Spike Island presents Wet Room, the first major solo exhibition in the UK by Cornwall-based artist Lucy Stein (b. 1979). Working primarily with painting and drawing, Stein’s show is inspired by the fougou: narrow Neolithic underground passages unique to West Cornwall that lead to womb-like chambers and have become sacred sites of worship. Echoing the ritual rebirthing ceremonies that are believed to have taken place within these uterine caverns, the exhibition centres around an installation comprising a bathtub and sink with running taps, surrounded by tiled walls that have been hand-painted with scenes relating to the artist’s study of western esoteric traditions.
Surrounding the central installation is a series of new paintings and drawings. Made during Stein’s second pregnancy and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, these new works reflect on a period of intensive domestic caregiving and anxiety. They combine Greek mythology, esoteric culture, and ecclesiastical and medieval imagery with vibrant tableaus that depict a wide range of western female archetypes. We see Mary Magdalene (2021) mournfully kissing the wounds of a dead Christ; an exuberant young woman with exaggerated breasts holding an ear of corn in May Queen (2020); and a tussling, half-naked old woman in Hag Fight (2020). Through these works Stein brings in the notion of the numinous – a religious or spiritual quality – in an attempt to describe the real, the symbolic and the imaginary.
Loaded with wittiness and humour, the works in Wet Room challenge the different clichés and stereotypes that have shaped the interpretations of esoteric culture and the female psyche for decades.
Lucy Stein has been based in St. Just, Cornwall since 2015. She studied at The Glasgow School of Art, and later at De Ateliers, in Amsterdam. Recent solo exhibitions include Thesmophoria (including the performance lecture Bride of Quiet) Galerie Gregor Staiger Milan (2020); Digitalis Purpurea (a re-introspective ), Conceptual Fine Arts , Milan (online) (2020), £10.66, Palette Terre, Paris (2018); Crying the Neck, NICC Brussels (with Nina Royle) (2017); On Celticity (organised with Paola Clerico), Rodeo Gallery, London (2016). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Futura , Prague (2020); Bonington Gallery, Nottingham (2019); Tate St Ives (2018); TULCA festival, Galway; Newlyn Gallery, Penzance (all 2017); Le Bourgeoise, London(2016); UKS Oslo (2015). In 2017 she co-organised “Fuck you wheres my Suger” a two day festival celebrating depression and hysteria at Cafe Oto in London with Mark Harwood. In 2016 she co-curated NEO-PAGAN BITCH-WITCH! at Evelyn Yard, London with France-Lise McGurn and in 2015 she organized the performance event The Wise Wound with Tate St Ives and Porthmeor studios.
Between November 2019 and May 2022 Stein and Sarah Hartnett will be undertaking a pilgrimage along the Mary leyline which runs from Carn Les Boel in Cornwall to Hopton in Norfolk.
Wet Room is part of the West of England Visual Arts Alliance programme, supported by Arts Council England. Following its presentation at Spike Island, the exhibition tours to the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea in Spring 2022.
Join us for a performative lecture on 15 December with artist, writer and researcher Maria Christoforidou and exhibiting artist Lucy Stein.Book your place
A limited edition of sixteen hand-painted ceramic tiles, each unique and featuring some of the imagery from 'Wet Room': a mixture of Greek mythology, esoteric culture, ecclesiastical and medieval tableaus often depicting a wide range of western female archetypes.Order online