press release

PREVIEW 25 MARCH 2008, 6:30 - 8:30PM

Lucy Skaer’s new commission for Chisenhale Gallery takes a siege situation as its conceptual underpinning, and as a narrative scenario in which to physically place her large-scale drawings and sculptures. Skaer is specifically interested in two characteristics of a siege: the limitation of resources and the dramatic reordering of temporality and value that creates a heightened awareness of passing time. Within this scenario, Skaer seeks to explore a tension between the abstraction created by high capitalism, in which objects are understood in terms of exchange value or associated image, and their direct material nature, denuded of their context and meaning. The objects in the gallery will operate as both resources and protagonists within her re-staging of a siege.

A central wall splits the space into ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. Interrogating systems of exchange, the objects displayed are made from materials with an inherent quantifiable value such as gold and coal. Recast in forms that negate physicality (such as numeric zeros or a sculptural expression of flight), the objects pit their own material and symbolic value against one another. The references to previous periods of art – whether through explicit use of works by Katsushika Hokusai or Constantin Brancusi or visual echoes of Dada and Surrealism – revisit violent or uncertain moments of aesthetic and historical encounter.

In the ‘exterior’ zone of the exhibition two of Skaer’s large-scale drawings lie supine on the floor. Both have been sourced from historical images of water in a moment of dramatically suspended action, pre-photographically freezing time. Based on Hokusai's 'The Great Wave' (c. 1823) and Leonardo Da Vinci's 'The Deluge' (1517), each drawing is an enlargement of the original image, emphasising its physical presence in relation to the viewer. Referring to the drawings as masks or decoys, Skaer employs a system of representational drawing that both renders and diverts the route of the source image.

Enclosed behind the exhibition’s dividing wall, a group of antique tables have been adapted and used as printing plates to create the images displayed; the presence of both printing tool and print articulates the temporal immediacy of the indexical image, underlined by the recurrent use of the ‘0’ motif which, when employed in a digital countdown, marks a sense of insistent presentness. Another grouping of objects entitled Black Alphabet comprises a series of totemic sculptures fabricated from compressed coal dust. Based on the twenty-six Bird in Space sculptures Brancusi made periodically across the course of his lifetime in bronze, marble and alabaster, Skaer's scorched re-workings crystallise the occurrence of these objects through time while foregoing the spiritual transcendence of Brancusi's originals for a potent materiality. Each in the series is a unit of reserve: the fuel of the besieged.

Lucy Skaer was born in Cambridge in 1975 and lives and works in Glasgow and Basel. She studied at the Glasgow School of Art and she recently represented Scotland at the 52 Venice Biennale. She represented by Doggerfisher, Edinburgh and Elizabeth Kaufmann, Zurich.

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Lucy Skaer