The Bruce Lacey Experience
The Bruce Lacey Experience currently on at the Camden Arts Centre showcases one of Britain’s great visionary artists. Co-curated by artist Jeremy Deller and art historian Professor David Alan Mellor, the exhibition charts Lacey’s artistic development in a career encompassing painting, sculpture, robotised assemblages, theatrical performances and installations, as well as community arts and ritual action performances.
Lacey has described his work as a type of personal psychotherapy which has intuitively responded to his emotional needs. This approach began in his early 20s; whilst hospitalised with tuberculosis after serving in the Royal Navy he started to draw macabre scenes and childhood memories. After his recovery in 1951, he enrolled at the Royal College of Art and simultaneously began his performance career with outrageous stunts drawn from circus and variety theatre.
Lacey often involved his family in his escapades, as revealed by Ken Russell’s 1962 documentary, The Preservation Man. In this film Russell captures Lacey’s flamboyance, his six children around him, reveling in a magical atmosphere. Around this time Lacey began constructing assemblages and machines expressing his feelings about the technologised and conservative Cold War society that surrounded him. He was hailed as a leading figure of the ‘New Realism’ and his assemblages took the form of full size kinetic automatons (‘electric actors’) including the comic figures of Old Moneybags, Clockface, Electric Man and Rosa Bosom. It was Rosa who won the ‘Alternative Miss World’ in 1985.
Lacey’s eccentricity and technical aptitude led to working relationships with performers such as Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers and he produced trick props for pioneering off-beat comedy shows. He also famously appeared as George Harrison’s flute playing gardener in The Beatles’ film Help.
The diverse production is a celebration of both his vibrant life and his art, which reveals telling links with the visual culture of the last 60 years and is well worth a visit.
The Bruce Lacey Exhibition is on now at Camden Arts Centre till 16 Sepetember