ABIGAIL LANE

 

 

 

 


 

 

Born 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 Gallery, off 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 an ex-furniture 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 to 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. It was an exciting, well-documented time, during which many semi-public events were hosted by Lane in her Burbage House working-home, such as Sleight 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 6000 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, who in 2005 had bought Benjamin Britten’s house near Horham, where Lane had regularly visited. Showroom Dummies work discontinued at this time.

The following few years were largely dominated by private family life until, in 2010, Lane set up her own Suffolk home, with her son and 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 Aldeburgh 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 in 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 a new studio at home and is concentrating on her artworks.