BRUCE LACEY EXHIBITION SPECIAL: THE FLYING WITCH-DOCTOR; EXHIBITION REVIEW
On arriving at the Camden Arts Centre, I was delighted to see they were giving out free cake, sandwiches and tea. After munching down in the garden, I was in a good mood as I entered the exhibition. The world I entered was very familiar. It was very British and very of its time. It was a mangled and happy jumble of mid-20th Century English culture. Lacey was almost killed by a V2 rocket in Enfield, which brutally smashed off the wing of his toy Hawker Hurricane.
It is an England of bizarre humour and arsing about, of parlour games and fancy dress. Everything is tinged with the colour brown, a shed-like quality that even reaches into Lacey’s later psychedelic period (was that him at the exhibition in a tye-died gown?). His work has the scruffy home-made darkness of penny arcades, automaton’s jaw-bones laughing away, and the doom of hospitals (from back when they were Victorian death museums). Like Monty Python or Spike Milligan, it ridicules authority, and it is thick with Spitfire nostalgia. He pukes out the English subconcious with ease, doing for us what The Cramps and John Waters did for mid-20th Century Americana.
While in the Air Training Corps he built a working flight simulator in his bedroom- not the modern kind but the 1940s device, a simple rocking construction largely made of wood. The world is viewed as a boy would, full of fun red indians and astronauts and planes. His work which involves magick rituals, seems no more complex than a happy make-believing, real play.
The amount of work is impressive and I grew jealous of how well he has spent his life. Why have I not performed diabolical rituals at night? Or built spacesuits?
Though I said this work was very English it also fits into another world, the side of aviation explored by Joseph Beuys and the Belgian artist Panamenrenko (who has a Fokker 50 named in his honour); that is, an aeroplane as a one-off machine that allows a person to take flight. As if children playing had accidently flown.
As you sit in your white plastic easyJet (lower-case e) bombarded with audio adverts for boring crap this may not readily come to mind.