The Art Newspaper
Verbatim: Lucy Skaer
'It appeals to the shoplifter in me'
Glasgow-based artist Lucy Skaer first made the art world sit up and take notice when she was nominated for the 2003 Beck's Futures Prize for two provocative public interventions, one of which involved secreting moth and butterfly pupae into criminal courts in the hope that they might hatch during the trial, while the other found her depositing a scorpion and a diamond side by side on an Amsterdam street. This month the 29-year-old artist seems to be storming the capital. Her complex, disquieting drawings, often incorporating human cadavers, are currently on show at Counter gallery in London's East End; her specially commissioned installation for the foyer of Channel 4's London headquarters opens this month and she has also been selected for the Whitechapel gallery's "Edge of the real, a painting show" which runs until 23 May.
'If I were to put it into one sentence, my work is about the movement of images, and the degree to which they are separate from first-hand experience. My fascination with the cadaver is not just morbid, I think it also stems from the fact that the corpse is a naturally occurring image, one that is both the likeness of a living person, and at the same time fundamentally different.
In my drawings matter behaves in a way that does not reflect reality, but that is nevertheless still readable. You can read different areas of the drawing in different ways; one area may be read as bleached out, whereas another may be read as transparent, although they have exactly the same pictorial value.
It is important to enter into a dialogue with the works, in the same way you would try to figure out a riddle. Although the subject matter is often very heavy, I hope they have a playfulness that communicates to the viewer.
I do not want my drawings to be cynical. I think that the combination of the invented and the real is a place of radical potential.
My placing of moth and butterfly pupae in criminal courts, putting a scorpion and a diamond on the street in Amsterdam were two public projects that went together. Both these works appeared, to the passerby, like something fantastical, like a scene from a novel, but actually they were first-hand reality. I see them as a continuum of my practice because they investigate the same disparity between image and experience. I enjoy working like this because it feels so informal and impromptu - it appeals to the shoplifter in me.
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