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Contemporary Art

Linder Sterling: 7 Things You Need To Know

As artist Linder Sterling’s commission is unveiled at Chatsworth House, and ahead of her talk at this year’s Art Out Loud Festival, we look back at the career of the Punk artist whose work reached beyond the gallery walls, to the recording studio, via the nightclub — and influenced everybody from the Sex Pistols to Lady Gaga.

1. She was a key figure with the Punk movement, and was a close friend and collaborator of many bands and musicians. She designed the infamous Buzzcocks record sleeve for Orgasm Addict, and was closely associated with Morrissey, The Smiths and the Sex Pistols. Her photomontage aesthetic lent itself to the DIY philosophy of Punk: layering images, body politics, feminist discourse and the referencing of historical events. Her work draws on influences from Dadaism, Surrealism and Old Master paintings; and from fashion photography to performance art. Whilst the photomontage is the medium for which she is most famous, her work extends to music, film and dance. She goes simply by the name ‘Linder’.

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Buzzcocks, Orgasm Addict , 1977.

2. Linder has no fewer than three commissions on display this year, including The House of Fame at Nottingham Contemporary, the Bower of Bliss at Glasgow Women's Library and Her Grace Land, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. She is also currently working on a major Art on the Underground commission for Transport for London, which will be unveiled in late 2018. The Chatsworth project marks the inauguration of the estate’s artist-in-residence programme, and choosing Linder to undertake the first commission signals Chatsworth’s commitment to innovation in the arts, and a desire to celebrate their unparalleled artistic legacy. Her Grace Land draws on the history of the house, whilst instigating a dialogue with the inhabitants and visitors of the present day.

3. Linder was the first person to wear a meat dress: Long before Lady Gaga made headlines in hers, Linder appeared at the famous Haçienda nightclub in Manchester in a dress made of meat in 1982. She wore the dress to play a gig with her post-punk band, Ludus. Gender, sexuality and performance all play a significant role in her practice, and costume is central to this. The Haçienda, as the home of Factory Records, was responsible for nurturing the careers of bands such as New Order and the subsequent birth of Acid House on the Manchester music scene.

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Ludus, on 17 April 1981. L-r: Paul Humphries, Graham Dowdall, Linder Sterling, Ian Devine.

4. She will appear in conversation at Art Out Loud at Chatsworth, during which she will discuss her Chatsworth commission Her Grace Land, with Lord Burlington. The project features four separate installations that explore four female voices that emerged when researching the history of the house. Timed to coincide with the centenary year of the Act of Representation, an act of parliament that reformed the electoral system, the work sees Linder marrying the celebrated portraits from the Chatsworth collection with conflicting motifs and symbols. The resulting works — using snakes, flowers and birds laid over classical oil paintings — are filled with drama and tension. You can read more about the commission here.

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Linder, Hiding but still not knowing, 1981-2010. © the artist.

5. Collaboration is Key: Linder choreographed a ballet — The Ultimate Form — in 2013, inspired by Barbara Hepworth’s monumental 1970 sculpture The Family of Man. The ballet was conceived as part of Linder’s residency at Tate St Ives. To bring the performance to life, she worked with fashion designer Pam Hogg, musician Stuart McCullum of The Cinematic Orchestra and Kenneth Tindall of Northern Ballet. Linder described the bringing together of these creative forces as an “act of collage”, and the resulting performance explored the human form in movement Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture on which the ballet was inspired can be viewed at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield.

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Linder, Pythia, 2017. © the artist. Courtesy the artist and Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London. Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth.

6. Behind the Mask: Many of Linder’s images mask the face of her subject, and the Chatsworth works are no different: in one, the face of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire is partially obscured by a snake, drawing in biblical references and hinting at the suggestion of the forbidden, clandestine and anonymous.

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Linder, Untitled, 2013. © the artist. Courtesy of Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London.

7. Learning from the Masters: Linder cites many influences on her work, and her frame of reference is diverse. Aubrey Beardsley, Max Ernst, Richard Hamilton have all been mentioned by the artist when discussing important figures from art history to whom she looks for inspiration. The Punk ideology is one of DIY; of appropriation and subversion, and in the work of Linder we see all of these demonstrated with potent accuracy.

Linder Sterling will speak at Art Out Loud at Chatsworth on Saturday 22 September 2018. You can book tickets here.

Art Out Loud runs from 21—23 September 2018 at Chatsworth House, and is proudly sponsored by Sotheby's.

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