Exhibition

Kate Lyddon. Sagger, sinker, wrinkler

12 Jul 2024 – 10 Aug 2024

Regular hours

Monday
Closed
Tuesday
10:00 – 18:00
Wednesday
10:00 – 18:00
Thursday
10:00 – 18:00
Friday
10:00 – 18:00
Saturday
10:00 – 18:00
Sunday
10:00 – 18:00

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Cob Gallery

London, United Kingdom

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  • Camden Town Underground
  • Camden Road Overland
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"If it be true that God is a circle whose centre is everywhere, the saint goes to the centre, the poet and the artist to the ring where everything comes round again.” - WB Yeats

About

Cob is proud to present Sagger, Sinker, Wrinkler a solo exhibition of painting, sculpture and site specific installation for British artist Kate Lyddon.  This exhibition is marked by the publication of Lyddon's monograph of works to date featuring a commissioned essay by curator Elaine ML Tam.

Lyddon is known for her distinctive approach to drawing, painting and sculpture, characterised by a blend of surrealism, the grotesque, and intuitive creation. Her work frequently explores themes of selfhood, femininity, and the human condition, often with a focus on the female body as a site of transformation. Lyddon queries the functions of the female body not only in its physical form but also as a vessel of personal and universal experiences. Across her practice, Lyddon’s work has reflected on the stages of life from childhood to adolescence to womanhood in a gritty exploration of the female experience, human dualities, and the subconscious. Lyddon's compelling and instinctive visual language invites viewers to reflect on the deeper aspects of identity, interaction, cycles of life and existence. Her creative approach gives rise to a fantastical visual language that is as sensual as it is visceral.

Lyddon's artistic process stems from a diaristic record of her daily life and experiences. From the school run and her daughter's minor injuries to the complexities of friendships and childcare  – the works are borne from a semi automatic drawing practice. Observational sketches that evolve intuitively, Lyddon describes this process as "dreaming with your eyes open.". In more recent works, Lyddon contemplates the transformative and dividing experience of motherhood, critically examining the way her body metamorphoses, is challenged, and reaches states of exhaustion, and marvelling at its capacity to nurture life and become a source of nourishment and dependency. This juxtaposition fuels all of Lyddon's work, and proffers the belief that beauty and ugliness, pain and pleasure, joy and suffering, gentleness and brutality coexist within us all.

Sagger, Sinker, Wrinkler is a new body of work in which Lyddon explores, in particular, that coexistence of beauty and ugliness through an interrogative lens of female aging and societal expectations of beauty. The exhibition title is derived from an anti-aging product marketed to Lyddon on social media, unpleasantly categorising facial aging into three types: sagging, sinking, and wrinkling. On a formal level, faces and bodies sink, sag, overlap in these compositions. At the same time, these words penetrate to a conceptual level, characterising the materiality and rhythm of the works: collaged fabrics and papers that texture the canvasses sag, wrinkle and sink; a ceramic figure, disembodied, quite literally sinks into the floor. Lyddon also refers to the word slippage; where images of youth and age, beauty and horror lapse in and out of focus in one image through transparent layers of paint. These visual ’slippages’ create a sense of in-betweenness and the canvas becomes a threshold where multiple identities of womanhood pass through.

In this body of work, Lyddon describes the human, elemental and industrial operating as one and the same. ‘Sink’ is represented in both domestic and industrial motifs employed by Lyddon: copper pipes and shower heads extend out of and morph into her painted figures and three dimensional sculptures, emblematic of the body's waste system. 'Sinker’ relates to various works that involve water; and indicates Lyddon's incorporation of the elemental as a unifying thread. Lyddon’s works reference the elements in a carnivalesque vision of human and nature: figures made of fire; water pouring from faucets; breast milk spilling out across compositions; sculptures created from clay; bones interweaved with wooden crutches, the metal armature of an umbrella substitutes human torso, oars become legs and pipes become arms. These signifiers of recycling, the common and inaminate object and disposal can also be viewed as symbolic of life cycles and akin to the seasons, reciprocating a concept of the ‘seasoned body’, while simultaneously reminding us of the duality of life and death.

Lyddon derives inspiration from T.S Eliot’s Four Quartets, a set of four poems that read as interlinked meditations, exploring man's relationship with time (each poem plays with an element, earth, wind, fire and air), the universe, and the divine. Similarly, throughout the poems, circular time is Eliot's crucial motif.  It’s arguable that Four Quartets abandons time, as per Dante's conception of the Empyrean, allowing opposites to co-exist. This motif is visually harnessed by Lyddon in her tumbling figuration where age and youth, life and death, are in a constant, Sisyphean flow.  Across her practice, and similar to Eliot, Lyddon’s figures merge and meander between the real and the mythical, interweaving symbols and figures from nature, fairy tales and folklore, while simultaneously reflecting the artist’s feminist perspective.  For Sagger, Sinker, Wrinkler  Lyddon incorporates her vision of Cailleach  (specifically in the work Equinox Girls) whose name literally translates as ‘old woman, hag’ –  a prominent figure in Celtic mythology associated with the creation of the landscape and with storms and winter - here her image is set against that of idealistic, 'goddess like' beauty.

More urgently, this series was created in emotional response to the polarity of messaging in the pictures that have come to permeate our day to day lives. The absurdity, as observed by Lyddon, of parallel streams of imagery, increasingly unavoidable with the rise of social media – that of impossible ideals of beauty, luxury and glamour broadcast in tandem with the horrors and disgraces of modern warfare (the painting Met Gala refers to the literal ‘eye candy’ distraction of the annual New York event taking place on the same day as a massacre in the Middle East). There is an overarching sense of melancholy imbedded in works conjured by Lyddon’s application of a dimmed and ruddied palette – a move away from her previous saturation of colour.   T.S Eliot composed and wrote the last three poems The Four Quartets, ‘East Coker’, ‘The Dry Salvages’ and ‘Little Gidding’, during World War II and the air-raids on Great Britain and although not explicitly defined by Eliot as a reaction to his disillusionment with war, it seems Lyddon reciprocates Eliot’s creative response to uncertain, dark times in humanity. Underlying Lyddon’s work is the universal desire to, in some way, unify humanity through its primal urges - to make sense of it all.  Human behaviour, as it is streamed to us today, is arguably at its most conflicting and confusing – brutal and illogical – and yet communicates so perfectly the essence of Lyddon’s practice. It has become the fuel to her creative fire.

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Kate Lyddon

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