Jim Lambie’s new exhibition at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh is gutsy and exuberant with the artist’s iconic striped floor-piece setting the tempo.
‘Jim Lambie, Not just for me: A sample of The Poetry Club’ is the title of the publication accompanying the Glaswegian artist’s solo exhibition. That the publication should feature the work of a selection of poets is typical of the artist who has demonstrated a generous attitude outside the gallery as well as inside. In 2012 Lambie founded his Poetry Club in the centre of Glasgow in which people are invited to participate in spoken word, readings and performances. This living, social sculpture has much in common with Lambie’s more conventional works: his sculptures and installations invite us to bring our cultural baggage with us in a joyous participatory experience.
Exemplifying Lambie’s flair for turning humble materials into transformative gateways, ‘Shaved Ice’ (2012) sucks us in with its theatrical arrangement of glossy retro-coloured ladders, each fitted with mirrors to disorientating effect. Spending any length of time with this installation causes the imagination to run riot: reflections slip in and out of reality and the ladders pierce through the ceiling with ease, unconfined by the gallery space. ‘Zobop’ (1999/2014) ensures that the pace doesn’t relent as you make your way to the upstairs gallery with its eye-popping colours spilling down the stairway. The iconic floor piece made from coloured vinyl tape ebbs and flows like a stream of lava, abruptly changing course as it approaches hiccups in the gallery’s architecture.
Not all the pieces in this show are free from the quirks and peculiarities that are evident when the artist’s hand is intimately involved with the works’ creation. ‘Psychedelic Soul Stick 4’ (1999) leans nonchalantly against the gallery wall as if it were a turntable needle setting the hazy lines of ‘Zobop’ in motion. The piece comprising a bamboo stick obsessively wrapped in layers of thread has the appearance of being a labour of love, a necessary creation at a time in the artist’s life. The worn clothing - possibly belonging to the artist - imbedded in ‘Kid with the Replaceable Head’ (1996) and ‘Two Shirts’ (1996) is also indicative of the works being personal or even autobiographical.
A newer piece, ‘Pyramid’ (2014) is reminiscent of Henri Matisse’s ‘The Snail’ with its winding, brightly coloured three-dimensional shapes mounted on canvas. Like Matisse, Lambie is an artist who works fervently while demonstrably taking great pleasure in the visual world around him. At a distance Lambie makes art that is cool and detached but there is undoubtedly warmth and compassion in his work: he shares his art rather than shows it, leaving his ego firmly outside the gallery doors.