“There’s a … feeling of thoughts embodied in the room, almost like a mental landscape has turned into a physical one. That point seems a very malleable place to be. It’s a point of possibility and it’s a point of a kind of pre-meaning.” Lucy Skaer1
Lucy Skaer’s solo exhibition at The Hunterian Art Gallery is part of the extensive series of exhibitions programmed under the umbrella of GENERATION: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland. As well as an opportunity to view some of Skaer’s key works, it is also a chance for The Hunterian to showcase their 2009 acquisition of Skaer’s installation ‘Leonora’ (2006-2008).
‘Leonora’ is a suite of works that evolved from Skaer’s unannounced visit in 2006 to the Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) at her home in Mexico City. Subsequently exhibited at Art Basel in 2006 and the Venice Biennale in 2007, Skaer has stated that these works are not intended to be a portrait of Carrington, but a means to examine her own practice through that of another.
Here, the installation is sited in one room between the foyer and the entrance to the Mackintosh House. A silent 16mm film, one minute long, projects a series of images of Carrington and the objects in her studio. Dominant are shots of her hands; gesturing, pointing, describing. It is a sequence of glimpses, a sense of something or someone rather than a full explanation.
In the middle of the floor sits a small oak table, with intricate mother of pearl inlay on its surface in the shape of a hand. Gnarly, palm down; it immediately recalls Carrington’s hands in the film, a static refrain of movement and physicality.
A large drawing curves round the gallery wall: close up it maps out a grid with heavily worked spirals in pencil and marker pen, fading out unfinished towards one edge. Distance reveals the form of a whale skeleton, a criss-crossing of bones.
On the floor is a small sculpture comprised of thirty-six mahogany segments, stacked together in a curve. It appears architectural or vertebrae-like; however each segment is a cut-out silhouette from a photograph of the notorious Kent State University shootings in 1970. The craftsmanship and the beauty of the wood belie the horror of its subject matter.
Also included are three C-Prints collectively titled ‘Leonora’. They depict exterior views of Carrington’s house in Mexico City, taken by Skaer in 2012 after Carrington’s death in 2011. Skaer has silkscreened on top of each photograph with a translucent, shadowy-grey layer of harlequin diamonds or the abstracted shapes of negative space; partially veiling their surface.
Elegant and succinct, this exhibition rewards time spent. Each element of the installation reverberates into a complex web of association. Caught here are Skaer’s investigations into the essence of things and realities: intuitive, organic thought articulated in exquisite structures and meticulous processes. The subject matter, materials and methods echo back and forth to build a portrait, not of an artist, but of an enigmatic interior landscape.
1 http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/lucy-skaer-turner-prize-2009 (Accessed 8 November 2014)
Lucy Skaer is also showing ‘Sticks and Stones’ currently on view at Murray Guy, New York and ‘Random House’ currently on view at Peter Freeman, Inc., New York.