There’s no easing visitors into the exhibition as it opens with a work called Wanker that literally goes through the motions as a mechanical arm suspended over a chair strokes an imaginary phallus. It’s cheeky, in your face and typical of the sharp sense of humour that runs throughout the show.
Societal observations, particularly around the depiction of women, are also present in the show. By blowing up copies of tabloid papers to large scale Lucas shows us how they have regularly fetishised women’s bodies – whether it be asking readers to match breasts to faces or a profile on a topless ‘midget’. The artist has deliberately altered nothing but the scale of these pieces, to show how nothing further is needed to highlight the double standards when it comes to depicting the bodies of women versus those of men.
Lucas’ trademark cigarettes are also everywhere, whether it be large-scale vinyls showing the artist smoking, cigarettes glued on to half of a wreck of a staged car crash and one cheekily sticking out of the anus of a sculpture. Most poignant of all being a crash helmet made out of cigarettes on a charred armchair with the work’s title asking ‘is suicide genetic?’.
There isn’t a white wall in sight and this feels apt given there’s nothing clean or pleasant about her work. Every room either has brightly painted walls, a gritty concrete coating or is plastered with large-scale vinyls – with one set depicting the artist eating a banana, which becomes extremely suggestive when taken into the context of the rest of her show.
Yes, it’s a playful show, but sex and death are both always present throughout her work as well. It can get a tad repetitive with lots of her figures made from stuffed tights in the show and the recurring theme of toilets, but even still it doesn’t lose its impact.
Sarah Lucas was one of the Young British Artists who took the British art scene by storm in 1988, and 35 years later she’s still going strong and her works retain the ability to both shock visitors with their directness and make people smile with their playfulness.
Second image courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles HQ.
|What||Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas, Tate Britain, review|
|Where||Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Pimlico (underground)|
28 Sep 23 – 14 Jan 24, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|