Bruce Lacey at Camden Arts Centre
In a few days, The Bruce Lacey Experience at Camden Arts Centre, co-curated by Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller will come to an end. For people like me, born in the sixties in a different country, Bruce Lacey was not a familiar figure and this show was therefore a real discovery.
At 85, childhood and fantasy are still his world. As Lacey writes in his notes to the exhibition: "Never lose the child within you”. He explained this during the film made by Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams and concludes by saying that “Playing a silly bugger is what life’s really all about.” You can watch an overview of this excellent documentary made for the Guardian here.
Starting with Gallery 3, we enter into Lacey's childhood which never really ended. He had a very happy childhood, attended lots of performances of variety theatre and circus. His family loved to disguise themselves and perfom. He is a passionate collector and keeps everything. This room is full of dolls hanging from the ceiling, toys, costumes, photographs, memories and oil paintings that he produced after his studies at the Royal College of Art where he graduated in 1954. In early 1945, a Nazi bomb exploded near his house. Two years later, he was hospitalised with tuberculosis. As he said, if you have got a trauma, you have to release it. He then started to draw as a therapeutic way to cope with his suffering.
The central part of the exhibition floor shows a selection of posters from his performances. In the film, he says that he tries to use humour to "go beyond the protective layer of people". He also explains that when he realised how adults can become "fossilized", he decided to work more with children.
Gallery 2 shows a series of his assemblages,robots, humanoid figures constructed from spare parts that were already in his possession as well as parts especially sought after. Among them, BOY, OH BOY, AM I LIVING! 1964 now owned by Tate. Hanging from the ceiling, Space Suit, constructed for the performance piece British landing on the Moon, 1969.
Gallery 1 is devoted to his ritualistic practices with a display of his costumes and objects as well as his latest paintings based on astronomical patterns.
Until 16 September 2012 www.camdenartscentre.org
Installation view of The Bruce Lacey Experience at Camden Arts Centre, 2012. Photo: Angus Mill © Camden Arts Centre