Lucy Stein On Heat 

Lucy Stein, *1979 in Oxford, lives and works in London

In her exhibition “On Heat,” Lucy Stein comments and paraphrases ideas and clichés of the “creative” in art contexts. In the works made for the opening day before Easter she also returns to motifs and forms associated with the Easter feast – such as the egg or the tradition of covering the altar with textiles, as well as portraits of saints.

In the field of religion, creative power is mostly connoted as male. In “On Heat,” Lucy Stein unfolds a formal vocabulary of female creative power. Her approach ranges from performatively working on canvases with household tools such as mops and brushes and the painting of Easter eggs to spraying pictures in the exhibition with references to a riot girl aesthetic. The female is also regarded as a constructed repertoire of forms or cultural product that is frequently linked with passive-aggressive, hysterical-expressive, or psychosomatic forms of burning oneself out.

Aware of these aspects of the role, Lucy Stein has satirically incorporated these aspects in her show here and there. The motif of the egg, which is also connoted as female, runs like a thread through the entire presentation, emerging as material, form, quotation, and symbol. The artist has used egg tempera to paint tiles, canvases, paper, and eggs. The painted eggs and the leaflet accompanying the exhibition with its text printed on the form of an egg evoke Humpty Dumpty from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. Carroll’s manlike egg not only discusses the nature of meaning with Alice, but also explains the first four lines of the Jabberwocky poem from the book’s first chapter to her and enlightens her on the making of portmanteau words. Lucy Stein’s poem to be found in the exhibition leaflet seems to have been written in the Jabberwocky poem’s vein. Its words trigger pictorial, color, onomatopoeic, and nonsensical associations relating to many aspects of the show.

The artist’s studio is a particularly charged place of creativity. Both the invitation card and the poster for the exhibition show a trashy snapshot confronting us with a detail from an artist’s studio: we see a radiator in the center and some turned-over canvases propped against the wall behind it. A copy of a book on medieval glass window design revealing Saint Catherine hangs from the radiator, and an art postcard with a surreal egg motif by Odilon Redon lies on the floor. The studio motif provides the background for the title of the exhibition sprayed on it in red in the style of a punk band poster.

Lucy Stein relies on numerous props and references to literature, art history, as well as pop and everyday culture. The whole presentation is characterized by a heated gesture that questions and destabilizes conventions of painting. Walking through the exhibition, the viewer realizes that Stein has only rarely mounted her paintings on the wall as panels conventionally are, but prefers unusual three-dimensional forms of installation: a frieze of tiles, for example, painted with both figurative and abstract motifs that runs along certain walls close to the ground, or hangings nailed to the wall like tapestries or door covers without stretchers in an almost interventionist manner. This also holds true for the posters mentioned above, a register-like wall-filling array of drawings, and a tree with painted Easter eggs. The old electric radiator in the middle of the installation that has been converted into a support strikes us as a humorous persiflage on heroic ideas about the process of the creation of art.