James “Jim” Lambie is a contemporary visual artist, and was shortlisted for the 2005 Turner Prize with an installation called Mental Oyster. Jim Lambie graduated from the Glasgow School of Art with a Honors Bachelors of Arts degree.
The word “genius” is the nuclear weapon in the critic’s armoury. A lot of people think it should never be used. I used it a while ago and someone wrote to the Guardian complaining. I think they thought I was using it satirically - so rarely is this term employed and so dangerous is its aura.
Yet it has a venerable history. In Renaissance Europe the idea of the “genius” of the artist grew out of Neo-Platonic philosophy and the idea that creativity comes to the poet in a “fury”, a frenzy. From the start it identified artistic excellence with transports of mind. Albrecht Dürer may have been the first artist to see himself as a “genius”, portraying himself as a Christ-like messianic figure. Anyway I know a genius when I see one and the Glasgow artist Jim Lambie is a genius.
In the second chapter of his book Symbolic Logic (1892), C.L Dodgson, whose everlasting name is Lewis Carroll, wrote that the universe consists of things which can be ordered by classes and that one of these is the class of the impossible. He gave as an example the class of things which weigh more than a ton and that a boy is able to levitate. If they don’t exist, if they were not part of our happiness, we would say that the books of Alice [Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)] correspond to this category. In effect, how to conceive a work that is not less delightful and inviting than The Arabian Nights and that is likewise a plot of paradoxes of logical and metaphysical order? Alice dreams of the Red King, who is dreaming of her, and someone warns her that if the King awakens, she will go out like a candle, because she is no more than a dream of the King that she is dreaming. In regard to this reciprocal dream that well could have no end, Martin Gardner recalls a certain fat woman, who painted a thin female painter, who painted a fat female painter that painted a thin female painter, and so on to infinity.
The layers of meaning embedded in representations of the human form and the complex relationship between the dialectics of the viewer and the object are at the core of the works in a Secret Affair: Selections from the Fuhrman Family Collection. The exhibition takes its name from Secret Affair (Gold), 2007, a stainless-steel sculpture by the Scottish artist Jim Lambie comprising the outline of an oversized keyhole placed incongruously in the landscape on the grounds of Laguna Gloria. In this work, a simple framing device becomes an Alice in Wonderland portal to a secret garden, an irresistible invitation to what lies beyond and a metaphor for the infinite possibilities that exist between the corporeal and the abstract.
Text Citation: Top: An excerpt from Jorge Luis Borges’s preface to the Spanish translation of the works of Lewis Carroll’s (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) published in 1976. For more, click here. Bottom: An excerpt from “The Subversive Body,” an essay by Heather Pesanti, included in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition A Secret Affair: Selections from the Fuhrman Family Collection, on view at The Contemporary Austin from May 3 – August 24, 2014. For more information, click here.
Image Credits: Left: Installation view of Jim Lambie’s Secret Affair, 2008, at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scotland. Right: Installation view of Jim Lambie’s Secret Affair (in the trees), 2007, part of the exhibition Reconstruction #2, Sudeley Castle, Cheltenham, United Kingdom.
I have been seeing Jim Lambie’s awesome work around lately and you know I can never pass up a good black & white design, so this was the perfect inspiration. These took approximately forever, but it was so worth it.