Jim Lambie

Four to the Floor


Not on display

Jim Lambie born 1964
Ceramic, spray paint, lacquer, gloss paint, handbag and mirror
Unconfirmed: 1110 × 1170 × 2340 mm
Presented by Frank Gallipoli (Tate Americas Foundation) 2016, accessioned 2021


Four to the Floor 2005 is a ceramic sculpture of a red bird perched on a branch. The bird is spreading its wings, both of which are pierced by the handles of mirror-decorated handbags. Two handbags hang from its right wing, and one from its left wing. A fourth mirror-decorated handbag lies to the back of the bird, on the floor, half sunk in dark red paint that flows across the floor from the base of the sculpture. Music is a recurrent source material in Lambie’s work, and the title of Four to the Floor refers to a rhythm pattern which originated in disco music from the 1970s, known as ‘Four on the Floor’. ‘Four to the Floor’ was also a hit single by the British band Starsailor in 2004, the year before Lambie made this sculpture. His title can also be read more literally as referring to the four handbags carried and dropped to the floor by the bird.

The work was exhibited at Tate Britain in 2005 as part of Lambie’s showing following his nomination for the Turner Prize. At the same time as the Turner Prize exhibition, Lambie exhibited a series of bird sculptures at The Modern Institute in Glasgow (7 October–11 November 2005). The exhibition and its title, Byrds, referenced the American rock band of the 1960s and 1970s who notably pioneered folk rock and psychedelic rock. It included a similar sculpture to Four to the Floor, entitled The Byrds (Bingo Wings) 2005, a blue bird on a branch spreading its wings, pierced with three mirror-decorated handbags, with a white paint flow covering a fourth handbag on the floor. This series of works replicates ‘small ornaments I found in junk shops … blown up so they are larger,’ Lambie has explained. ‘There is a familiarity there, but things have been re-arranged, there are new meanings to be explored. I think the work is very human because there are very human materials I’m using, and people directly relate to that element in the work.’ (Video interview in Illuminations Productions – Turner Prize 2005, http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/illuminations-productions-turner-prize-2005, accessed 12 July 2016.)

Anne Ellegood, curator of Lambie’s exhibition Directions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington in 2006, has also described how the size of the bird sculptures alters their familiar appearance:

A foundry in Guadalajara creates larger-than-life versions of the miniature ceramic trinkets Lambie finds around the world in gift shops and flea markets. Resurfaced with such materials as paint, collage, and mirrors, the birds are adorned nearly beyond recognition, creating a slightly disturbing layer over the façade of cuteness. As with much of Lambie’s sculpture, there is at once comforting familiarity and near-exotic strangeness.
(Anne Ellegood, in Directions: Jim Lambie, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden 2006, exhibition catalogue, unpaginated)

Lambie creates this strange feeling in Four to the Floor by enlarging, almost to human size, a decorative, small figurine, and dressing it with glittery handbags, receptacles of belongings, fashion accessories and objects of consumerist culture. Furthermore the seductive appearance of the glossy bird is undermined by its inability to take-off and by the thick blood-like pool in which it is trapped.

Further reading
Turner Prize 2005: Darren Almond, Gillian Carnegie, Jim Lambie, Simon Starling, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2005.
Directions: Jim Lambie, exhibition catalogue, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington 2006.
Jim Lambie, Not Just For Me. A Sample of the Poetry Club, exhibition catalogue, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh 2014.

Elsa Coustou
July 2016

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