In his sixth exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ, Answer Machine, Jim Lambie brings together an array of new works which interweave elements of sculpture, painting and installation. Diverse in scale and ranging in media, they extend the artist’s long-term use of found objects as catalysts for sensuous studies in colour, form and materiality.
Music remains a pervasive influence in Lambie’s art. It is reflected both in his raw materials and his works’ dynamic shifts in mood and medium. In three paintings, he has plugged lengths of electrical cable into the works’ surfaces. They trail onto the floor in multi-coloured cascades, as if the streaming rivulets of a Morris Louis painting have taken on physical form. The high-gloss paintwork meanwhile incorporates paint-drenched sections of men’s shirts and trousers. Castoffs of everyday life thereby infiltrate the ‘high art’ formula of the black or white monochrome (synonymous with avant-garde titans such as Malevich or Reinhardt). In another canvas, reflective belts loop out of the metallic surface (collaged with chrome stickers) like solar flares. In both cases, the language of painterly abstraction merges with the lowly aesthetic of Italian arte povera – resulting in works that are both literal and exuberantly lyrical.
Suspended the middle of the gallery, Ultratheque (Poppers remix) comprises a cluster of fine chains made from interlocking safety pins. These terminate at either end with a designer shoe, and have been threaded with multiple pairs of sunglasses using gaffer tape. Seemingly bouncing off the floor and ceiling, the glittering pendants recall the space’s origins as a nightclub, evoking the shimmer and energy of a dance floor. The motley contents and seductive surfaces of Ultratheque (Poppers remix) find a parallel in an installation of eight ladders faced with tinted mirrors. Leaning at different angles against the wall, they reflect the struts of the pitched ceiling – a nod to their lost function. The impression is of sombre minimalist sculpture dressed in the flashy colours of clubland décor. An ornate vase hangs by a string behind each ladder like a pendulum. The assorted vessels offset minimalist form with ‘kitsch’ ornateness. Lambie alerts us to the decorative potential inherent in each of these (supposedly antithetical) registers.
While working in the tradition of found object sculpture, Lambie liberates the readymade object from its mundane or commonplace associations through surreal juxtapositions and improvisatory modifications. In a development upon his long-running series of column-like
sculptures (including the voodoo-like Psychedelic Soulsticks), a sequence of lampshades has been superimposed to create a totem pole of cylindrical tiers. In Many Suns, he has used ten bicycle wheels – epitomes of readymade sculpture – as the basis for wall-mounted sculpture. The wheels have been adapted so that the spokes flare out like coronas on their outsides. Once again, original function has become incidental to the wheels’ aesthetic transfiguration into multiplied suns. ‘Reinventing the wheel’, Lambie repeatedly confronts us in this way with objects that have undergone subtle yet beguiling metamorphoses.