AS we draw towards the close of 2020, still somewhat in shell shock at what a year this has been, it is somewhat cheering to look around, as people bring out their Christmas trees and Hanukkah menorahs and think of family and friends, or simply throw caution to the wind and plug in another flashing reindeer on the lawn, and see that many humans are still creating, that art galleries, however restricted their opening, are showing new work, even if that new work is only available to view online or by time slot appointment. Every now and more often then, there is a realisation that the frisson of being able to stand in a gallery and look at art is still as valued and as tenuous as it was when the first few spaces opened up after lockdown.

And so, off to Dumfriesshire, currently in Tier 1, for those lucky enough to be able to plot a legal route in to its heartlands, where the Cample Line gallery, housed in old mill workers buildings moored in the middle of Nithsdale down a series of winding roads and ravines, is showing the work of the Glasgow-based artist Sara Barker, whose thoughtful large scale metal sculptures have been shown in various contemporary galleries from Edinburgh's Fruitmarket to Leeds Art Gallery, alongside permanent commissions such as that at the sculpture park, Jupiter Artland.

Barker's striking work, whether the apparently spindly constructions that flank out from wall to floor like architectural leylines or the more contained and painted box works of recent years, find their roots in literature from poetry to fiction, and in their immediate surroundings, and it is that latter quality that has partly influenced this new body of work, created entirely during lockdown, and largely on her kitchen table.

“It was a difficult period at the beginning!” says Barker. “I had a lot of anxious phone calls with Briony, the Exhibitions Co-ordinator, saying “Are we still going to do this?” We weren't sure if anybody would see it! It felt like there was so much time, with family relentlessly around, and it was so difficult to fill it. My working time was really compromised, so I had to just slot it in. I did early hours, late hours, half an hour here or there to do a coat of paint. There was a fundamental shift in my practice,” she says, not least in that it usually revolves around the kind of toxic paints and large scale construction that can only be done in a large workshop with metal facilities. “Out of sheer need to make it work for me, I gave myself permission to use different materials and more of the domestic stuff around me.”

There were dangers, though, she tells me, although not of the variety you might find in a metal workshop. “All that pleasing aestheticism, all that comfortable environment, working in watercolour and gouache on wood! You do have to question it, because some of it felt more difficult to resolve.” Resolution did come, however, whether it was in placing brass sculpture inside a battered Amazon delivery box (Hold, 2020) or simply finding the connection between the domesticity of her working environment and the familiar proportions of the Cample Line buildings themselves.

“I started to think of the building as an artwork,the biggest in the show. The red oxide corrugated roofing, the sound of the gravel, so distinct and tactile, the very painterly dry stone walls. It was all very vivid in my minds eye, at a distance and without being able to visit, and in a way the exploratory works I've made are more deeply connected to that place because of this distance. It enabled me to be more playful.”

At Cample Line, the exploratory, experimental domestic works are juxtaposed with the main thread of her sculptural and painting practice, “and the need to make things more austere and sharpened up. It felt like two distinct part of my nature.” And yet, as Barker does, she found the connections, whether in the red of a maquette that reflected the surrounding rooves or the sparkle of tin foil that recalled early Christian artworks. “Something seemed to reverberate in these references that I don't fully own. I think I allowed that to be there when I refined the work.”

It was perhaps a leap to allow these pieces to be works that she would recognise as part of her practice. “But in a way, I cared a bit less. I want to learn something from that experience of lockdown, that alone will be something important. I want to see and live with the work that I've made.”

Sara Barker: undo the knot, Cample Line, Cample Mill, Cample, Thornhill, Dumfriesshire 01848 331 000 Until 30 Jan 2021, Thurs – Sat, 11am – 4pm, by appointment only.