SARAH LUCAS, THE FEMALE STAR, ALONGSIDE WITH TRACEY EMIN, FROM THE UBIASED TEAM OF YOUNG BRITISH ARTISTS, IS ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT VOICE IN CONTEMPORARY ART.
As synthetic traces of a continuous irreverent allegory, the London-based artist’s works reflect the paradoxical absurdity of contemporary taboos, through a lucid investigation of the form and an archetypal use of the objects: signifier charge of an intentional gesture from the artist.
And when the artist is Sarah Lucas, that deliberate gesture becomes allusive provocations, puzzles, questions that displace everyday banality and make it engrams of our contemporaneity.
Body, sexuality, convention or perversion: how should we read the genetics traits of our belonging to a “sociosexual” genre?
Sarah Lucas moves within this universe with all of herselfs and that bold irony typical of those who tried, and still do, to understand the contradictions of a changing and complex society, made of repressed impulses and obsessions. The background of her beginnings, during the optimistic and progressive Blair’s “Cool Britannia” era, and in which the success of the Young British Artists – accompanied by Charles Saatchi foresight – sounded more like the consacration of a reckless and rebellious rock band, “ungrateful” daughter of a society that exploits and slaughters without much explanation.
The talented bad girl of the group, reformulates Duchamp’ lessons, reshaping ready-made rhetoric through a clear headed surrealism, discovering her own sharp reasoning beyond the form. Photography and sculpture are her favorite media. In Eating Banana (1990) or Self portrait with fried eggs (1996), Sarah Lucas stands in front of her lens: the first time eating a banana, then sarcastically seating in an armchair with two fried eggs on her breasts, wearing a pair of blue jeans and with a pack of cigarettes. She seize the concept of femininity without any discounts to male imaginary; energetic and strong she challenge the viewer’s gaze using sexual symbols, objects of her impulses, intensifying their effect, as in a satirical image.
The body and its perceptive stereotypes are the center of her reflections, sectioned through the use of daily objects – cigarette butts, old furniture, food – whose forms and connotations become visual means to memories that suggests a hidden, private and obscene dimension. Sarah Lucas clearly destroys the overtone of sexist conventions, accenting with ruthlessness and lustful carelessness the whole iconic register of the body and sexuality, which is also a daily thing, as daily its ambiguity and its negation.
And so art refracts reality bringing back its synthetic form, leaving us the time to wonder about what belongs to us and at the same time shocked or perplime us.
The 1994 work, Au Naturel is a theater of the absurd in which a sexual intercourse is staged by alienating objects yet immediately evocative: the bucket here replaces a vagina, abandoned on an old mattress, ironically hinting to the commercialization of the female body, and, at the same time, to the natural state of a relationship between man and woman.
Sarah Lucas symbolic language remind us of the naturalness of our condition, often forgotten and censored. Gigantic phallic images – such as those exposed to the England Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale – mechanical simulations of autoerotic practices or I might be shy but I’m still a pigs – two pork thighs resting on a bed stained with sweat and blood – lead once again the views to the factual reality of our humanity.
Among all the provocations, this desacralized representation of feminine intimacy, ineffable and almost legendary in the eyes of an overcrowded society of religious and sexist stereotypes, Sarah Lucas solves the burden of virginity without preserving it, as making obvious its banal groundlessness while the blood, meant as evocation of the female period, exorcises the embarrassment of something that makes people blush and that society still try to keep quiet.
Among her last appearances we recall her participation at the exhibition “The Great Mother” at Palazzo Reale in Milan (2015) and Innamemorabiliamumbum (2016), a site-specific project in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Miart held at Albergo Diurno, where the London artist get back to reflect, with her ironic and merciless gaze, about the current paradigm of gender and its complex ambiguity.
What Lucas has continually tried to unveil over the years, through melancholy metaphors yet always charged with an ancestral beauty, it’s like a Pandora box, accompanying the explosion of her own obsessions, as the social ones, recording the flow of the events around herself.
Text by Agata Gazzillo