For John Barbour, the notions of unmaking or the barely made carried resonances of mortality. This artist pursued a gently ironic artistic practice, exploring the paradox between form and formlessness in a manner he referred to as a kind of 'studied incompetence'. His materials of choice were modest: fabric, thread, cardboard, found objects and ink. With these he created wall banners and various kinds of wall and floor installations. The term 'inherent vice' derives from art conservation, and refers to the susceptibility of an artwork to damage and disintegration from within - that is, as the response of materials to the effects of light, handling, atmospheric conditions and so on. Barbour's banner work 'Inherent Vice' is deliberately delicate and very fragile. It is made from panels of voile loosely sewn together with coloured thread. A Rorschach ink blot and other seemingly casual markings appear in non-lightfast coloured inks. The circular text references a spiral light-work by US contemporary artist Bruce Nauman entitled 'The True Artist Is An Amazing Luminous Fountain' (1966). Barbour's allusive and meditative practice conveys a wide range of cultural and artistic allegiances and references. It also incorporates a personal dimension. The artist also stated: "'Inherent Vice' is also a 'meditation' in that it brings to mind people I've known and loved who are now dead. In a far from obvious way, it is autobiographical in mapping a web of personal relationships" (written on the occasion of the purchase of 'Inherent Vice' by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, December 2006)


  • Title: Inherent Vice
  • Creator: John Barbour
  • Date Created: 2005-6
  • Physical Dimensions: w245 x h265 cm
  • Type: Installation
  • Rights: Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2006. Image courtesy and copyright the artist.
  • External Link: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
  • Medium: ink, synthetic polymer and silk thread, cotton on cotton voile

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