Tag Archives: sarah lucas

snap, cackle and pop

Sunday 29 May 2011

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 http://www.paulstolper.com

some large sculptures and a few small sketches

Sunday 30 May 2010

I took the opportunity this weekend to visit Snape Maltings by way of going to see a new exhibition by SOS artists Elizabeth James, Clare Rizzo, Carol Pask and Hilli Thompson in the Pond Gallery. It’s a mixed show, with paintings, prints, ceramics and textiles. It’s a good space to exhibit but the steep stairs make access difficult for the less physically able.

Whilst there, I also had a stroll around the outdoor sculptures at Snape… these images were taken with a mobile phone, around the moment the breeze picked up and it began to rain…


Three ‘figures’ from The Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth was a friend of the Suffolk-born composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, Peter Pears. She also stayed in Happisburgh in Norfolk in the 1930’s with the sculptor Henry Moore and the painter Ben Nicholson (who later became her second husband). These three totems were offered a gift to Britten (who established Snape Maltings as the main venue for the Aldeburgh Music Festival) in the 1970’s. I am sure there used to be a Henry Moore sculpture sited at Snape too, perhaps on the vacant plinth across from the main music hall…

There was a very good exhibition devoted to Hepworth, Moore and Nicholson and their connection to Norfolk at Norwich Castle in 2009. Both Hepworth and Moore were inspired by their beach finds at Happisburgh (pronounced haze-burrh), in the figurative forms of weathered flints, but more notably the sea-smoothed pebbles (which they collected and often carved). Hepworth, writing to Nicholson in 1931, tells of finding ‘a most beautiful stone […] I am so pleased with it I have packed it’;  in 1937 Moore writes in The Listener: ‘Pebbles show nature’s working of stone. Some of the pebbles I pick up have holes right through them.’ So there you have it, a shortcut key to British sculptural abstraction – truth to materials and derived from natural forms…


Migrant (2003) by Alison Wilding, located in a wide ditch before the expanse of the reed beds

Alison Wilding‘s installation ‘Migrant’ perhaps needs no further explanation (they are grounded and yet outcast), but I like how the two forms allude to hooded figures as much the steely vehicles in which they might secretly travel – and the surrounding vegetation will, over the course of the seasons, alternately reveal and then hide a sense of quiet movement in the landscape…


Perceval by Sarah Lucas (photographed looking east to accommodate the wider vista)

‘Perceval’ is a life size replica of a Shire horse in painted bronze (one of a edition of five), pulling a cart containing two supersized concrete marrows (making a connection to Lucas’s other work), a work that also replicates a familiar British, and now very kitsch, ornament. Perceval also makes an allusion to the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and so many other literary associations abound.

Sarah Lucas is one of the original YBAs (and old friend of Tracey Emin), and is known for subversive (and often lewd) mixed media works that mock cultural, social and gender stereotypes. This work seems very polished in comparison (with some irony) for Lucas, who is known for combining low-tech, crude objects and materials in her smaller sculptures (tights, kapok, wire, plaster). This sculpture is undeniably Duchampian in its conceptual influences, elevating the commonplace ‘trashy’ object into a more sophisticated artform, alluding to the British preoccupation with issues of class, taste, sentimentality, nostalgia and our relationship to the (pastoral) landscape. I could also mention Constable, but Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst come to mind instead…

I did some quick panoramic landscape sketches of the ‘greening’ Suffolk countryside this weekend …

Here are four of them (14cm x 40cm) in a very small sketchbook – and for some visual contrast, are shown with corresponding photographic snapshots of the same (or near as possible) ‘street view’ from Google Maps (I did not have a camera)…


[field, looking south west – graphite pencil on paper]


[same field, looking south – watercolour on paper]


[old airfield runway with rapeseed field and green wheat – watercolour and pencil on paper)


[road towards village with church and poplars – watercolour and graphite pencil on paper]

These images are courtesy of Google Maps, cropped to correspond to the above landscape drawings…

This is not exactly an awe inspiring landscape to draw, but a sense of distance clears the mind – the clear horizons and expansive skies compensate in contemplative terms…