Born in 1972, Sydney artist and curator Glenn Barkley has a strong interest in ceramics, horticulture and literary histories. In his installation Temple of the Worm which was on display in the 2016 Adelaide Biennial: Magic Object, Barkley paid homage to the seventeenth-century Danish physician and collector Ole Worm, whose ‘Wunderkammer’, named Museum Wormianum, encompassed an extraordinary array of objects. A Wunderkammer is also known as a cabinet of curiosities where collections of curious objects were housed. As a tribute to Worm, Barkley crafted his own room of wonders populated by ceramics with worm-like or vermicular surfaces including the ceramic piece Golden Euphorbia Pot made from stoneware and gold paint.

Installation view 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Magic Object featuring works by Glenn Barkley, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

  • Imagine touching the surface of Golden Euphorbia pot. Describe what the sensation might be like.
  • In the Pure Form resource we asked you to characterise what an 'impossible vase' might look like. Is Barkley's Golden Euphorbia pot an impossible vase? Provide reasons for your response.
  • Collect a range of mark-making tools such as toothpicks, combs, straws, pencils, wire etc. Create a pinch-pot using clay or plasticine. Experiment with the various tools to make textured surfaces as Barkley has done. You might like to research animal or insect tracks and replicate these patterns in your work.
  • Find more ceramics made by Barkley online. Look carefully for things that resemble parts of an animal or plant. Barkley is a keen gardener. Sketch or photograph interesting plants, insects or objects in your garden. Create your own sculpture by combining these sketches.

Glenn Barkley, born Sydney 1972, Time Fades Away, 2016, Sydney, earthenware and slip, 58.0 x 17.0 x 16.0 cm; Pauline Colley Bequest through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2016, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney | Singapore.

  • Glenn Barkley is paying tribute to the Danish physician and collector Ole Worm. Find out more about Worm and why his collection was so well known. As a class, list some of the items he collected. Do we still collect these objects today?
  • Worm collected objects in the seventeenth century, similar to how the Art Gallery and the South Australian Museum continue to collect and preserve objects. Why do you think it is important to collect and preserve objects and works of art in this way? What objects do you collect?

The Gallery’s Learning programs are supported by the Department for Education.

Art Gallery of South Australia staff Dr. Lisa Slade and Kylie Neagle contributed to the development of this resource.