MUMA claire lambe.indd 3
17/08/2011 4:42:21 PM
Geraldine Barlow
In Claire Lambe’s work body parts swell, grow and
overgrow. Matter becomes body in sculptures which are
variously distended, engorged, hyper-real, abject, electric
and wooden.
The creative, sexual, reproductive, and destructive
drivers of our existence animate Lambe’s study of what it
is to be human. These forces can be read in the collection
of forms through which Lambe creates her own expressive
lexicon. Lambe speaks to, teases and challenges us with
her plastic vocabulary of phallic forms, baseball bats,
rolling pins, bronze and plaster batons, dildos, heaped
strata of clay, slicing layers of glass and orb-like fleshy
In creating these works Lambe draws as much from a
rich body of personal and cultural references as she does
from the tactile process of making itself. Her practice
balances an intelligent appreciation of the world in which
we live (love and struggle against each other) with a
curiosity toward cultural, social and medical histories, as
well as the natural world.
Beadlestaff takes its title from one ‘family’ of sculptural
elements in Lambe’s installation Ultra Primo, first shown
at Ocular Lab, Melbourne in 2009. This work presents an
intriguing, assertive and materially playful array of phallic
objects, displayed upon three trestle tables. Some of the
objects are relatively unadorned and ‘straight’ in form,
others quote the male anatomy in precise detail. Many
of the forms are partially sheathed in a plaster ‘growth’,
one phallus in bronze is encircled by kind of seal or rim
bearing the imprint of a hand. At times Lambe’s making
is almost a kind of kneading, rolling pins and doughy
appendages suggesting moments of sexual reverie amidst
the domestic and prosaic. These works speak of touch,
pleasure, play, creation and violence. The tables include
baseball bats, and bat-like evolutions of the phallic form,
bats in both brightly coloured wax and army green. Amidst
partially dismembered sex toys these sculptures take us
on a journey from the playful and erotic, into more violent
narratives. We are reminded that the streamlined timbers
of a baseball bat, designed to send a ball spinning out into
the air, might easily be re-purposed as a weapon.
MUMA claire lambe.indd 4
Another ‘family’ of forms amidst Lambe’s interbred array
of phalli have evolved from her drawing of the ceremonial
staff of a beadle, something like a community warden,
dating from 1787 and held in the Hunterian Museum,
Royal College of Surgeons, London. This wooden staff or
club was adorned with a cast figure of a phoenix rising
from jagged tongues of flame. Lambe noted from the
adjacent wall label that ‘Beadles were responsible for
delivering bodies from the gallows to the hall of dissection,
a duty which often brought them into conflict with friends
and family of the executed felon’.
The Beadle makes a number of appearances in
Virginia Woolf’s extended essay A room of one’s own
1929, responsible for enforcing the rules and code of the
privileged colleges whose role in providing male access
to higher education Woolf questions. Slightly ridiculous,
beadles are the keepers of masculine power and order:
waving their arms in curious uniforms, serving ceremonial
and elaborate desserts, ‘innumerable beadles were fitting
innumerable keys into well-oiled locks; the treasure-house
was being made secure for another night.’1
At the edges of the beadles’ purview other possibilities
emerge; Woolf writes: ‘(here I pushed into the garden, for,
unwisely, the door was left open and no beadles seemed
about), the beauty of the world which is so soon to perish,
has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting
the heart asunder.’2 Lambe, similarly, creates a space with
blended qualities of the private and public, where play
and pain might meet unexpectedly, where discovery of the
unknown is paired with new insights into the familiar.
1. Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, Penguin, London,
2004, p. 15
2. Ibid. p. 19
17/08/2011 4:42:22 PM
Yakety Sax 2010
installation view
Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne
Photograph: Phebe Schmidt
MUMA claire lambe.indd 1
17/08/2011 4:41:49 PM
MUMA claire lambe.indd 6
17/08/2011 4:42:23 PM
above and below: Ultra Primo 2009, detail
opposite: Ultra Primo 2009, installation view, Ocular Lab, Melbourne
Claire Lambe was born in Macclesfield, United Kingdom
in 1962, she lives and works in Melbourne. Lambe
received her Master of Fine Arts at Goldsmiths, London
in 1995, undertook a postgraduate year at the University
of New South Wales, Sydney in 1990 and completed her
Bachelor of Fine Arts at Bristol College of Art, Bristol,
United Kingdom in 1985. In 2010 Lambe established the
artist-run space Death Be Kind with Elvis Richardson
in Brunswick, Melbourne, together they created the
exhibition The Memorial. Lambe’s other solo exhibitions
include: Ultra Primo, Ocular Lab, Melbourne, 2009; The
Fitting, Ocular Lab, Melbourne, 2004; Giving shape
to memory, Acme Studios Deptford, London, 1995
and H.I.D.E. The Works Gallery, Sydney, 1991. Lambe
has participated in various group and collaborative
exhibitions including: Claire Lambe, Lou Hubbard, Sarah
Scout Gallery, Melbourne, 2010; Erotographomania,
curator Sarah Jones, CAST gallery, Hobart, Tasmania,
2010; CHANGE, Monash University Museum of Art,
2010; Monumental Effect and The Monks Parlour,
Death Be Kind, Melbourne, 2010; Get oak firmness,
curated by Elvis Richardson, Ocular Lab and Hell
Gallery, Melbourne, 2010; Into the Closet, Carlton Arms,
Melbourne, 2007; Elastic: an Archive Project, Cross Arts
projects, Sydney, 2006; Domestic Hits, an exhibition
across various domestic environments, Melbourne/
London, 2002/2004; Shopping, Brixton, London, 2001;
Art Cosie, Window Space, Hoxton Square, London,
2001; Front Room, Atlantis Gallery Brick Lane, London,
1998; Finders Keepers, Cumming Museum, London,
1998; Mix, Annexed, Hoxton Square, London; Parallel
Lines, Battersea Arch, London, 1996; Goldsmiths Group
Show, Deptford, London, 1996; Claire Lambe and Martin
Simms, The Coach House Gallery, Sydney, 1992 and
Transformation, Dissidence, Bondi Pavilion Gallery,
MUMA claire lambe.indd 5
17/08/2011 4:42:22 PM
Claire Lambe
Presented by Monash University Museum of Art
Curator: Geraldine Barlow
Switchback Gallery
Gippsland Centre for Art & Design
9 August – 1 September 2011
Catalogue published by
Monash University Museum of Art
Auguat 2011 Edition 500 ISBN 978-0-9871139-3-1
Catalogue design: Yanni Florence
© 2011 Monash University Museum of Art, the artists and author.
The views and opinions expressed in this catalogue are those of
the author. No material, whether written or photographic, may be
reproduced without the permission of the artists, author and Monash
University Museum of Art.
Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA
Ground Floor, Building F, Monash University Caulfield campus
900 Dandenong Road, Caulfield East, VIC 3145, Australia
T: 61 3 9905 4217
E: muma@
Tuesday – Friday 10am-5pm; Saturday 12-5pm
MUMA Staff
Max Delany, Director
Geraldine Barlow, Senior Curator/Collection Manager
Sarah Morris, Program Administrator
Catherine Bennetts-Cash, Curator – Collection
Francis E. Parker, Curator – Exhibitions
Rosemary Forde, Visitor Services Coordinator
David H. Thomas, Museum Officer
Lisa Radford, Education and Audience Development
Aneta Trajkoski, Merryn Lloyd, Daniel Withers, Museum Assistants
List of works
Ultra Primo 2009-2011
bronze, plaster, clay, silicon, wax and found objects
60 selected sculptural objects presented on three trestle
Dimensions variable
and including
Untitled (no. 2) (no. 14) (no. 26) (no. 31) (no. 50) (no. 6)
(no. 25) (no. 9) 2009
Monash University Collection
purchased 2009
other works courtesy of the artist
Yakety Sax 2010
clay, perspex and silicon
100.0 x 130.0 x 150.0
dimensions variable
courtesy of the artist
MUMA claire lambe.indd 2
17/08/2011 4:42:21 PM