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YBA's in Focus: Sarah Lucas, Pauline Bunny, 1997, Mixed Media

Quoting directly from Tate’s website, artist Sterling Ruby says the following on the signficance of Lucas’s Pauline Bunny:

"Sarah Lucas has always been a big influence of mine. Her straightforward approach to both the subject matter and materials feels genuine. Pauline Bunny is quintessential Lucas, stripped down and assembled out of stockings, a somewhat mid-century looking chair and a pair of metal clamps. Her works border on abstraction, while always suggesting a broken figurative shape or some stand-in for the physically collapsing body. Pauline Bunny is less of a full figure than it is a torso with two sets of legs, a thing stuck in-between sexualised formalism and figurative abstraction. It is a perfect sculptural object.

Like so much of Sarah’s art, it exists as an exquisite trap for heterosexual male desires: it is and it isn’t alluring. The sculpture alludes to eroticism, but delivers a punch in the gut to the libido and ego. In each Lucas work, there seems to be a heavy dose of autobiography and critiques of gender roles. I have always thought that she maintains an amazing balancing act between materials and content, humour and humiliation, social critique and personal revelation.”

When we think of the YBA’s Sarah Lucas is one of the first names that comes to the forefront due to her ability to embrace and manipulate everyday materials in a way which shocks.

Pauline is part of the artist’s 'Bunny Gets Snookered' series which started in 1997. 8 of these bunny mannequins were made and placed around a snooker table. For each bunny, Lucas study different coloured tights with cotton and placed each figure in different positions and poses around the table.

Quoting again from Tate, who explain:

'Pauline Bunny, in its black stockings, corresponds to the highest value snooker ball. The black stockings are the most traditionally alluring of the selection of colours, connecting this representation of a woman to the image of a seductress. Any suggestion of power this might carry is subverted by the passivity of the floppy, stuffed body, which is clipped to an office chair, providing an emblem of secretarial submissiveness. The title of the installation reinforces the reading of disempowerment: to be snookered, in the language of the game of snooker, means to be prevented from scoring. This bunny girl is trapped by her femininity, only to be knocked against her fellow bunnies in a game of masculine skill’

Jo McLaughlin

March 2021

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