The Green Man, The Work of Lucy Skaer by James Clegg



Lucy Skaer
Lucy Skaer

Bullet points of what you would like to talk about:

  • Talbot Rice Gallery’s current exhibition The Green Man.
  • The methods used by artists to develop creative ideas.
  • Collections, museums and the politics of display.
  • How translating objects from one material into another transforms their meaning.


A few paragraphs on your subject:

Lucy Skaer’s exhibition The Green Man is an exploration of irrationality in collections. In the traditional museum, time is linear and free from ageing, order is presented and the body is absent. Skaer asks what happens if desire, change, empathy and fallibility were instead to become the organising principles. Throughout her practice, Skaer mines and manipulates pre-existing imagery – from art and history, as well as from her own oeuvre and personal history – transforming and destabilising relationships between materials and meanings. For this exhibition, Skaer has selected items from the collections of the University of Edinburgh, inviting fellow artists to inhabit the galleries of Talbot Rice alongside her – Fiona Connor, H.D., Will Holder, Nashashibi/Skaer and Hanneline Visnes.
To Skaer, the Green Man is a deeply irrational figure, spewing leaves and vines in place of language. Present in both pagan and Christian imagery, the Green Man made a resurgence after the plague, when wilderness and weeds took over much of the arable land. Skaer has selected items from the collection, bringing them into dialogue with her own constantly shifting works. Where before there was stability, she has opened windows into the Gallery, allowing light in that may cause them to sprout, grow and form a thicket of ideas. In calling the exhibition The Green Man, Lucy Skaer likens the spontaneous generation and evolution of form in artworks such as Sticks and Stones (2015–18) to the symbol of destruction and renewal found in carved stone faces made of leaves and vines.
Amongst this scene are: Hanneline Visnes’ paintings which comment on the representation and control of nature using stylised motifs of animals and plants; Will Holder’s interpretive re-publishing of H.D.’s Palimpsest; Nashashibi/Skaer’s film that revisits the tableaus of Gauguin; and Fiona Connor’s exposure of the Gallery’s secret places. All contribute to the exhibition’s exploration of collections, forms, print and language. The Green Man includes a number of new works commissioned by Talbot Rice Gallery for the exhibition, carving playful new ways for the collections of the University to speak to our visitors, and representing Skaer’s most in-depth exhibition in the UK to date.

A few paragraphs about you:

James is an Assistant Curator for Talbot Rice Gallery. Passionate about contemporary art he has curated and helped to curate lots of exhibitions for the Gallery since 2010. He is specifically interested in artists that work across disciplinary boundaries and he works hard to create meeting points for different types of practitioner and different types of audience. This includes public events that see academics, performers and poets coming together to create new dialogues around specific ideas. It also includes talks and tours with a range of different groups, including ones connected to the Scottish Refugee Council, Crisis Scotland and various colleges and adult education groups.
Seeing a close connection between education and creativity he has organised events with The Ragged University since 2016. In particular, he is interested in approaches to learning that do not assume that the world will ever yield easy or permanent answers. ‘acts of dis play’, an exhibition he made in 2016 with the artist Rob Kennedy foregrounded this principle by emphasising the relative ‘jeopardy’ of live experience over and above the reductive explanations that are usually offered in this context. In this way, act of dis play – which featured a nine- metre tree apparently held in place by debris and a leaning scaffold tower – placed emphasis on audiences’ self-learning and discovery.
Other exhibitions James has curated include John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea (21 October 2017 – 27 January 2018) and Stephen Sutcliffe’s Sex Symbols in Sandwich Signs (28 July – 30 September 2017). He also writes occasionally as an art critic for Art Review and Art Monthly.

What free internet knowledge resources would you recommend to others if they wish to explore your chosen theme further?

YouTube player

What are your weblinks?

Website –
Twitter – @JCwritercurator @talbotrice75 #tradingzone
Facebook – Talbot Rice Gallery
Public Email – [email protected] and [email protected]

This event took place at the Talbot Rice Gallery (The University of Edinburgh, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL) on 24th Sept 2018