Sarah Lucas and Gavin Turk

Gavin Turk: I'm doing a show, at MM gallery in Brussels. The exhibition’s called ‘En Oeuf’….En oeuf is enough… actually En Oeuf means in egg.

Sarah Lucas: En Oeuf (laughs). I see.

Gavin Turk: Rather than un oeuf, which would be…      An egg…A egg.

Sarah Lucas: In egg.

Gavin Turk: Yeah.

Sarah Lucas: Good.

Gavin Turk: The centrepiece of the exhibition is a bronze egg. I was in the past making fibreglass enlarged facsimile copies of eggs, and I felt that with paint and fibreglass I could make them really realistic, making all the pores and details of the egg, but it was virtually impossible. Anyway, I've started concentrating more on the form of the egg. I've got this blue, duck egg which is two-meters long. It’s patinated so it looks like a duck egg. A patinated bronze object, sculpture like a head on its side, a head with an invisible corpse…and then this egg is surrounded with the other works on the wall that relate to egg things. GT eggs is a painting, a take on a Warhol screen print of multi-coloured eggs on a black background where now the eggs can be seen to write the letters G and T. It would make more sense just to show you the work. Then there are large geometric shapes, which are sections of an eggs silhouette. They’ve have been sliced through, they look like Ellsworth Kelly’s minimal paintings, just sheer coloured forms. And then there's some other works. A series of meter and a half egg shapes in two coloured panels on the wall in relationship to one another, a black one and a yellow one, an orange one and a blue one. Oh then there's also some works where a square coloured canvas has part of an egg shape collaged on top. There's also some egg trays that are cast from cardboard egg trays, and then are painted to look just like the egg trays, but they on the wall become these geometric surfaces… Sorry this is tough trying to describe my way round a conceptualised exhibition, bring back the actual art…

But on the whole for me, the egg, is more about the form, concept shape of the shell. It's more about the shell than the actual egg in the middle, than the bit inside the shell.

Sarah Lucas: It's more about the universal egg

Gavin Turk: It's more about the container; the concept of the container, anyway when I thought about the egg and I thought about someone to talk around it I thought of you…

Sarah Lucas: I was thinking about something yesterday. It wasn't entirely about eggs but it was about being at the creative frontier. The boundary of all our exploring. it really reminded me of a William Blake thing, (not just his notion, but he took it on.) Like the everything, the whole universe is inside an egg. It's not really that the universe is inside an egg, which is really isn't. It's that our perceptions only extend so far and, and that the so far, that they extend is the horizon and you can't see after that.

Gavin Turk: If you took off out into space and it were possible to keep travelling in one direction, you'd end up coming back to where you started.

Sarah Lucas: Well, the world's like that. Why shouldn't everything else be like that? (laughs).

Gavin Turk: And maybe you'd travelled around not just in a sphere, maybe you'd travelled around in a warped sphere, which we could see in a form.

Sarah Lucas: Well the world isn't round. It's an egg. (laughs)

Gavin Turk: It's not quite round, is it? Because there's a, there's a magnetic tension, which pulls it, which actually squishes it out a bit. So it is more ovaloid than perfectly round.

Sarah Lucas: Or it spins on an ovaloid.. I mean, if you believe your actual senses as far as you have them here and now, it's all quite scientific. I'm not thinking in the detail of this. I'm not proving it with mathematical formulas. But the general premise of it just seems to me to be a sense, an intelligence. But why would we be the only intelligent world?

Gavin Turk: I know, but which, but which came first? The presumption or the operation of something happening in a certain way?

Sarah Lucas: Well for me the egg came first. That was it. The fucking egg came first, didn't it?

Gavin Turk: (laughing) Yeah. But…, in terms of the riddle, unfortunately, it's not the case because you always say which came first, the chicken or the egg? Rather than which came first, the egg or the chicken? Is this just an alphabetical bias?

Sarah Lucas: And if you go into something like a more mythical idea of how things started, I don't mean the big bang, but I mean more like the Kabbalah. Where you have the principles, they're just principles at the moment. They're not a thing. But the principle is the divine spark. And that divine spark needs a receptacle for something to happen and the receptacle is the egg.

The chicken and the egg is the wrong question. It's got nothing to do with the chicken, it's the fucking cock. Which comes first, the cock or the egg? (laughing). Isn't it, though, really?

Gavin Turk: There are lots of mythological, egg evolution stories. Yes even big bang.

Sarah Lucas: But what came first? Big bang or the cock? (laughing).

Gavin Turk: I was thinking of the way that often, coming into existence stories have eggs in them. Like the egg in ‘the monkey king’, The ancient Chinese story, starts with a stone egg that cracks and out comes a magic monkey who eventually brings Buddhism to China from India… there's the spark. And the ancient Greek Chronos and Ananke the Goddess of necessity who breaks open an egg then the cosmos is created from inside the egg.

Sarah Lucas: All creation does come from inside the egg. It was also a reason why it's a silly question, but it is the egg that comes first. it's similar to the seed. You know? It is, it is potential, and all that potential, it already has in it. We don't have all that potential in us now as what's come out of the egg.

Gavin Turk: Well the egg is sort of full of anti-entropy and we're just part of some entropic process, just moving towards a lack of energy, or just energy flowing away, a loss of energy.

When I was a kid, if I was having a bad dream and I realised it was a bad dream, I was able to summon up this weird Faberge like egg. It was a kind of crystallized ... It was almost like a bronze egg. It would start as a tiny little thing in the corner of my mind, and I could then just focus on the tiny little bit in the corner and it would rock and grow in structure, and grow bigger and bigger and bigger and it used to block out the dream and wake me up.

Sarah Lucas: It's sort of a similar thing I would imagine, having children. Especially when they're little, of absorbing a certain amount of your anxiety that you have about being anxious about something else…

Gavin Turk: Um. I guess there is a responsibility. I mean, I remember people passing comments like, Oh, you've made all these wonderful artworks, like your kids and I'm like, "I really don't think having children is anything to do with art." And it's not really, but it is interesting when you ask what is creativity? Where does it come from? In terms of art, for me art's about audience and it's articulations. Thinking of your kids as a creation, I’m not quite sure about that, but I think that was the same as me somehow. I use myself as a subject or a character within my work, there was always like a bit of a difference between Gavin Turk, a person/human being, and then Gavin Turk an artist. I sort of made a puppet of myself as art.

In fact, talking of puppets, on the table there's something you’re working on; a mobile of you kind of sitting and posing and being a kind of a character.

Sarah Lucas: I've had those kinds of aspirations for art. On the one hand I wanted to make some things that I thought would be some good, like some good in their own right, almost as a respect and the other thing is because you are aspiring to, to some extent to remake yourself as you would rather be Not idealistically, like getting designer gear, but to be the kind of person you want to be…

Gavin Turk: That’s reminding me of Frank Zappa in an interview he was asked “what was his favourite kind of music?” and he said “Frank Zappa music! I don't think it's necessarily the best music I could make, uh, but I make it because I don't hear it otherwise. And it's the music can make, I want to make, and that's the music I try to make."

You want to try and articulate or make something which you feel isn't represented in the world. Like you're trying to, you're trying to better the world, in terms of the stuff that's around, and use things that you've ... I mean, I definitely am trying to use my knowledge and references around me, and try to connect them together and use those things to create something with. Create, There's that word again.

Sarah Lucas: Let's think about studios and my not having one. I always liked this idea, I always had this inclination to get shot of things. To travel very light, but also the thing that ultimately you are sort of creating yourself. In terms of being an artist you could do it anywhere with anything if needs be. That would be hard with absolutely with nothing there. But even then, there is a way to make some kind of a book, even if it's a mental one.

Gavin Turk: And what about all the stuff that you make? I mean how do you deal with archive?

Sarah Lucas: Well I do books. I mean, me and Julian do books.

Gavin Turk: A whole car sculpture or a massive robotic wanking arm. You know, these things? What, what do you do with those? I mean, do you sell them? Do they go to museums?

Sarah Lucas: I sell them. Well the massive arm, I made for Michael (Clark) I gave that to Damien(Hirst) because he had sent me a couple of massive pigs it was a kind of response to the fact that he had sent me these pigs, they were too big for the amount of space I had and I just didn't need them. But anyway, I covered them in hundreds of thousands and they were in the ‘Inagadadavida’ show at the Tate I think Damien's got them back again now. But anyway, one day I just sent the The big arm, down to him (laughs). And he's the sort of custodian of it. He's very good about lending him stuff. (laughing). But most of them, I if haven't sold them, I just let them go. I've had various lock-ups over the years where things molder away, but…

Gavin Turk: The thing about traveling lightly and clearing out, could you look at your art as a way of just clearing stuff out?

Sarah Lucas: Well sometimes it is. Sometimes. rather than go and get some furniture for the work that I’m doing, I just use the furniture I've got (laughs).

Gavin Turk: Yeah. That is good.

Sarah Lucas: (laughs) Yeah.

Gavin Turk: The first time we met and chatted. It was back in 92, you were sitting invigilating your show at alternative arts and you had just made that work ‘Two fried eggs and a kabab.

Sarah Lucas: Yeah, I remember you walking in the studio that day. Yeah.

Gavin Turk: These were eggs, two eggs, fried eggs but, it was definitely out there because in order for the sculpture to work, you had to every morning fry some eggs and stick them on the table.

Sarah Lucas: That was a good moment. That was a (laughs). That was my breakthrough moment, wasn't it?

Gavin Turk: That's when you cracked it… that's when you broke some eggshells. Um (laughing). When you burst out of the egg

Gavin Turk: But could you do it with plastic eggs, imitation eggs?

Sarah Lucas: Well, I have done that once it was, last year in San Francisco. And they went to great trouble. They actually went to Japan to find a couple of plastic eggs that were half decent, and I still didn't want to do it. I was resisting, resisting but a lot of these institutions have, especially when they house collections of precious art, have all kinds of weird rules and regulations. I was resisting using these eggs, but in the end I put them on so I could just see how they looked, and I sort of came round to them. So in that sculpture, I have done that. But at the new museum, for instance, everything is done fresh every day And that's what I think is the real way. Initially I was never gonna touch an egg with a barge pole.

Gavin Turk: But In your show in the British Pavilion, there was a lot of egg things

Sarah Lucas: There was a lot of egg things in the end.

Gavin Turk: And in the catalogue you speak a lot about eggs.

Sarah Lucas: Because this whole thing about throwing the eggs really started when I was brewing up thinking about the Venice show. First of all just thought, oh yeah, I'd just do something and it would be fun and didn't think too much about it. Then I suddenly freaked, what am I supposed to do? Suddenly I was in a black mood about it. I thought what do people even want from me? What do they really want? so I asked a few friends and, I got various answers. But the best one, I thought, was from Michael and he said, "I just want to see a Sarah Lucas show." I thought well I want to do something quite fresh. I don't want to do anything I've done before. But at the same time, okay, uh, all the classic elements can be there. The toilet, the fucking eggs, the cigarettes, that kind of thing. Um. So that's what I did, I mean all the things there I'd never done before and I did a lot of things that were completely new, like painting sculptures and all sorts, I'm never short of ideas, but what I'm often short of is what brings all this together? The thing that binds it all together…And in the end, that thing ended up being the colour yellow.

Gavin Turk: I get it.

Sarah Lucas: But, but before that, it was eggs. I was thinking, well, maybe it's eggs. But in the end, it didn't need all the eggs, it just needed the colour yellow, it turned out to be custard yellow.       

Gavin Turk: I like the simplicity of this it's actually, so true, I have that. I think sometimes I get that situation where it seems everything's so disparate. I know it's all connected somehow. But I don’t know how to show it straight forwardly

Sarah Lucas: In a way that puts the sense in it you don’t have to formulate it as a thought, but as an experience.

Gavin Turk: Yeah. I think that's it, you did it well, it did seem to feel like, like there was some beginning, middle and end, I felt and I saw it. It was satisfying somehow. I mean there was lots of space for interpretation, mystery, story-telling and shooting off in different directions, but I still got a sort of sense when I was leaving the building that I'd been taken on a journey.

Sarah Lucas: That's good.

Gavin Turk: And I didn't realize It was possibly just because there was that yellow (laughs).

Sarah Lucas: Well the yellow was a eureka moment. Knowing you're gonna have to put things in a space and that that space is gonna affect the things, and the things are gonna have to affect the space. You think, what is the architectural part of all this? I kept thinking of trying to affect the building in some way. but when I thought, oh, it's just yellow, just paint it yellow, that was so brilliant, it was so simple. I really didn't, want to do some great big structure in there

Gavin Turk: You could've done some sort of wallpaper, I suppose. You've done that before with stuff, but it may have just looked super busy.

Sarah Lucas: I love doing the yellow, I've actually always loved colour, and I don't use colour very much because I stick to things being quite naturalistic. But I mean that blue table I just got the other day. I’m really into using it for the colour At the moment I'm just doing some colourful things just 'cause I feel like it.

Gavin Turk: I've recently just got more into using flat colour, with my Ellsworth Kelly eggs, like they're really simple shapes, they're literally just colour geometries. And I've now got to a point of coming back in with this idea of identity in colour. So I've now started thinking about presenting two colour decks, and enjoying the way that colour just starts to signify things like football clubs, flags, cultural identity. People align themselves with colour. Corporate entities, register colours for certain products and certain relationships between colour signify and throw-up historic connections. I can see two colours and it reminds me of my grandmother I can see two colours and I think of my Dad. Somehow there's a signature to colour combinations…

Sarah Lucas: Oh yeah, Years ago when Gary (Hume) was doing the door paintings, and he started doing multiple doors, four doors of slightly different proportions and gave them different colour schemes. He said to a few people close to him to choose the colours for sets of doors and Jackie chose a set of four colours for the doors, and I can't remember what, but it was quite precise things that she had based the colours on and when people came to see the doors at the exhibition, they sort of got it. The sets of doors had different presences, Jackie's one had all this intensity in it, it really was like that. I mean, colour is a real thing.

Gavin Turk: I remember talking with Gary about colour. He had a theory about colour where the moment you single out any specific colour and then look at it for long enough, you start to get turned onto it. (laughs). The main thing with any colour or with any picture is how to get people to stay and looking at it for longer, so they can get turned on. And sometimes you can do it by colour combinations.

Sarah Lucas: But if you're gonna make something then it has to be arresting. Basically, You have to stop them in their tracks, you know?

Gavin Turk: With my current works, because they are so simple. there is just a flat colour, on a shaped canvas. and the colour palette has been borrowed from Ellsworth Kelly people have more or less already seen it before. So how can you get them to stop when they possibly didn't even stop in the first place? I think its emblematic…

Sarah Lucas: But it's a more sublime thing than that

Gavin Turk: When it comes…

Sarah Lucas: Well, to keep people interested and spark fascination, like how a shot of sunlight comes in and hits that wall or something. All the things you think you put in the work, or things you think are not in there even though you thought of them at the time, the weird thing is that it quite often they do communicate to people. People that I have never met will say things to me about being affected by certain things. And I think, it's amazing that you can be affected in that way without me being there or anyone telling you that. How some of this residual thought actually stays in this thing? It's a subliminal thing and it's very tricky to work with. Its not all about what you think you're doing.

Gavin Turk: Coming back to our yellow colour, you referred to it as custard and not really yolk. But it was yolky.

Sarah Lucas: I was making those pieces in the white plaster. It was a dessert. It was floating islands.

Gavin Turk: All right. It was floating islands, but it was a yolky yellow. Custard is basically made with eggs anyway, it’s the reason why its yellow

Sarah Lucas: That's in the book.

Gavin Turk: Do you think that when people see the yellow and they get the sense of yolk, and that they have a sort of bodily, psychoanalytical connection to the colour?

Sarah Lucas: Yes. But whether it's yolk or some other colour people absolutely do have relations to colour and think colours are a reality. We don't live in a black and white world. Although obviously, everyone's perceptions are slightly different.

Gavin Turk: You say colours a real thing, but, colours are also a sort of psychological fantasy.

Sarah Lucas: Not as weird as tone. Julian (Simmons) is a real tone person. He can do everything in tone. It's all he needs he doesn't need colour in the same way Julian thinks that Colour is time and tone is space.

Gavin Turk: I can relate to that…I’m trying to remember something you once said like, "just, enough is perfect."

Sarah Lucas: No, I think what I said was if it was perfectly adequate, it's perfect.

In terms of making something, I think, I'll just try this out on the back of this chair which happens to be there. And I think if it's any good, I can go and get another chair, I can use something else. But if it is any good, it probably could never be better.

Gavin Turk: I have this thing, and it, I don't know whether it's the theory that screws me up or whether it's the reality. But the first thing I do or make is the best, like when I take pictures, I'll take the photo then try and improve on it and the first one is still the best…

Sarah Lucas: Beginner's luck. I believe in beginner's luck. (laughs) As an artist or even as a person. I remember being asked, "Why don't you make more of those? Why don't you try for two?" I’d made something that was good, I wanted to make something that was completely different. when you get asked to re-make something, which I often do. Sometimes with some success. But it's the hardest thing in the world. I really do love beginner's luck…

There's a real true aspiration; there's a real question you're asking with all of your body, with your hands, with everything. There's something you're trying to achieve with whatever means happen to be there. Trying to go through that torturous kind of ... Well, I don't mean torturous, otherwise It's mannered.

Gavin Turk: It's mannered… Coming back to a response Gary had to seeing a show of my work he got really upset by looking at the work because he felt it forced him have to think about art and what he was looking at and he I didn’t want to, he just wanted to see something and for it just to manifest meaning for him, he was frustrated at the idea I was making him think in a certain way, I think he just wanted to do the thinking himself, I suppose. (laughs).