Kris Lemsalu: ‘4LIFE’ review

4 out of 5 stars
Kris Lemsalu: ‘4LIFE’ review
Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art. Photo: Mark Blower.

Kris Lemsalu has converted this gallery into a little shop of psychedelic horrors. It’s filled with bodies caught in the middle of mutating, metamorphosing and transmogrifiying into bizarre, twisted new shapes.

The Estonian artist combines glistening ceramics and intricate fabrics into shocking tableaux. The first installation here features a wall of arms and hands, surrounded by climbing grips. It’s like a bouldering centre run by an eccentric artist. The work implies that a degree of physical effort – the climbing – can lead to a new version of you.

In the next installation, ceramic crows pick bodies up from a rock garden: a bride, a baby, a workman, all stolen from this grey hell and whisked up into the sky. The room is dark, cold, and a little overwhelming, like a post-apocalyptic landscape that these people are lucky to be saved from.

The final installation is the best of the lot: rainbow figures dive into a rancid hot tub of bubbling brown water, watched over by some enormous vaginal ceramic god, surrounded by grabbing hands. The installation feels like a psychedelic moment of rebirth, or maybe just actual birth.

To an extent, ceramics are the most over-played material in contemporary art right now, and if I never have to see another artist making wobbly figures out of them it’ll be too soon. But Lemsalu’s wacky, kaleidoscopic, surreal approach to them seems to work.

What courses through this show’s landscape is a sense of change – of life’s big moments as opportunities for growth, renewal and evolution. It’s your chance to get as lost in this magical universe as Lemsalu seems to be, your opportunity to feel the power of change. So much art is about exploring the nitty-gritty of everyday life that it’s nice to let your eyes and mind take a break every once in a while.

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