Jemima Lucas, Stifled forces - constantly swelling. Will the Levee break?, 2023
Jemima Lucas is a sculptor quickly gaining recognition for suspending giant structures to connote agency and pathos. Often made of welded steel, her imposing shapes hold crudeness and perfection with meticulous ease. She invokes visions of potential injury to deliver moments of tenderness, complicating the aggressiveness and sterility that we associate with large scale steel. Her graduation work Tell me what you are. Will you hold me in your arms? (2021) is exemplary, for it is an impressively large scale trampoline holding latex skin, set against a spear that is permanently threatening to pierce through its delicate layering.
She frames her practice as investigations of power, and utility, remarking that “An object freed from its functions is granted an agency that fuses to the autonomous individualised associations generated by the viewer, incorporating both entities in a single whole. This presents a collaboration of sensuous forces imbued within the body of the work, and the body of the viewer.” In short, the viewer becomes the ultimate signifying force in her enigmatic mis-en-scenes, for we are left to decipher the meanings that underpin the relations between the suspender and suspended.
Her most recent show Stifled forces - constantly swelling. Will the Levee break? (2023) is an enticing manifestation of these principles. As she punctures a plaster wall to anchor a spider like claw (evocative of a speculative medieval weapon), suspending an ox tongue cast in bronze, caught in rebar—sculpted to resemble thorns. One of several pieces in the show, this intensely complex set up captures her desire for “the work to hold you in that intensity. A moment that perpetuates and yields. So when you feel it emotionally, there’s a sense of empathy. There’s a sense of a body. Through the material body, your body, too, is implicated in the experience because you know what it is like to be both powerful and vulnerable.” One could say that we are sympathetic voyeurs to Lucas’ gothic yet utilitarian bodies, tied to their own paradox.