Bruce Lacey is one of Britain’s great avant garde artists, a true eccentric – two words I very rarely get to use these days unfortunately – his entire artistic life having been a cathartic working through of his experiences. He’s been an oddball comedian, actor, painter, sculptor, film maker, shaman and God knows what else and his work is now being shown at an exhibition called ‘The Bruce Lacey Experiment’ at The Camden Arts Centre in London.
What can you say about Lacey in a few sentences? What can be said about a man who has been celebrated in song by Fairport Convention, has had a film made about him by another crazy eccentric, Ken Russell, has been torn to pieces in the papers by Anthony Burgess, befriended by comedian Lenny Bruce, appeared as George Harrison’s gardener in the Beatles’ film ‘Help!’ and designed all kinds of wacky props for the post-Goon Show TV careers of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Michael Bentine.
The exhibition promises to give visitors an idea of the range of his work, a broad brush stroke of his artistic life, with painting, sculptures, robotised assemblages, theatrical performances, installations, community arts projects and ritual action performances all on show.
To give you a little flavour of what the man is like and what you can expect from the show here’s what he had to say about his work:
I am finding my own way and people, if they want to, can follow, I am shitting on the way, which are my artworks, and the critics are coming along picking up my shit and saying ‘ooh this is fantastic texture, ooh what a beautiful colour…’It’s all crap for me, I’m a simple person
The gallery website has this to say about his work:
Lacey has described his work as a personal psychotherapy an approach began in his early 20s whilst hospitalised with tuberculosis after serving in the Royal Navy during World War II. It was then that he began to draw macabre scenes and childhood memories. After his recovery in 1951, he enrolled at the Royal College of Art and simultaneously began his performance career with outrageous stunts drawn from circus and variety theatre.
Lacey often involved his family in his escapades, as revealed by Ken Russell’s 1962 documentary, The Preservation Man. In this film Russell captures Lacey’s flamboyance, his six children around him, revelling in a magical atmosphere. Around this time Lacey began constructing assemblages and machines expressing his feelings about the technologised and conservative Cold War society that surrounded him. He was hailed as a leading figure of the ‘New Realism’ and his assemblages took the form of full size kinetic automatons (‘electric actors’) including the comic figures of Old Moneybags, Clockface, Electric Man and Rosa Bosom. It was Rosa who won the ‘Alternative Miss World’ in 1985. A number of these are included in the exhibition.
Part of the show will be dedicated to Lacey’s performance activities – a practice that began in the 1970s and included performances with his collaborator Jill Bruce. Lacey revered the approach of pre-historic man in creating not for decorative or aesthetic ends but with the purpose of making something happen in the universe. He committed himself to becoming aligned with the mysterious forces of nature, becoming a transmitter and receiver of thoughts, ideas and energies. In the 1980s he returned to painting – which took the form of ritual diagrams and imagery, in shamanistic formats derived from performative endeavours.
Now in his 80s, Lacey lives in a farmhouse in Norfolk surrounded by his bizarre collection of creations. His latest project he calls ‘vox humana exploration’ using his voice through a series of effects to perform his own songs plus those of David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Queen.
The exhibition is running until 16th September, 2012 and Bruce Lacey will lead a personal tour of the exhibition on 18th August for which all automata will be in motion.
Via This Is Tomorrow
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