Get ready to be tantalised and titillated by this long-overdue survey of an often-overlooked YBA (Young British Artist). This retrospective revisits the playfully suggestive works of Sarah Lucas – and it is not for the faint-of-heart.
At Goldsmiths college, which Lucas attended in the late 1980s along with Damien Hirst and Gary Hume, her approach to materials evolved to include whatever she had to hand. Things from the studio or home were used to shake an artistic fist at misogynistic culture. What might be eaten for breakfast to cure a hangover – like fried eggs – became a substitute for women’s breasts, and that icon of a late-night bingeing session – the noble kebab – was translated into genitals. Presented on a table, the result – the sculpture ‘Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab’ – is a raw portrayal of the female form that's a full-frontal assault on sexism. The downstairs gallery is full to the brim with such early works, in which household items seem to make a stand against the inequality Lucas felt as a young woman.
Emanating from a mechanical ‘wanking arm’ sculpture, a persistent squeaking resounds as you navigate your way through the maze of Lucas’s works. Here you’ll find stuffed tights slumped in provocative poses, fruit used for its voluptuous connotations, giant phallic pink forms, a stained mattress, resin casts of toilets and a wealth of photographic portraits of the artist, often with a fag hanging out of her mouth.
This is Lucas at her best. Working directly in the gallery, she has reconfigured two decades’ worth of work to create an all-encompassing installation that gives a new twist to old triumphs. Some may find Lucas’s artistic mash-ups difficult but the chance to immerse yourself in her lewd landscape is brilliantly refreshing.