Conversations with the Collection | Staff Insights on Sarah Lucas

Being so close to the artworks every day, our Security and Visitor Services team have a unique relationship with our collection. Colleagues from this team have written creative responses to an artwork or artist of their choosing from this display. These personal pieces aim to open up different ways of seeing our collection. This blog was written by Edward on NUD 25, by English artist Sarah Lucas.

As this piece uses some biological terminology we have included a short glossary at the end.

NUD 25: How Sarah Lucas evokes the Hagfish

When you enter the room, you are not alone. You are greeted, under warm light, by a pale, pliable embrace. By its nature, you are excluded from its touch. Yet it invites you to feel the nylon, the texture and density of the woollen fluff. You want to touch it; you are not permitted. Bundled, its eyes are inferred, perhaps covered over, its neck crooked. It is not threatened by your presence. Why would it be? You share a kinship, of skin, soft innards, curling on uncomfortable pedestals, processed under diffused light. The bulging of its side portrays a fullness, or contentment. It disguises its most sensitive parts with lifeless constriction. When you are not looking, the pulse returns and the body contracts in peristalsis. It turns in knots, ouroboric.

NUD 25 (2010) evokes the myxiniform. By the common name of Hagfish, myxinformes are aquatic animals. Eel-like, they have a skull, but no backbone. A cord with no vertebrae. They have small, pale, lidless eyes, submerged below their outer layer of skin. They feed on the dead. They have no jaw. Their skin is loose, only attached along the spine. They are your kin. This relationship is inevitable, inescapable; it is inexorable.

Sarah Lucas NUD 25 2010 © Sarah Lucas, courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London

With its permission, you might be inclined to lift it to your chest, cup it under your arm, squeeze it under your coat. You might settle it within the refuge of a cardboard box, a cat-carrier, lined with blankets. You might seek to warm it below a lamp, swaddle its form, lay it to sleep somewhere cosy. It would likely be indifferent to your efforts. Had it the power, perhaps it would scoff, or roll its lens-less eyes. The pursuit of physical pleasure, relief of strain, enclosure, petty company, are so beneath it. Perhaps it would pity you, if it cared to.

Yet, you are beckoned, skinned, clothed, burdened, to imitate. To cower. To turn. The sensation of your skin against itself. Reaching for unloved places, locked off by your bones; the centre of the back, the crook of your neck, the places unseen. You are different. The square hinge of your jaw, interlocking vertebrae, a column around your spine. You long to reach out. To wrap around. To hold, and cradle, to separate the softness, cushion the abrasion of concrete. To warm the cold, to swaddle the naked. You are kin. Siblings of conscious creation. This relationship is inevitable, inescapable; it is inexorable.

It exists as a furless, faceless, limbless plush and whirling thing. It exists as a statue, a bottle-necked lineage of stone. It is child of none. It is borne of others. It has not bones, yet it has within a spine. It has no jaw. 

To be cartilaginous. To flex your jaw. To be made of tights and wire and fluff. You are different. You are kin. This relationship is Inevitable. Inescapable. Inexorable.

By Edward Wilkinson, 18 November 2022


Peristalsis – The rippling contraction of internal organs

Cartilaginous – Possessing a skeleton made of cartilage

Ouroboric – To look inward. To consume one’s own tail

By Edward Wilkinson, 18 November 2022