Scott Barley is an artist-filmmaker based between Scotland and Wales, UK.
His work is primarily concerned with the anthropocene, nature, darkness, cosmology, phenomenology, and mysticism, and has been associated with the Remodernist and Slow Cinema movements. His filmmaking and imagery has been compared with the sensibilities of filmmakers, Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky, David Lynch, Maya Deren, Aleksandr Sokurov, Pedro Costa, Stan Brakhage, Peter Hutton, Jean Epstein, and Philippe Grandrieux, as well as the artists, J. M. W. Turner, Caspar David Friedrich, Anselm Kiefer, Arkhip Kuindzhi, Vija Celmins, Michael Biberstein, and John Martin.
His work has been screened internationally, including The Institute of Contemporary Arts London, BFI Southbank, Sheffield Doc Fest, Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Centre of Contemporary Culture Barcelona, Doclisboa, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Venice Biennale, Dokufest, Festival du nouveau cinéma, EYE Filmmuseum, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Singapore Art Museum, Telluride Film Festival, Museum of Modern Art Rio, Museum of Contemporary Art Buenos Aires, Institute of Modern Art Brisbane, and Fronteira International Documentary & Experimental Film Festival.
His films have been exhibited in thematic exhibitions at museums and art galleries in Europe, Asia, and The Americas alongside works by Phil Solomon, Nathaniel Dorsky, James Benning, Ana Vaz, Lois Patiño, Karel Doing, Werner Herzog, Nicolas Roeg, Peter Weir, Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, David Cronenberg, Pedro Almodóvar, Gaspar Noé, Hayao Miyazaki, Béla Tarr, Jim Jarmusch, Danny Boyle, Jonathan Glazer, David Fincher, Guillermo Del Toro, Bong Joon-Ho, George Miller, Godfrey Reggio, and Brian De Palma.
Prior to filmmaking, Barley focused on painting, creating large-scale, densely textured sculptural works on canvas and board, utilising earth, cement, plants, ash, oil, snakeskin, insects, spiders and spider silk. He began making films in 2012. He has stated that part of his attraction to digital filmmaking is in “the challenge and near inevitable failure of seeking the texture and tactility of painting in a flat and facsimiled medium where such qualities are either negated by convention or computation, or simply do not exist at all.” His fourth film, Nightwalk, released in early 2013, was described by influential avant-garde filmmaker, Phil Solomon as “L’Avventura for the Starless”.
Since early 2015, Barley has almost exclusively shot his films on iPhone. His short film, Hinterlands was voted one of the best films of 2016 in Sight & Sound's yearly film poll. His first feature-length work, Sleep Has Her House was released in early 2017, garnering universal acclaim, and winning the Jury Award for Best Film at Fronteira International Documentary & Experimental Film Festival, in Goiânia, Brazil. It later received nominations in Sight & Sound’s 2017 and 2018 film polls, as well as in Sight & Sound’s ‘The best video essays of 2018’. The film also received nominations in Senses of Cinema’s 2017 poll, and The Village Voice 2017 film poll for Best Film, Best First Feature, and Best Director.
In 2018, Barley co-founded Obscuritads — “an international collective focused on rendering the invisible visible” — with filmmaker, Mikel Guillen (Toronto) and curator and programmer, Miquel Escudero Diéguez (Paris, Barcelona).
In early 2020, film historian and theoretician, Nicole Brenez cited Sleep Has Her House as one of the ten best films of the decade, after previously writing that “[Barley’s works] renew our conception of visuality”, and describing him as, “one of the most gifted visual poets of his generation.” In the same year, art history academic and film critic, Borja Castillejo Calvo cited Sleep Has Her House as the second best film of the 2010’s, and Womb (2017) as the best short film of the decade.
Barley’s second feature-length film, The Sea Behind Her Head is currently in production. The film is produced by Luke Moody and is funded by the British Film Institute (BFI) and DocSociety.
Danish film critic, and former director of the European Documentary Network, Tue Steen Müller has described him as the “Anselm Kiefer of cinema”.
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