Complex and ever provocative, British artist Sarah Lucas is a woman of many parts. So too, is her corps of discombobulated female figure studies, which are now on show in a new London exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum, supported by the Art Fund.
‘Power in Woman’ sees Lucas’ commission from last year’s Venice Biennale return to the custard-yellow setting that in part inspired her installation for the British Pavilion. The trio of sculptures on show – Yoko, Pauline, and Michele – make themselves at home in the North Drawing Room, casually slumped and explicitly splayed atop furniture among the storied museum’s antiques and paintings.
‘Sir John was continually, over a lifetime, collecting and extending his house to accommodate his collection. The whole edifice is his work of art,’ says Lucas. ‘Strange then to intervene in his picture, temporarily.’ Lucas’ sculptures form part of a series of ten cast plaster bodies, collectively titled the Muses, and for which the artist used friends as models.
The ‘topless’ figures, each one embellished with a cigarette, form a startling counterpoint to the classical sculptures in the museum’s collection. ‘Soane’s plasters are cast from the marble originals. Mine, on the other hand, are cast direct from the woman in question using the rough and ready method of making a waste mould by applying plaster bandage directly onto the body,’ the artist explains.
She adds: ‘The mould doesn’t survive. There’s very little room in the process for refining the figure or otherwise idealising it.’ Lucas makes a compelling case for how much perfection there is in imperfection.