IMN #34 — Sam Spratt
It's Monday Night #34
Tonight, let’s share thoughts about @SamSpratt's work: an intriguing series of digital paintings combined with esoteric texts that tell us the epic & mythological tale of Luci.
The proposal of @SamSpratt is initially somewhat confusing: an audacious reappropriation of the figure of Lucy, who was for a long time the most complete human fossil for the extinct species of australopithecines.
As is often the case, the creative work begins with a simple play on the signifier: here, it is the substitution of one letter for another. Lucy becomes Luci.
This minimal change does not imply any sound transformation of the word (phonetically, Lucy and Luci are identical) but is enough to make Sam's Luci a fictional character.
It is by the reversal of the last letter (the lowercase i as lowercase y in reverse) that we tip over in the myth: Luci is not anymore a vestige of the past but the name of a new beginning.
Paradoxically, Luci is the name of what is more archaic and the name of an event which is still to come and which, to take place, requires that we go back through all the stages of this accident that we call human life.
One could say that the Luci project takes the format of a television series and transforms it. Rather than bringing a drama to its conclusion, each chapter deepens the enigmatic character of this epic that is both a hypnotizing perdition and a return to humanity's childhood.
Every @SamSpratt's paintings is an episode of great dramatic intensity that seems destined to remain unresolved.
The texts used as captions are there to provoke an interpretation that disorients or neutralizes any simplistic reading of the painting, such as: first, an initial situation, then a disturbing element, twists and turns, a denouement and a final situation.
Luci's saga does not correspond to any pre-established narrative scheme.
It is made of ellipsis, silence, eternal return, flashbacks, by a deliberate use of anachronism and other forms of mixing temporalities.
We should speak here of a work of composition or montage rather than of a legend: on the one hand, the painting is not an "illustration" of the text and, on the other hand, the text never gives the explanation of what is painted.
To my mind, the text functions as an invitation and a challenge: the fable activates a network of analogies and metaphors that pushes us to look for the meaning of the painting at different levels (historical, allegorical, literal, etc.), as for a sacred symbol.
Luci is this prehistoric human animal that lives forever in the time of the origins, and it would still be the case even if she had to live in the end of the times.
From one painting to another, we discover her in various positions, re-enacting the most elementary gestures of human life: rituals of care, life and death, walking, resting, fighting, devotion.
But Luci does not accomplish a kind of return to the lost paradise - the state of nature, the eden of before the fall. Behind her, there are skyscrapers, next to her, books.
Around Luci, the desert grows and deepens.
To represent it, @SamSpratt has a visual language of great technical mastery: his digital "brushstroke" brings him, in a sense, closer to working in oil on canvas.
He is precise on the color but lets the surfaces meet, mix, merge, which sometimes gives the painting a phantasmagorical character, which evokes a mirage or a hallucination.
Luci's body itself seems to be made of the same material as what surrounds her, everything becomes "mineralized", acquiring the solidity, the hardness and the sharpness of the stone.
The two dominant colors are blue and orange, which are in constant tension. The blue of the sky and the orange of the desert; the air and solid elements ; the bluish tones of Luci's fur and Isaac's orange skin.
Luci is not alone. Luci is surrounded by beings that look like them and by others whose identity is not clearly recognizable.
To begin with Isaac, who is there three or four times, that she protects, carries, that she initiates to the world - Isaac, in the Bible, is the son of Abraham, the child that God asks him to sacrifice.
In VII. Wormfood, Isaac seems to be there in the background, holding by the hand an indeterminate silhouette but which does not seem to be of the same species as Luci.
In V. Map to Wander, in the same way, we guess in the distance a figure who seems to belong to another time and haunts the landscape like a ghostly presence.
Details are crucial in @SamSpratt's work. He scatters clues, allusions, signs that discreetly act on the meaning of the scene in a suggestive way, offered to the observation of the attentive spectator:
a placid bird on a branch, a human skull on the ground, that yellow scarf made of worn fabric that comes back from one painting to another, like the flag of a conqueror without homeland.
Luci is indeed radical, in the sense that she takes back everything to the root, but she lives the world of after and she didn't lose the memory: she advances looking behind her, she keeps the memory of all that took place.
She is not like Ulysses, who seeks to return home: Luci's nostalgia must be lived in a permanent exile that does not lead to any definitive rest.
She is not a goddess - she is, biologically, only a representative of a bygone version of the human species - but she is a composite mythological figure that is part King Kong, part Virgin Mary - as on this rock where she appears almost like a Madonna embracing the Christ Child.
Curious anomaly: her stature is "human" but her morphology is simian. In fact, Luci has everything of a monkey, except the gaze and the attitudes ; she is monkey by her organs and human by her attitudes and her relation to the world.
The archetype of the simian monster no longer embodies the great Other like in Hollywood movies (the return of the repressed: the destruction of nature by humans) but the last refuge of a surviving humanity.
At the dawn of humanity was Luci. At the twilight, too.