Monday, 3 February 2014

New Exhibitions in Glasgow: Sarah Lucas, Toby Paterson

Sarah Lucas. Tramway, Glasgow

Toby Paterson. Modern Institute, Glasgow

Filthy Granny, Sarah Lucas

Until the 31st of March, 2014 the main exhibition space of the Tramway will be taken over by a major exhibition by the artist Sarah Lucas. Known as one of the "Young British Artists (YBA)" who came to prominence in the 1990s her work is often more provocative, humorous and in your face than her contemporaries so it is great to get a chance to see it in Glasgow. She often featured self-portraits in her work, such as in the well know photograph of her lounging back with two fried eggs on her T-shirt. On show at this exhibition the first image that greets you when you come in the door is her "Self-Portrait With Cigarettes" (literally made with cigarettes). Cigarettes to the fore again, drooping from her mouth in a wall of black and white photographs, "Fighting Fire With Fire" as she scowls in the macho pose familiar from mug shots and James Dean posters along one wall. However what really catches the eye when you enter the hall is the huge, pink fibre glass "Wanking Arm" which mechanically rises and falls like some weird fairground attraction. It feels uncomfortable standing alone in a gallery trying to nonchalantly ponder such a thing or the wall behind it, huge photographs of her ex-partner lounging back with a variety comestibles lying in his lap over his genitals, generally meat and two veg. The unsettling and embarrassed feeling of looking at these things did make me reflect on the way the female body is used throughout art, and in popular culture. I can give no clearer example of the way women are routinely portrayed in art than by referring you to the Jack Vettriano exhibition which has been drawing large crowds at the Kelvingrove art gallery. This is emphasised by the tabloid newspapers which feature in several of the works, such as "The Man Who Sold The World", an HGV cab where the walls are completely covered in yellowing page 3 pictures, whilst a smaller version of the "wanking arm" rocks up and down in the driver's seat. The point of the representation of women in popular culture is well made, but the HGV cab and the shed plastered with tabloids nearby feel like too easy a pop at caricatures of working class men.

The Man Who Sold The World, Sarah Lucas

More nuanced was the stuff in the other half of the hall, although nuanced may seem like a strange word to use when you are faced with a couple of totemic 8 foot long concrete penises. It's all sex and death. Cold urban spaces are conjured up by the furniture about the exhibition made from breeze blocks, crushed cars and the unsettling wall of huge photographs ("Concrete Void"). It shows a dimly lit multi-storey car park and with all the sexual images about it is hard not to fear for what has been going on in the car park. The crushed cars here amongst the enormous cocks and marrows, one beside a neon coffin ("New Religion") make you think of the common saying of men with big cars making up for their small penis.

New Religion, Sarah Lucas
I particularly liked the Volvo (a car which has the male sexual symbol as its logo) with the glass smashed and lying, glinting on the floor, "Islington Diamonds". The way the windscreen has been smashed makes you wonder about whether someone had been knocked down by it, or whether it has just been vandalised. I also remembered a friend (who shall remain nameless) who vandalised her boyfriend's car after he had cheated on her, the coup de gras being the two bananas she shoved up the exhaust pipe. Actually now that I think about it, that car would have felt quite at home in this room.

The exhibition is excellent. It did make me squirm, giggle and ponder. The leaflet for the exhibition talks about this being some of her "seminal work" without really reflecting on the use of that word. They have asked that all children attending the exhibition are accompanied by an adult. From the evidence of the children running about it all with their parents whilst I was there they seem to take it all in their stride, but I hope I've given you a heads up of what to expect if you fancy making a family trip of it. ("Yes dear, it's a big hand waving").

The biggest collection of pricks on display in Glasgow since....(supply your own punchline).

The Modern Institute is a wee gallery hidden down Osborne Street that always has interesting stuff and I often pop in if I'm heading to Monorail to pick up some Monday morning CDs. They have a new exhibition by Toby Paterson on just now, "Soft Boundary". This features his sideways look at the urban landscape with a mixture of paintings, reliefs and painted pallistrades in the gallery. I guess you either like his stuff (I do) or you don't. Worth popping in ifr you are passing. Not a phallus in sight.

Toby Paterson at the Modern Institute

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