snap, cackle and pop

the YBAs have: ‘grown up, headed for the fields and found fresh inspiration in the countryside of suffolk’

i’ve just been reading all about it over at the guardian/observer newspaper… it conjures up images of them drinking pints of adnams with the locals & taking long country walks in their hunter wellies and barbours… the guardian refers to the YBAs as if it is a definitive artist movement and now they’re moving in on suffolk…

they are putting on a group show called ’snap’, a new contemporary art exhibition as part of the aldeburgh festival. the festival runs 10-26 june 2011, and will be set up in various locations around snape maltings (home of the aldeburgh music festival), using ‘foyers, derelict buildings and outdoors, offering the chance to see art outside a conventional gallery’ (a nice change from the white cube). it will feature the work of twelve artists: darren almond, don brown, cerith wyn evans, mark fuller, russell haswell, gary hume, johnnie shand kydd, abigail lane, simon liddiment, sarah lucas, julian simmons, juergen teller.

Sarah Lucas, Julian Simmons & Abigail Lane YBA artists. Photograph: ©Andy Hall for the Observer

[Sarah Lucas, Julian Simmons & Abigail Lane. ©Andy Hall/Observer]

only some of these artists could be considered true YBAs (are they perhaps honorary YBAs?), but they have all made links one way or another with east anglia and have come together to make ‘snap‘ happen. the ‘snap‘ exhibition will include photography, site-specific sculpture, video and sound installations. what, no painting, then – but gary hume is involved..? to remove any element of elitism there will be an ‘open day’ instead of a traditional ‘private view’ (does that mean everyone is invited?), serving suffolk aspall cider instead of champagne (they usually have champagne..?). as one of the artists abigail lane explains: “I want the farmers to come in and complain, but actually get a bit drunk with someone who’s come up from London. That’s how it should be.

i think the jolly farmers of suffolk might be busy that day but i’m all for supping some local ‘cyder’ while contemplating contemporary art… will any farmers walk in with mud on their boots and complain about the art? they are more likely to gruff & shrug it off as ‘a load of ol’ squit‘ – but i jest – there is a serious problem with crops and not enough rain right now… and i really wish that the art world/media would not play off the metropolitan with the rural, it seems like a case of us & them, as if we are somehow culturally deprived or lacking and unable to see the nuances of the country without the benefit of their urban vision… (ok, rant over…)

however, i’ll still be intrigued to see how these artists will work with and interpret the suffolk landscape… and snap is a very snappy, apt little title for this exhibition – a small snapshot, a breaking away, loud, sharp and to the point, snapped together, synchronous – but i also wondered if it might be a reference to an erroneous mispelling (or mispronounciation) of the village of snape.

to coincide with the promotion of snap, there is not one but two mentions of the artist sarah lucas (and a few of her artist pals in the process) in the papers this weekend… in the saturday guardian interview she says of her beginnings in art that: “I met somebody there who’d been to art college. I didn’t know about art college before that. That’s when I thought, ‘Oh, that’s something I could do.

i was quite disappointed by that statement, that it was just something to do, she had expressed no creative urge before that moment, there were no childhood stories of pulling the heads of cindy dolls and making crazy, hybrid toys or just making weird-shaped stuff out of potato smash or dirt – no, nothing of that sort was mentioned – but that’s not to say she hasn’t done those sorts of things – because this is what her art seems to do now – playing absurd and sometimes subversive games, as she goes on to say: “when I was little, just making things, because I always did, to keep myself company. I think that sort of continues – the making things to keep yourself company.” so there could be a darker, confessional side to the ‘art’ of sarah lucas just as there is with tracey emin – and perhaps this is why they became the best of friends in the YBA playing ground…

Sarah Lucas in her Suffolk studio. Photograph: ©Eamonn McCabe

[Sarah Lucas in her studio in Suffolk. ©Eamonn McCabe/Guardian]

i wish lucas had ‘fessed up a little bit more about her struggle in ‘making art’ and say it was also a case of being in the right place at the right time, talking to & hanging out with the right crowd of people – but it is good to see that she can now create ironic and refined work, such as the bronze sculpture ‘perceval’ with the two supersize marrows, situated in the grounds of snape (i cast a cucumber in alluminium in 1986, which seems slightly ironic in retrospect…). here’s a quck snap i took of perceval in snape a while back. i saw something similar (but much smaller) in a local charity shop for £20 – i wonder if sarah lucas bought it?

sarah lucas - perceval - shire horse - sculpture - snape maltings

[Perceval by Sarah Lucas - photographed looking east]

according to the guardian, the artists who are included in the snap exhibition are ‘a tight-knit bunch and they started talking about pulling together a group show [...] and it was mooted that they could crash the Aldeburgh festival‘… it sounds just like the good old days…

sarah lucas now lives & works in suffolk and her friend, the painter gary hume, apparently also has a studio here in rural suffolk (i wonder if he needs a studio assistant – someone who can paint smooth and ‘dead flat’?) – and just down the leafy lane (so to speak) lives the london gallery owner sadie coles, who represents sarah lucas… the ’snap’ exhibition sounds mildly exciting and rather marvellous, as if suffolk will be an über-cool locus of contemporary art, if only for a few weeks in the summer.

winter might paint a different picture – sugar beet lorries hog the road, the stench of slurry wafts from the brown fields, and as the slow tractors rumble on a whole lotta mud is laid down in their wake… but there are the expansive skies and the light, and the trees look mysterious shrouded in a morning mist – and then there is the coast… it’s impossible to miss this particular beach find, but rare to find it not crawling with people, such is its tactile charm…

maggi hambling - scallop sculpture - aldeburgh beach

[Scallop by Maggi Hambling - photographed looking out to the sea]

there are, of course, already a lot of artists living & working in suffolk ; i moved from london to rural suffolk in 1993…

i grew up, i headed for the fields and found fresh inspiration in the countryside of suffolk.

i am still trying to get my philosophical head around that career move – so i look forward to seeing what the YBAs(?) will make of the place…

The Saturday Interview: Sarah Lucas | The Guardian

Sarah Lucas: A Country Life | Art and design | The Observer.

The exhibition ‘Snap’ runs from 10-26 June 2011, at Snape in association with the Aldeburgh Music Festival

There will also be Snap: a discussion with Michael Craig-Martin on Thursday 23 June 2011

An edition of twelve large-format prints by the artists is also available at


  1. sarah
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    I just came across this quite bitter and unpleasant bit of writing. Don’t know who wrote it and when but it sounds as if the writer is very jealous and probably nor very successful. He/she is only right about 2 people – the artist called Russ is a nasty bit of work with an inflated sense of his own importance and Julian S is the useless drip/hanger on boyfriend of Sarah Lucas with absolutely no personality of his own – but the rest are fantastic. The show was BRILLIANT. I loved it – especially Johnny Shand Kydd photos and Abigail Lane’s ‘flying bones’. Can’t wait for SNAP 2012.

  2. Jazz
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I am the author and this post was written as a light-hearted and personal response to an article published in the Observer (Guardian website, Tim Lewis) that weekend – and well before the ‘Snap’ exhibition had opened to the public. This post was written on 29th May 2011 and the Snap exhibition opened later on 10th June 2011 – so this is not an exhibition review. It was written in response to the provocative opening line of the article, “the YBAs have grown up, headed for the fields and found fresh inspiration in the countryside of Suffolk“. The article was effectively a press release for the forthcoming exhibition and yet it posed some interesting questions regarding attitudes to Suffolk and contemporary art.

    Within the context of the Guardian/Observer article some references to rural Suffolk life seemed cliché – a new haven for London artists, wanting farmers to complain about the art or getting drunk, or drinking cider instead of champagne (Abigail Lane). Another interview/article with Sarah Lucas (published the same weekend in the Guardian) and the main details of the exhibition are both sourced from the Guardian’s website. Sarah Lucas’s beginnings as an artist are quotes from one of the newspaper interviews. I found the interview very interesting to read but it naturally raised a few questions about motivation and success. I later mention Lucas’s more “ironic and refined work, such as the bronze sculpture ‘Perceval” (I have also written previously about seeing ‘Perceval’ at Snape here: ). I also write that “snap is a very snappy, apt little title for this exhibition” and later that “the ’snap’ exhibition sounds mildly exciting and rather marvellous, as if Suffolk will be an über-cool locus of contemporary art“.

    At the time of writing this article there was very little information on the other artists or their work in the Snap exhibition but I provided links back to the two articles. There are actually no critical comments about the other artists or their work – other than Gary Hume’s paintings being flat, which they are, and that he uses assistants (which is absolutely fine). So, after reading the Guardian article I humorously suggested he could now employ local people. Therefore, I am confused by the “only right about two people” (I take it you mean Lucas & Hume) as the other artists are only mentioned as a list of exhibitors. Some of the artists mentioned are not YBAs as far as received wisdom goes – this was not a criticism but an observation relating back to the rather ’sensational’ viewpoint expressed in the Guardian/Observer article – that the YBAs were moving to Suffolk – and so I quite politely referred to some of these artists collectively as honorary YBAs.

    So, together with the intentional humorous aspects relating to life in Suffolk, any assumption that this was a critical rant on the YBAs success or the ‘Snap’ exhibition is wrong. However, many thanks for the comment – it has been very interesting (and enlightening) to read your own opinions/experiences of the other artists.