John Spurling

Big space, small space

<strong>Liliane Lijn: Stardust</strong><em><br /> Riflemaker, 79 Beak Street, London W1,<br /> until 5 July</em>

Liliane Lijn: Stardust
Riflemaker, 79 Beak Street, London W1,
until 5 July

Liliane Lijn has always made ‘far-out’ sculpture, innovative, adventurous and aesthetically exhilarating. Her imagination fires on three cylinders: light, movement and the use of new and untried materials — untried, that’s to say, in art, though already in use for industrial or scientific purposes. Among her early works are the beautiful ‘Liquid Reflections’ (1967, now in the Tate), made of a hollow, revolving acrylic disc containing oil and water, over which roll two transparent plastic balls, and the ‘Poem Machines’ — cones inscribed with poems which, as the cones turn at different speeds, are transformed into purely visual patterns.

In the 1980s Lijn created the huge, weird ‘Woman of War’ and its companion ‘Lady of the Wild Things’, which exchanged laser beams, were activated by the sound of a recorded song and were made among other things of shiny black steel, the brightly coloured nylon brushes used by commercial car-wash machines, and prisms. In the 1990s she seemed to backtrack to traditional bronze, with life-size casts of parts of her own body laid on plinths or reassembled in broken fragments. But inside the cast of an elbow or part of the neck were miniature videos of scenes from her childhood, while the reassembled figures, surrounded by horizontal sheets of mica, as if growing from some strange frozen fungus, contained blue argon light or, most astonishing of all, leaping naked flames from an internal gas-jet.

Whatever next? Assisted by an international award from our own Arts Council, the Leonardo Network and Nasa, Lijn spent three months in 2005 as resident artist at the Space Sciences Laboratory in Berkeley, California.

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