Jim Lambie: Retrospective

Fruitmarket, Until 19th October

Jim Lambie’s retrospective at the Fruitmarket gallery combines work made from 1996 to the present and includes his signature piece ‘Zobop’. Famous for transcending and transforming the use of everyday objects in his work, in this collection he uses household paint, shopping bags, vinyl tape, tinfoil and coat hangers.

‘Shaved Ice’, occupying the whole ground floor of the gallery, presents an almost forest like collection of ladders, brightly painted in household matt, gloss and fluorescent paint. In the space between each rung, Lambie has inserted a mirror. The placement of each ladder is almost as savvy as the concept itself. Walking around is subtly and wonderfully deceptive, the room is distorted and fragmented into different spheres and spaces, yet from a distance it appears to be an ordinary collection of objects. As you get closer, lines are bent and people replicated: this piece simultaneously expands and limits the space, breaking it up in stark lines and jarring colours.

‘Ultralow’ was also engaging, but only in its contrast to ‘Shaved Ice’. As a piece on its own, it is quite inaccessible: a totally dark room has as its focal point a 21 minute long video of what looks like a collection of small fireflies shining in complete darkness. When you realise it’s just a few cigs being waved about, it’s easy to wonder how the video can last 21 minutes. However, the contrast of the two pieces renders the second a little less pointless. The difference of the two rooms (coming from the blinding effect of fluorescent lights and colours) finds you groping through the absolute darkness of ‘Ultralow’, desperately trying to ascertain what these little lights are. I suppose the shock of the realisation of their very ordinary origin is typical to Jim Lambie and his ethos, but to me felt decidedly anti climatic.

But this is the ethos that the whole exhibition replicates: the mundane is made beautiful, and involving. Jim Lambie used to be in a band, and music’s influence runs through the veins of every piece. Psychedelic, soul and punk music has been his muse: from overt musical objects, such as the brightly coloured vinyl tape used in ‘Zobop’ and the turntable in ‘Roadie’ (1999) which doubles up as a clothes rack, to the colours and shapes running through all his pieces.

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