Wayne Lucas, Extractor Space, September 2014 Tailor made remains by Helena Goldwater
I’ve written once before about Lucas’ work. At that time I hinted towards his ability to make something that is both simultaneously destroyed and preserved. For this installation, in a long disused and stripped out school kitchen, his work furthers the ruinous, the ruined, at the very least the run down, alongside the delicate care taken by someone who tenderly and lovingly creates, offering beautiful gems for us to revel in. It’s as though we are visiting ancient ruins, in appropriately muted colours, which have been tended toward reinvention1. Within the detritus Lucas shows us, in his ‘arena of events’2, the contradictions of our own bodily desires for the elegant and the raw; he questions but also allows us to enjoy the unresolved.
His work is neither pessimistic nor optimistic but a constant to and fro between the two. A trail of occurrences or activities, alerting us to the history of destruction, re-building, destruction, re-building... this is hopeful, uplifting work that bears weightily in mind what has gone before. And he does so with a grandeur made with less fancy materials.
There are hints towards torsos made of marble, but we see they are cheap vinyl. As are the many balls – bodily balls, or toppled from columns suspended, just caught in the nick of time from being buried in earth by the ravages of history or the short-term memories of historians.
The classical statues always have something missing, chipped away, or their Olympian banners are ripped from completion. But they hang on just long enough to show off their former glory.
1 Lucas is not alone. Ruins in art have been much explored. In Romanticism, for example, the artists’ despair at the wrecks of the Classical drove them to immortalize their fettered beauty. (See Brian Dillon: Cabinet, Issue 20 Ruins Winter 2005/06 [Available online http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/20/dillon.php]) The difference in Lucas’ work is the lack of beatification.
2 This is taken from an interview with Wayne Lucas, 14th August 2014
The classical statues are minus their penis, but a precise sprinkling of black glitter re-asserts their presence.
Glory holes abound, some awkwardly misshapen, others pouring with, again, glitter or water, or stuffed with marble or crystal glass.
Let’s dwell awhile on the glory holes, the perforations. The origin of the word ‘orifice’ is disputed. From French maybe - the opening of a wound - and Latin, mouth-making, both seem appropriate as Lucas doesn’t shy away from the crushing wounds of loss, instead he uses these apertures to allow us to see beyond the surface, through to the pipes, the other innards of the space, they become the mouths of new stories. Allowing layer upon layer to speak.
There are of course contemporary art references that can be made here, Barlow, Bourgeois, alongside the Classical, but the work that most comes to mind for me is The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch. And although this vision of hell on earth might seem on the pessimistic side of my claims, Bosch also had an inherent contradiction, for his paintings were also a demonstration of exquisite skill, celebrations of his imagination to create organic forms exploding with colour. A celebration of his own human endeavor; perhaps even, therefore, a love for humans. An irony for a Cathar. The similarity with Lucas is that with the difficulty of the broken comes celebration – the profound pleasure in sex, the shape of an other body, the joy of bodily fluids. Sometimes a sprinkling, or a trickle, and even a cascade. These flow into the body of the building itself.
And throughout all, the ghost of a tailor is present – an architect for the body. Pattern cutting forming blueprints, steel framed mannequins, loose drapes of fabric like flesh, and pearly pins holding it all impermanently together. Lucas cuts a coat according to his cloth. These resources and circumstances, historically plentiful through his eyes and hands. A tailor works to fit a suit to your body. Lucas works to fit your body to unsettled traces of history.