in Penzance, Cornwall in 1967, Abigail Lane was brought up in Bristol
where she went to college to do an Art foundation course. She moved
to London in 1986 to take her BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College,
where, in her second year, she was prominently involved in the exhibition
Freeze, organised by Damien Hirst with his fellow Goldsmiths students,
including Michael Landy, Sarah Lucas and Gary Hume. In retrospect,
this ambitious three-part show has been seen to mark the beginning
of the yBa phenomenon, of which Lane has been a key figure.
Lane and her young artist-friends quickly established a public
reputation, many of their early shows being at the Karsten Schubert
Tottenham Court Road, including solo exhibitions by Angus Fairhurst,
Rachel Whiteread, Anya Gallaccio, Gary Hume and Michael Landy. Schubert
offered Lane her first solo show in 1992, and she was subsequently
represented by Glenn Scott Wright then later Victoria Miro Gallery.
International success followed, and Lane’s work was a notable
presence in Brilliant! New art from London in Minneapolis in 1995. “Everywhere
are scattered visual clues of human activity. They construct a chilling
sculptural narrative that balances on the thin line between horror
and beauty.” Mark Saunders writing about Skin of the Teeth,
ICA, London in 1995.
Her work wasn’t and still isn’t restricted to a particular
medium, and could be described as mostly sculptural and installation
based. Although, like most artists, there are recurring themes and
ideas, these are executed in the medium that suits the subject best,
which has resulted in works made in video, sound, wax, print, concrete,
crystals, ink, text, found objects … the titles are often an
integral part of the work too.
The works have been described as having a dark aspect; less often
recognised is the element of humour that lies under the surface in
many cases. “I
would like to think,” Lane has recently written, “that
whilst the works are looking their observer in the eye they also
make a wink at the person standing in the second row.”
In early 1996, when her long-term relationship with Michael Landy
ended, Lane moved to her own large studio-flat on the top floor of
factory in Curtain Road, Shoreditch, East London. This was before
the public fame of Shoreditch, with rents then low enough for artist-friends
such as Gavin Turk, Georgina Starr, Gary Hume, and Don Brown also
make their homes there. It was at this time that Lane began a series
of projects under the title of Complete Arthole, a group of events,
artworks and writing made in conjunction with her artist-partner
Paul Fryer. Every Friday The (hair) Salon took place at the studio.
an exciting, well-documented time, during which many semi-public
events were hosted by Lane in her Burbage House working-home, such
of Hand – a film tryptich projected onto screens installed on
the roof. Sam Taylor-Wood’s early wide angle photo composition
was made there, as were Sarah Lucas’s self portrait paintings.
In April 2001 Lane left Shoreditch, which had become self-conscious
and commercial. She moved to Hackney Wick – another East End
borough, at the time neglected but discovered by artists - later
to be developed commercially. Her live/work studio was a beautiful
sq ft top floor space overlooking the canals and beyond. An auction,
called From the Horse's Mouth, was held before leaving Burbage House
and this raised the money to carry out an ambitious plan to turn
the never-before lived-in warehouse into something special.
By 2002 the Showroom Dummies were starting to work together and the
studio became the headquarters and showcase for this. An intense,
busy period of almost five years was dedicated mostly to its work.
It was an extraordinary place to be at that time and again the space
concentrated a lot of Lane’s creative efforts. During this
time she stopped working with her London gallery, Victoria Miro.
By 2007 Lane, then aged forty, was pregnant and, deciding that the
Hackney Wick life was perhaps not suitable for having a child, moved
later that year to Suffolk, with her son Eric’s father,
Jeff Bremner. She was taking a lead from her friend Sarah Lucas,
2005 had bought Benjamin Britten’s house near Horham, where
Lane had regularly visited. Showroom Dummies work discontinued at
The following few years were largely dominated by private family
life until, in 2010, Lane set up her own Suffolk home, with her son
their much-loved dog, Ethel. Lane’s first art-world re-activity
was the production in 2011 of an event called SNAP, which was to
become the ambitious contemporary visual art component of the nearby
Festival. The plan was cooked up with Lucas and others, but Lane
was given the reins to make it largely her own project. She exhibited
the first show along with several of her yBa contemporaries, including
Brown, Hume, and Lucas, and now, three years on, will be doing so
again. Whilst continuing to forge the future of SNAP, she has built
studio at home and is concentrating on her artworks.