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… On first glance, the art of Lucy Steggals appears disparate: without an immediately recognisable language to allow for comparison. Quickly though, we realise that such first impressions come at the fault of the viewer. These are the mistakes of not looking hard enough, and of not thinking beyond the realms of the prescribed everyday. Steggals is not interested in the humdrum - not really - although she does have a heightened awareness that it is within the realm of the mundane that the miraculous usually occurs. In essence, Steggals has much in common with the Surrealists and interestingly recalls an early relationship with the paintings of René Magritte, having been brought up in Belgium. Like the Surrealists, Steggals interweaves dream and reality to create a sense of ‘surreality’ in her work. This is well exemplified by the alter ego of ‘Mr Eagle’, a character who collects concave and convex lenses and always carries an umbrella even though he never ventures outside. In the same way that Max Ernst developed the character Loplop, and Duchamp became Rose Sélavy, Steggals has so far embodied four of a set of seven animal characters, each illustrated in a pack of cards bought at a market. The artist’s flirtation with a changing alter ego reveals her interest in the key Surrealist question, ‘Who Am I?’ whilst at the same time acknowledges the fact that identity is a shifting and fragmented concept. Equally, as the creature cards form part of a game, Steggals reveals her repeated concern with play, and thus with the importance of freedom and the imagination.


Interestingly, the movement that precedes Surrealism, ‘Dada’, takes its name from a child’s way of addressing a hobbyhorse. The studio of Steggals is a treasure trove of beautiful, used old toys. Puzzles and building blocks become tools of the artist, to help grapple with the question of how best to speak of unspeakable ideas, of how to set accessible parameters when dealing with the deepest of concerns. For Steggals, this existential notion is illustrated not only through a love of ‘solvable’ puzzles, but also through the use of the ‘contained’ book format…

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Human Explorer, 2013

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