Lucy Skaer works on paper: large stretches of paper that in scale resemble unfurled banners, flags or giant scrolls. When pinned to the wall, meticulously drawn and painted imagery is revealed — yet the imagery is often ambiguous and is not always what it first might seem.

Skaer’s images can not be easily read. It is similar to deciphering a text in a vaguely familiar language. Only as your eyes repeatedly travel across the expanse of paper left to right, downwards and up, can a motif be slowly fathomed. In ‘Bevelled Map’, a floating intricacy of pale green and blue watercolour seems to convey a lush and watery topography that could put you in mind of Edinburgh. But on looking further, it transpires to be a scene of destruction: a Far East city crippled by a nuclear bomb. Are the green areas perhaps indicating high levels of radioactivity?

In ‘Flash in the Metropolitan’ an ornate silvery vase is caught in the glare of a flashlight, and as you walk past the image, the light catches the paint and turns it from silver to dark graphite-grey to near-white. Towards the base of the vase, slender lines of red intercept and contribute to the decorative scheme. Yet these seemingly decorative elements have been lifted from a photograph of a shanty town destroyed by a hurricane.

Skaer is interested in new ways of seeing and new ways of interpreting what she sees. Her drawings present a meeting of motifs where the outcome cannot be anticipated. A gentle collision of motifs that produce an abstraction of logic rather than image. A newspaper image of a scene of destruction or injury is ‘aesthetically-enhanced’ and enmeshed in a decorative scheme. Space is flattened, images ebb and flow in and out of each other and meaning is blurred and blended.

‘A series of drawings titled ‘Venn Diagrams’ pictured snakes and spiders, but as the title suggests there is a shared area in the drawing which is both snake and spider. This area is highlighted in neon paint, which stands out against the grey of the rest of the image. All the elements are familiar, the logic recognisable, the symbolism readable, but at the centre of the drawing is a value impossible to understand.’

Lucy Skaer 2003

Lucy Skaer (born 1975) trained at Glasgow School of Art and graduated from the Environmental Art department in 1997. Recent exhibitions include New Acquisitions, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow; The Problem in Seven Parts, Counter Gallery, London; Edge of the Real, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2004); Soft Sun Down, doggerfisher; Zenomap, Venice Biennale; Beck’s Futures, ICA London (2003); A Hundred Flowers, A Hundred Birds, A Hundred Children in Late Spring and Early Summer with Hanneline Visnes, CCA, Glasgow (2002). Future shows include Schnittraum, Cologne 10 September – 15 October and Henry VIII’s Wives, PS1 New York, in Romantic Detachment 23 October – 27 November. Skaer is a founder member of Henry VIII’s Wives. She lives and works in Glasgow.