Sarah Lucas, the "textural" artist
About the exhibition "Srah Lucas. Happy Gas", at the Tate Britain in London, on show until 14 January 2024.
As I was talking to her about the incredible memory of the body, a psychiatrist friend of mine recently explained to me the extent to which the discovery of this sort of 'third brain' has revolutionised our knowledge of ourselves. We knew about the cognitive brain, we accepted the emotional brain... but now scientific research has uncovered a third, called the mimetic brain. Here's an example. When you reach for a glass of water, you tend to think that it's simply your brain, the one in your skull, that has detected your thirst and therefore ordered the gesture. Well, not at all! It's the action that actually made your brain realise that you were thirsty! The subject is obviously not without interest, but you have every right to wonder why I'm telling you this here... Quite simply because Sarah Lucas's work reminds me of it. More specifically, the comments made by the artist, internationally renowned for her daring and provocative use of materials and images, in her interview with Alix Agret, researcher and art historian, in the October issue of the contemporary art magazine Artpress.
Pointing out to the British artist, currently exhibiting at Tate Britain in London, that she seems to have an "acute material awareness, an intuitive sense of objects", Alix Agret asked her whether she would agree with describing her practice "above all as a bodily process marked by the intelligence of the hand"? To which Sarah Lucas replied bluntly that, "I'm often fascinated to see how the body remembers things, particularly the hands - where the light switch is, for example, or, when driving, when the body reacts automatically to a situation, before thought intervenes". The artist whose works of art for sale are permeated by sex, social class and gender, whether in sculpture, installation or photography, is convinced of this: "I really believe that this is what happens when we make things. When I'm looking for the start of a roll of tape, my fingers are a better guide than my eyes. I like to feel my way around. I like to play with words and ideas. But at the same time, I like to avoid planning too much. Working sometimes involves leapfrogging from one concept to another. It's mostly accidents and shifts that happen. But they also happen with concepts. Sometimes you work in a trance. Like listening to music. I really like all that.
Along with Damien Hirst, Angela Bulloch, Gary Hume, Richard Patterson, Fiona Rae and other alumni of Goldmiths College in London, Sarah Lucas quickly became associated with the provocative Young British Artists, who exhibited in disused hangars and quickly made headlines in the contemporary art world in the 1990s. In particular, their independence, entrepreneurial spirit and ability to manipulate the media. Their "shock tactics", as they were called at the time. What they had in common was their participation in group exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery, a museum of contemporary art in London. These exhibitions were systematically entitled Young British Artists. Sarah Lucas thus acquired an international reputation for her provocative works, which frequently make use of crude visual puns and provocative, bawdy humour. She now loves to continue the collaborative spirit she experienced with the YBAs, curating group shows such as the recent Big Women exhibition of 25 women artists in Colchester. "You understand people better when you work with them," she says.
Born in London on 23 October 1962, the visual artist still lives and works in her native city, but now also in Suffolk, the county in Eastern England where she chose to settle in 2007. From an early age, she explored the fluidity of sex, gender and social class, with an ultimately punkish predisposition towards Do It Yourself. "Each in its own way, objects and materials have meaning. Or at least connotations," explains Sarah Lucas to the art historian who asked her for Artpress whether the use of cheap, perishable or repulsive objects (typical of the YBAs) is a way of demystifying the creative act. "There's also another element: I like to test the value of low-end materials, to combat the idea that the most expensive is always the best. It's true that I sometimes use expensive materials and processes, but that's not what makes the works of art better. Not in any way, as far as I'm concerned.
Sarah Lucas has no hesitation in describing herself as a "textural obsessive". Eggs, nylon, resin, bronze, concrete... all forms of texture inspire her sculptural work. Ever since she imagined her highly ironic Two Frieds Eggs and a Kebab in bed in 1992 - a work of art that perfectly sums up her artistic approach, in which a naked, reclining female body is constructed from a table with two eggs and a kebab - she has become accustomed to working everywhere. In the sense that she doesn't necessarily need to go to her studio every day. And she also loves to improvise in situ. "For me, putting on an exhibition is the same thing as creating a work of art. The artist, who draws more inspiration from everyday life than from the art that preceded her - even if you can't help thinking throughout the exhibition of Duchamp, the ready-made, arte povera, surrealism, etc. - creates sculptures from a heterogeneous and unexpected range of everyday materials, such as used furniture, clothes, fruit, vegetables, newspapers, cigarettes, cars, resin, plaster, neon lamps and light fittings. Indeed, it's as if the dirty, abject appearance of many of his works belies the complex, serious subject matter they address.
You either like it or you don't, but in any case you smile, you think, at least Sarah Lucas doesn't have a big head, and you notice that she constantly refers to the human body, exploring precisely what makes people human, stubbornly questioning gender definitions and macho culture. In 1994, for example, she created Au Naturel. A work of art consisting of a mattress on which an empty bucket and a pair of melons represent the female genitalia, while the male is represented by a cucumber and a pair of oranges. Similarly, Sarah Lucas produced provocative self-portraits early on, challenging traditional representations of women and the clichéd image of the modern artist in works such as Eating a Banana (1990). And we just love that.
Article écrit par Valibri en Roulotte
Illustration : Sarah Lucas COOL CHICK BABY 2020 Collection of Alexander V. Petalas © Sarah Lucas. Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ. Photo: Robert Glowacki.