This year, from March to September, London's National Portrait Gallery is presenting a set of twelve self-portraits by Sarah Lucas. From the NPG permanent collection, this series of photographs was created between 1990 and 1998.
Lucas is an adventurous British artist who sculpts, photographs and arranges objects with a soulful logic of her own. A clarion sense of exploration continues to thrive in her work, which has always been a conceptual stab at the status quo of gender and sexuality. Often described as androgynous or masculine (I prefer 'liberated'), these earlier portraits, show Lucas working with photography in a style very candidly vulnerable but invincibly female.
A larger study of identity without being autobiographical, this series was meant to be shown alongside sculptural works. The language of visual puns challenge stereotypical representations of gender and sexuality in tabloid culture and pornography. The quotidien aesthetic (cup of tea, cigarettes, toilet) are typical of the everyday objects she charges and tweaks on a regular basis.
Lucas's work highlights perception and desire in private and public spheres of intimacy. In April of this year, Lucas was kind enough to briefly revisit these portraits and talk a bit about these iconic works and the time in which they were created.
What follows is an unedited interview with the artist.
Left: Sarah Lucas, Eating a Banana, 1990. Iris print, 21 1/4 in. x 23 1/2 in (540 mm x 598 mm). Right: Divine, 1991. Iris print, 21 5/8 in. x 27 in (550 mm x 685 mm). Photographs © Sarah Lucas. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London.
Patricia: Visceral, immediate, complete—that is how I perceive your photographic work. Irreverent and honest, infused with the necessary attitude. Do you also find it annoying how common civility is practiced to exclude fierce clarity? Your work magnifies that space for me, so much.
Sarah Lucas: The pictures of myself weren't very serious initially. I mean I didn't have any expectations. Something about the image of me with the banana, which was the first one, struck me as powerful. Because I wasn't a babe.