CAUGHT ON TAPE
Alexander Kennedy looks beyond the bright colours and the spangles as he talks to Turner Prize nominee JIM LAMBIE about his upcoming shows in London and Glasgow.
im Lambie puts the ‘wee mod~ into
‘chgie Modernism‘. Born in 1964. the
Glasgow-based 2005 Turner Prize nominee previously had a stab at semi-stardom in the early 90s as a member of the Boy Hairdressers — a precursor to Glasgow‘s Teenage Fanclub. The art student-turned-rock star is a common occurrence in Glasgow. where high art proclivities are often left behind in the quest for fame. but not here. In skipping through Lambie's back catalogue of exhibitions you quickly notice the serious amount of hard work he has put in. From Glasgow‘s artist-run Transmission Gallery in 1995 to his forthcoming show in the Mitzurna Gallery. Tokyo in 2006. the trajectory of his success ricochets between the world‘s cultural capitals. In October. the success story will continue when Lambie ﬂaunts his stuff alongside three other Turner Prize nominees (including fellow Glasgow—based artist Simon Starling. Gillian Carnegie and Darren Almond) at Tate Britain in London.
To coincide with this. Lambie will also be exhibiting in the Modern Institute back home in Glasgow. So what will we be getting? “It's only three weeks until I start installing the work. so it‘s a bit early for me to be making any definite decisions.‘ he says. ‘What I can say is that the show at the Modern Institute will be all new work. whereas the show at the Tate will most likely have a mix.‘
Lambie‘s approach is traditionally sculptural. His work is object-based and concerned with manipulating surfaces — most famously floors — in which the innate qualities of the materials he uses are celebrated rather than camouflaged. liven though Lambie says that ‘the most interesting work is ideas-based as opposed to technically accomplished stuff'. the materials he uses still inspire his work. ‘Sometimes I notice something that hadn‘t occurred to me before in the materials I‘ve been working with. At other times conceptual concerns start suggesting forms. I tend to work through materials. get excited about some things and disappointed with others — a bit like a night out in Glasgow.‘
Even though Lambie is ‘mostly interested in breaking down purist attitudes'. there is a certain
14 THE LIST 0720 Oct 2005
Glaswegian nostalgia for modernism. which he spearheads without necessarily intending to. This nostalgia is a phenomenon based on an enduring enthusiasm for impure abstraction: hard-edged minimalism jack-knifing in Andy Warhol‘s Factory. But at the same time. Lambie‘s aesthetic is born out of an obsession with the minimal. viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of glitzy ()0s Pop where squares are cool.
Lambie makes happy art for happy people. and it‘s a pity that blurbs. reviews and gallery texts for his shows tend to conflate his occasional stints as a DJ at art events with his role as an artist. At his first airing at his London-based gallery Sadie (‘oles HQ. Lambie’s exhibition became. according to (‘oles‘ website. ‘the hippest party in town'. with each work like ‘a favourite song‘. By 2005 the website's jive-talk has stopped. and a vagucr. more evasive schtick has taken over. The trash of pop culture is still in
evidence. btit as raw materials: ‘the plasticity of
materials themselves is rediscovered‘. Any discussion of content or meaning is side-stepped
‘I GET EXCITED ABOUT SOME THINGS AND DISAPPOINTED WITH OTHERS - A BIT LIKE A NIGHT OUT
in favour of oblique references to the form taken by the work — a nod to the concerns of l‘)()()s rninirnalists such as Carl Andre.
Lambie is at his most comfortable in the white cube. where the ceiling. walls and ﬂoor are all his for the taking. The cool. flat. expansive planes of the gallery are too seductive to ignore. His floor installations follow the contours of the gallery. charging the traditional space with sticky-back plastic magic. But. rather than Frank Stella‘s concentric black rectangles on canvas. we have ()p Art zigzags and multicoloured cross-hatching on the floor. Duct—tape is liberated from the plumber‘s toolbox and made gloriously useless for art.
Michelangelo carved an ice sculpture for the Mcdicis and now Lambie makes floors for modern-day patrons to scar and scuff with their Manolo Blahniks and Gucci slip-ons. Iiarly Modernist sculptors knocked traditional sculpture off its plinth. stood back and had a look at the box. and then started thinking about the floor. The floor became an unexplored arena. a new picture plane and a new dimension to be conquered. Lambie went ahead and conquered it. Rather than tiptoeing over rose petals. the contemporary art glitterati can doer some
(‘hablis while loitering on a Lambie floor installation. And these days they pay dearly for the privilege.
Yet the materials Lambie uses always appear cheap; he is not afraid of glitter. Tumtables are slathered in the stuff (in ‘Graffiti‘. 2000. for example), and the viewer is seduced and repelled by its gaudy surface. Is there anything behind the glisters‘.’ Anything beyond the surface? Surface and superliciality light it out in the work: to make good looking art about how good art can look isn't as easy as it seems. If you find subject matter you have most likely put it there — though that‘s not to say these works have no content. The titles he uses. such as ‘Zobop‘ and ‘Voidoid'. appear to be one route into the work. but many of the pieces are called after cool old- skool haircuts. referencing his past career as a Boy Hairdresser. The gallery could alternatively have been filled with ‘Fannies‘. ‘Faux—Hawks‘ and ‘Ape Drapes‘. titles of hairstyles that didn‘t quite make the cut.
Although some works seem nostalgic. Lambie is quick to state that there is nothing provincial about his work. He may stay in Glasgow but he sees beyond the city limits (he was nominated for the Turner Prize due to strength of his shows in Sadie Coles HQ. London. and Anton Kern. New York). ‘There‘s a lot of great art being made here at the moment. but I wouldn’t say that artists here are particularly concemed with their Scottishness.‘ says Lambie. ‘The art community is international. Art travels. it‘s about the world and about ideas. You can‘t be intimidated. Parochialisrn seems to me to be based on fear and insecurity with the world outside your own turf. In saying that though. it wouldn‘t stop me using a bottle of Im Bru in a piece of work.‘
Modern Institute, Glasgow, Fri 7 Oct-Fri 1 1 Nov. Turner Prize Exhibition, Tate Britain, London, Tue 18 Oct-Sun 22 Jan 2006. The winner will be announced on Channel 4 on Mon 5 Dec.