I did not know what to expect when I made my way up the the stairwell. I was convinced I was in the wrong place. This looked like a derelict home, or the perfect setting for the horror film scene where the naive visitor finds the killer on the top of the stairs with an axe. I hesitantly looked up; no killer; no axe; well, maybe on the next floor.
I decided that I was being silly. There is nothing gruesome in this place. Yes, it might look a bit gruesome, and spooky, and — and then I froze. I was on the correct floor. I was at the entrance, where I saw two legs, stuffed in pink tights, sticking out of a brick wall. My blood froze, and my pupils widened. ‘Hi there‘, someone whispered behind me. And I screamed.
Now, sitting calmly at Costa a few months later, with a Hazelnut Latte and the program from the Sarah Lucas exhibition next to me, I admit that this seems like an overreaction. And I can fully justify the three steps the gallery assistant took towards the opposite direction; and his frozen smile throughout my stay there. However it was worth it.
You see, the Lucas exhibition Make Love was at the Sadie Coles sister gallery, Situation, and to my opinion was the best possible setting, almost adding to the quality of her work. Fantastically curated, the pieces worked alone but fit as a group as well (something that is very difficult to achieve in such a great level with such ease).
Lucas’s signature symbols, imagery and technique was as always flawless. The pieces looked abstract, but evoked a very crisp emotion. The room had a warm pink glow, an almost sickly femininity about it, that came in a stark contrast to the themes of female identity that the pieces themselves represented. The body is reduced to the male pleasure targets; a woman is shown as nothing but a body part, a function, an absent-minded presence.
Indeed, a concrete wall has trapped a naked bottom half; women encased in chairs, becoming part of the furniture; odd items forming the breasts and genitalia of a woman that is otherwise not there.
Lucas’s application of the woman as a functional item is truly thought provoking, especially when thought in context of her history as an artist (part of the Young British Artist movement), her contemporaries’ take on the female art (Tracey Emin, one of my favourite artists), and her antecedents (for example Opie and Nakadate). Her work provokes an unpleasant emotion – unpleasant because it has a dangerous truth in it, a reflective surface that shows something awfully familiar.
I said goodbye to the gallery assistant who still eyed me with the suspicious look you would give to a man with a grey mac in a park at night, and got out. I passed from a newsagent, to get my latest copy of Time Out. I looked up, and saw all the male oriented magazines, different forms of the same thing I saw minutes ago. Art imitating life imitating art.