Author: Phil Barrington
Book title: Cracked Amber Solid {Frieze of the Faded}
Release date: 14 March 2017
Publisher: Barrington Arts

Cracked Amber Solid {Frieze of the Faded} is the third book by Phil Barrington. In this art book, we see the faded and corrupted memories and ghosts of lives once lost. Over the better part of three decades, these photographs were collected by the author. After the revelation of this project, he left these photos outside for three whole years. Over this time the photographs were often distorted beyond recognition. Those which are still perfectly clear at least have a fade and filth of antiquity.

Cracked Amber Solid is a look at life and death, through four sections: Life, Love, Sex and Death. Throughout these sections Barrington uses collages of these images as well as often disjointed text to build a greater picture of his vision. While at first this vision may seem quite disjointed, the relevance quickly presents itself. In combining these images and texts, Barrington manages to bring out emotions in the reader which can be quite surprising and unexpected.

Barrington thanks, among others, The Caretaker in the beginning of the book. I found this immediately interesting, as one who lives for music. Not sure if this was The Caretaker musical project of Leyland Kirby, I allowed it to remain an open question as I proceeded. Moving through the book, it became abundantly clear that this was the musician in question. The use of repetitions and thoughts which fragment and distort immediately reminds of a written companion to the aural style of The Caretaker.

Much like The Caretaker, Barrington lets ideas repeat and fester throughout the publication. What seems odd and out of place at the start gradually becomes a necessary key to the overarching concepts. An example of this is the recurring mention of the girl being run over by a bus. In its first mention this seems strange, but as the book progresses toward its final section of death, the connection between random events, innocent childhoods, and that innocence slowly being lost throughout the struggle of life becomes much more obvious.

In a second comparison to The Caretaker, Barrington has used collected fragments of history, which come together as a whole. In his collages of photographs and text, he paints a vivid and altogether original picture. This is quite similar to the process Leyland Kirby uses when creating his albums, by digging through the old forgotten belongings of the deceased, finding antique records to use for his modern musical project.

Though only one section of the book is specifically dedicated to love, this seems to be an overarching idea throughout. As he often illustrates, love makes life, love is sex, and love ends in death. Though this order and concept are easily mangled by the cruel ironies of life itself. The allusion to the young girl being killed by the bus brings this cruel concept to fruition. There are many other examples presented of the ways love can manipulate and often destroy lives. For instance, it is seen in the recurring use of variations of the phrase, “When distant wedding bells chime and a noose swings.” This is a morbid and depressing comparison, but one that strikes true throughout.

As a whole, Cracked Amber Solid is a depressing piece of work. One can’t help but reminiscing back to times in their own lives, or the lives of their loved ones, when parallel circumstances presented themselves. Barrington uses this mechanic masterfully. He is able to take these disjointed and seemingly random sets of photographs and text, and bring them all together to form a powerfully moving work of art. The images themselves are quite thought provoking, if often filled with extremely vivid sexual themes. Reading this book and absorbing its imagery was certainly time well spent. As a person who is often prone to boredom when reading the works of many authors, this was never the case. Barrington has certainly showcased his talents well here. This could be an easily recommended read for anyone with a darker sense of imagination and a love for unorthodox forms of art.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Barrington‘s book, Cracked Amber Solid {Frieze of the Faded}, can be purchased in two formats: as a high-resolution pdf and as an ultra-limited hardback art-edition. These can be found on Barrington Arts webstore:
A free low-res version can be found here: