Art

Linder Sterling once claimed to have “a library of every perversion on the planet.” For the last four decades, the renowned artist has been pulling extensively from this visual bank of debauchery, splicing together saucy centrefolds and symbols of domesticity, like clothes irons and cookers. This distinctive blueprint has earned Sterling art world notoriety, as well as a slew of solo exhibitions. The latest is Linderism, coming to Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge later this week. Not only will the carefully-curated selection feature brand new work, but Sterling will also stage a one-off performance on 14th March.

Despite being four decades deep into her career, the relevance of Sterling’s uncompromising, political photocollages has endured. Filtered through a cut-and-paste, surrealist lens, they’re punchy commentaries on society’s treatment of women. Sadly, their messages still resonate today.

“At one particularly memorable gig, held in the city’s legendary Hacienda, she wore a dress made of chicken skin which she later pulled up, revealing a big, black dildo strapped to her crotch.”

Aesthetically, the works are also informed by Sterling’s beginnings in Manchester’s post-punk scene, where she first made a name for herself by creating the acid-hued artwork for Buzzcocks’ 1977 single, Orgasm Addict. Sterling later joined a band herself: Ludus. She was the lead vocalist, but her appeal was tied to so much more than her voice. In her eyes, a performance was a chance for a political statement. At one particularly memorable gig, held in the city’s legendary Hacienda, she wore a dress made of chicken skin which she later pulled up, revealing a big, black dildo strapped to her crotch.

The work on show at Linderism is similarly impactful. One features a naked man spread seductively across a sofa, with a drink in his hand and a cowboy hat on his head. He lays stomach-down, with his boot-clad legs spread slightly. Only an oversized, fuchsia flower covers his modesty. 

Oyster shells, sliced-open avocados and cream-topped tarts all seem suggestive in Linder’s world, which regularly makes a point of celebrating female sexuality and paying homage to the vagina. After all, sex is political – so when you see a woman with her head tilted back, her mouth open and her face and body covered completely in multicoloured slime, it’s hard not to raise a knowing eyebrow.

Yet it’s precisely this tongue-in-cheek, provocative approach that makes Linder one of the best in the industry – and which will make this exhibition an art world must-see.

Linderism opens on February 15th at Kettle’s Yard, and runs until 26th April 2020.

'Glorification de l'Élue' (2011) / Linder Sterling