, England; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Netherlands and Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, USA.