JIM LAMBIE in front of Metal Box (Underground Orchid), 2015. Photo by Michael Young for ArtAsiaPacific.

JIM LAMBIE, Metal Box (Underground Orchid), 2015, aluminum and polished steel sheets, household paint, 250 × 750 × 26 cm. Floor piece is an iteration of Lambie’s “Zobop” series (1999– ), referred to here as Sound System (2015), colored vinyl tape. Installation view of “Zero Concerto” at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 2015. Photo by Michael Young for ArtAsiaPacific.

JIM LAMBIEOther Side of the Sun, 2015, potato bags, acrylic paint, polyurethane on canvas, 210 × 178 × 60 cm. Photo by Michael Young for ArtAsiaPacific.

Zero Concerto

Jim Lambie

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery
Australia United Kingdom

Glasgow-based conceptual and installation artist Jim Lambie can take an interior space by the metaphorical scruff of the neck, give it a good shake and throw it back down totally transformed, by using of kilometers of either monochromatic or wildly-colored vinyl tape that are applied to the rooms’ ground surfaces. Strips of iridescent sign-writer’s tape often navigate the contours of the rooms, dissolving floors and ceilings as they stream across the surfaces. These installations have their roots as much as in music—to which Lambie has a close affinity—as they do in visual art. The resulting affect is a disturbing yet enjoyable sense of disorientation and a psychedelic detachment, which older viewers familiar with London’s “swinging sixties” and the  hallucinogenic substances that defined the era would know all too well.

Lambie was born in 1964 in Glasgow to a father who ran a mobile disco on the weekends and a mother who moonlighted as a go-go dancer. As a youngster the artist was firmly situated in this musical (albeit punk-rock) milieu, and in the years since he has played in bands and also worked as a DJ. As a result of these various influences, Lambie’s floor pieces teeter on the interstices between music and abstract art.

Earlier this year Lambie applied his signature vinyl-tape intervention—the ongoing series collectively is called “Zobop” (1999– )—to the grand staircase of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, with spectacular results. Even  the Duchess of Cornwall conferred a degree of respectability upon the installation when she was formally photographed standing on it, amid its riotous and anarchic colors.

In Sydney, “Zobop” was last exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia as part of the 2014 Sydney Biennale, when Lambie transformed a series of conjoined spaces into a dissolving mélange of color—walls, floors and ceilings positively vibrated with sensory overload. The installations work best when applied to historically interesting interiors, where there are angles that turn back on themselves or stairways that double as shelving spaces. In contrast, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, where Lambie’s work is currently on view, is a traditional white cube that offers the artist considerable challenges with its architectural blandness. Here, he has applied a simple solution by running Sound System (2015), a multi-colored vinyl-tape installation, in straight lines from wall to wall across the space, and creating a magical sensation that seems to slide off into infinity.

One assumes this approach is, to an extent, determined by the needs required in presenting “Zobop” in a commercial gallery, where wall-hung works inevitably vie for the viewer’s attention. As a result, at Roslyn Oxley9 the floor installation acts as a clever (albeit not too subtle) counterpoint to several other wall pieces—which add an elaborately decorated feel to the space—including works from his highly appealing “Metal Box” (2010– )series. Made from conjoined aluminum and polished steel panels, each work from the series appear to be adhered together, except at the corners where each layer is bent back on itself to reveal a colorful spectrum of hues. Inspired by old, peeling music-event posters that he found on the outside walls of a Glasgow pub, Lambie created sterilized versions of them by using polished, industrial materials that each have a reflective top sheet that recalls distorted mirrors found in a fairground fun-house.

Lambie takes great delight in using found or cheaply acquired materials in his work: “Most of my practice has been with things that I have picked up in junk shops or found in thrift stores. The whole show you can break done into a few basic, humble elements. It is all old, thrift-shop stuff,” he told ArtAsiaPacific at the opening of his Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery exhibition. One wall-hanging sculpture entitled Other Side of the Sun (2015), for instance, is a conglomeration of stuffed potato sacks, while Here Comes the Sun (2015) is a piece made from ten variously sized aluminum bicycle wheels, which have been reworked so that spokes attached to the outside of their circular frames resemble solar rays. What makes his works all the more captivating is that Lambie is tracing the anarchic tendencies of the Arte Povera movement of the late 1960s to ’70s, which created artworks by using found objects and instilling them with an intuitive aesthetic sensibility.

Jim Lambie’s “Zero Concerto” is on view at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, until September 26, 2015.