Description: New Religion
blue neon coffin
15 1/8 x 21 1/4 x 71 1/2 in. (38.4 x 54 x 181.6cm.)
Executed in 1999
Artist or Maker: Sarah Lucas (b. 1962)
Literature: M. Collings, Sarah Lucas, Singapore 2002 (illustrated in colour, p. 77).
Y. Dziewor and B. Ruf (eds.), Sarah Lucas, Exhibitions and Catalogue Raisonné 1989-2005, Ostfildern-Ruit 2005 (illustrated, p. 151).
Provenance: Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999.
Notes: PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN COLLECTOR
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Since graduating from Goldsmith's College of Art in 1987, Sarah Lucas has achieved substantial notoriety for her aggressive and sexually charged works of art. Bold, ugly, abrupt, raw, sometimes funny and other times poignant, Lucas' work is concerned with two main themes: eros and thanatos, love and death. More than love though, Lucas is consumed by sex, its place in contemporary life, and even more specifically, the role the woman plays. She does not create pleasing, romanticized images of the human form, but rather she creates objects from simple, everyday materials and found objects which address these themes in a more macabre manner.
While Lucas is clearly not a conceptual artist, her work does appear to be conceptual in some respects. Matthew Collings put it best in his essay for the 2002 Sarah Lucas catalogue published by the Tate: "Sex and the body, Lucas's perpetual themes, might seem opposed to Conceptual art, which is an art of ideas not forms. But what 'Conceptualism' means in art nowadays is not dematerialised form but content apprehended in a rather distanced way. That is, distanced from what the subject initially appears to be. The audience has been taught to understand that a typical work by Lucas will have something standing for something else: objects standing for a body - because nowadays, it is assumed, there's no way to see the body except through the matter of everyday life..." (M. Collings, "Get Hold of This", in Sarah Lucas, London 2002, pp. 53-55).
According to Sigmund Freud, sex is life and death is the opposite. Lucas is intrigued and compelled by this notion and even more so the pull between these two poles. In fact, both sex and death frequently appears in Lucas' work simultaneously, as with the present work, New Religion from 1999. Here we are confronted with a coffin made exclusively from blue neon tubing. The coffin itself is an obvious reference to death, but the glowing neon plays a completely opposite role. Light itself is a symbol of life and neon specifically, with all of the gases flying around inside the tube, lends the element an energetic quality. The neon is concurrently reminiscent of red-light districts around the world and the sexiness of Hollywood, and is therefore used to represent the paradox of sex (life) vs. death.
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