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Submit Response is a weblog by Jack Mottram, a journalist who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. There are 1308 posts in the archives. You can subscribe to a feed. This post was made on and belongs in the art, interviews category. The previous post was , and the next post is .

Jim Lambie

Jim Lambie is famous for making tight grids of tape on gallery floors, the mysterious Soul Sticks and being in The Boy Hairdressers. We talked to him in advance of a solo show at Inverlieth House. Just for a change this is a finished piece, originally published in The List, rather than a Q & A.

‘If you want to know what’s going in the new show,’ says Jim Lambie, by way of a greeting, ‘I haven’t got a clue.’ This is not the most auspicious opening gambit in a conversation about, well, what’s going in the new show. It’s not a surprise, though. Lambie makes work that looks as if he’s rushed into the gallery and promptly rushed out again, leaving a trail of work in his wake. Whether it’s a floor pasted over with stripes of luridly coloured insulation tape, or a Technics 1210 turntable doused in gritty globs of glitter, Lambie puts stuff in galleries that oozes fevered on-the-spot creation. This is not a studio-bound artist who labours over precise configurations, tweaking objects into place to sate that conceptual monkey on his back.

‘If the work isn’t made entirely in the space, it’s put together in the space,’ Lambie confirms, ‘Take the last thing I did, in Miami. The conceptual basis for the piece was there in my head, and the conceptual base in terms of the materials I wanted to use was there, but then for the art part of it I had to run about for two days gathering materials up and work out the best way to put those materials together. There’s always a lot of running around. For this last piece, I had the idea to do floor sculptures, but when I got to the gallery there were three large drains on the floor, and they were just going to interfere with the work and interrupt it, so I ended up doing a black duct tape cross-hatching across the floor. That was something generated there, out of necessity. You need to deal with this, you need to deal with that. For me, rightly or wrongly, working like that puts an energy in the work that it wouldn’t have if I had the piece sitting in a studio for six months.’

This is, though, the only point on which Lambie concurs with the usual interpretation of what he does, and he seems to delight in swatting away conventional readings of his work. Take music. Lambie was in The Boy Hairdressers, a Glasgow group that tend to be branded legendary, or at least seminal, by a certain breed of fanzine-writer. He’s a working disc jockey, as well as an artist. More than that, his work is littered with allusions to matters musical. Many pieces share their titles with pop hits, the 12 inch record is a recurring prop, the spirit of Larry Levan hovers behind those disco-fied turntables and the abstract floor sculptures call to mind the cover of Blondie’s Parallel Lines or the dance floor of some subterranean nitespot.

For Lambie, these seemingly central concerns are, at best, tangential to his work. ‘It’s referenced by other people,’ he admits, ‘and I can’t really deny that it’s there, but… I make sculpture. I always start the work from a sculptural point of view. I’m trying to make new sculpture. I’m trying to contextualise sculpture. It’s always sculpture. Music might bleed into the work, as something that I like and because I use the stuff that’s round about me, stuff that’s lying around, like the records. I use them as pure material, but then the readings are there for everybody, the signs are there for everybody. My point is that it never starts from there — I wouldn’t know where to start describing music through sculpture, or through painting, or through anything that I do.’

What, then, is behind the music in Lambie’s work? The answer seems simple enough on the surface: space. ‘I work from an idea, and turn it into material,’ Lambie explains, ‘As opposed to other conceptual artists who try to get away from objects, i’m trying to get into them. I create myself a problem and try to find a solution that i’m happy with. Things like, ‘How do you make a corner piece?’ or ‘If I take this apart, what does that do?’ Just question after question about space. It’s more about a need than a want, about the necessity of a situation. I deal with a floor, instead of saying ‘I want a floor.’ If I did that I’d end up with some solid gold floor thing with big metal rivets in it that didn’t respond to the context, that was just something that I conjured up. I used to make really tight conceptual work, where everything is handed to you, and it’s all theory-driven. I wasn’t enjoying making that work. I was paralysing myself with too much theory, so I started to make stuff, and then think about it once it was made. I think starting with a simple problem, then working through that is enough to be getting on with.’

Lambie even denies any strong thematic ties between his pieces, though such links appear obvious to the viewer. ‘I never think about that,’ he says, ‘I’m always just working on that question that’s come to me through the piece I’m working on at that time. I want to stay like that. If I start to understand what I’m doing too much, then it becomes too knowing, too calculated. I want an interesting life. I want to be making different stuff. I don’t want to be identified as that guy who does that one thing.’

This isn’t contrariness for it’s own sake. For all Lambie’s insistance that he is, above all, a sculptor concerned with space, and his reluctance to accept responses that latch on to what is, for him, an almost coincidental immersion in music, he ends up by demolishing any opposition between artist and viewer. ‘People are free to bring to that piece and take from that piece whatever they want to. The work is a starting point for other people, not an end result for me. People will thread anything through these pieces, and that can surprise me, and surprise them. It’s more a generative thing than anything to do with putting hard edges on my ideas. I’m into flow and change, and making work that allows other people to feel that same thing. There’s just too many fucking edges, you know?’

Posted at 2pm on 03/01/03 by Jack Mottram to the art, interviews category.
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  1. Anyone know how to get in touch with Jim Lambie? I’m an old friend of his.

    Posted by Martin at 11am on 13.08.03

  2. good to see you again in glasgow jim.just been lookin at some of your art on the interweb.i didn’t realize that i’d met such a prominent artist!i, i’ve seen your duct tape floor installations somewhere but didnt put a face to the name if you know what i mean man.i’m a bit of an arsist myself mainly modern arse and a bit of abstract arse,piss art and i do some paintings occasionally.anyway wwwould be great to see yoou again soon,maybe me and siobhan could come and dj in glasgow,i would love to do a night with you sometime.keep in touch and have a fuckin great year jim, love from wildcatxx

    Posted by wildcat will at 12am on 13.01.04

  3. Er, this is about Jim Lambie, not by him…

    Posted by Jack Mottram at 12am on 13.01.04

  4. where do you get your lovely mirrored vinyl tape from ?
    I have searched in vain and can only find it on US sites

    Posted by penny hayhurst at 8pm on 02.08.04

  5. jim are you by any chance related to the lambies from clydebank and was your fathers name robert son of robert (the hat) and lizzie. Its a long shot, but who knows?
    William Lambie born Renfrew Scotland 1946
    Residing in Perth W Australia

    Posted by william lambie at 11am on 06.12.05


    Posted by Jack Barnett at 7pm on 05.02.06

  7. A very interesting site with top design and contents!
    Top earring links!

    Posted by Tiencyceridge at 6pm on 08.01.08

  8. Hi Jim, Nice article you wrote there. Why do you talk about yourself in the third person?

    love, christopher robbins

    Posted by Christopher Robbins at 5pm on 31.01.08

  9. come on Jim stop having a laugh .. You’re faking it you big sausage.

    can i buy a set of your chairs for my patio?

    Ta Jim

    Posted by Christopher Bigbum at 9am on 02.05.08

  10. Hi, My name is Roberto Scafidi, Im from Argentina, Today I received some photographs from one of my students, and from one person who owns the site of art history , who is writing his thesis about me in the Complutense University in Spain.Im amazed by what I find to be a total plagiarization of my work by this Jim Lambie. The MoMA s floor is totally taken from my work , that you could see at . Im working in this way since 1993 and
    cannot believe this shamelessly rip off. My work is catalogued in various books pertaining to the Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires , Argentina. And Im going to sue this Lambey fraud.
    My mail is

    Posted by Roberto Scafidi at 7pm on 27.05.08

  11. My name is Roberto Scafidi, artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina.This thursday I was shocked and amazed when a student in my class ( I teach in Art Curatorship at Philadelphia College in Buenos Aires, among others schools, and Universitys), and Manuel de Corselas, owner of the, a Art History site from Spain both showed me a photograph of the MoMAs floor by this Jim Lambie, wich I consider to be a total rip off my work. I´m working in this line since 1993, there are many catalogues and books in the National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires that can prove what im saying. You can check some of my work at , a art history site from Spain , write my last name in the ” busqueda” case and you could see. Its not “quite like it” its a detail of one of my works, every and each color, the composition, etc. I cant believe the lack of ethics of this guy,but … Mark Harden of the Artchive knows my work since 2006, Nina Colosi, art Curator from N.Y, and many other people in the U.S, and Europe.Got some colectors in Paris, Munich, Italy and Spain, besides Latin America. Please check what Im saying, you will see its true. I´ve been awarded some times, by the French Embassy in 1991´92, lived in Paris at The Cité Internationale des Arts. I´m not saying this out of vanity, but to remark that I have many years working behind me , and many people know my work, and coldnt believe when they saw this plagiarization. I hope you can spread this news for the truths sake.
    My mail is
    Thank you very much

    Posted by Roberto Scafidi at 9pm on 30.05.08

  12. HI

    Posted by THE gnome at 10am on 01.08.08

  13. Hi Roberto,

    You should check out a guy called Mondrian.
    He is also ripping you off.

    Posted by THE gnome at 10am on 01.08.08

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