Arabel Lebrusan (b.1974, Madrid) is a UK-based visual artist whose practice centres on material culture and the feminine tactile environment, exploring wider issues of power relationships, exploitation and inequality. Blending her skills as an artist and experience as an ethical jeweller, Lebrusan’s work generally composes of small objects; ready-made sculptures; intricate wall pieces; drawings; public and institutional site-specific interventions and performances. She often uses domestic materials charged with significance and suffused with meanings accumulated over years of use in everyday life. Her socially engaged practice gives form to alternative meanings, tension, trauma and loss while creating space for individual and collective narratives. These themes stem from Lebrusan’s personal history, collective memories that she’s inherited from her ancestors, as well as specific historical events. Digressing from institutional spaces, much of her work demands public sites and public engagement – connecting worlds and people that are normally unconnected.
Her early sculptures and installations, such as ‘Frozen Moments’(2000), combined domestic tools with toys, textiles and other everyday mementos inside blocks of frozen ice. Lebrusan derived her medium from research into material culture, so these items saturated with the patina of use were directly associated to personal and collective history/memory.
Eiren (2000) is an early work highlighting the multitude of ways in navigating life’s fragility. Lebrusan sited the work in an old Berlin bunker where she aligned 4000 half eggshells across the bunker’s concrete walls and floor. The exhibition finished with a dance performance inside the space, where she, together with a second dancer performed a dance routine over the now shattered eggs. Through this contrast of materials, repetition, and ephemerality Lebrusan’s work opens a gap for audiences to fabricate alternative and unexpected narratives.
Lace in Place (2012) comprises a set of handmade lace panels made of nylon rope, cladded on 14 windows of an unoccupied Georgian building in Bedford’s city center, UK. Collectively produced with the assistance of 28 local volunteers (many with no prior experience in lacemaking), the work raises awareness about the town’s neglected heritage of cottage industry while fostering the value of collaboration and cultural preservation. On the same Georgian building, Lebrusan also elegantly laced the side of the derelict architecture with light and sound in an audiovisual collaboration with artist Kathy Hynde.
Responding to the town of St Alban’s as one of mid-England’s poshest property hotspots, Lebrusan created ‘Freehold’ (2015), a series of work that questions the motivations behind our dreams of home ownership and the stability, security and protection it promises. The body of work exhibited at St. Albans Museum takes the form of a symbolic ladder with a doll’s house on top, floor plans drawn with human hair, a wall built from green soap bricks and floor tiles made with soap evoking the town’s cathedral floor tiles. Produced using materials associated to the female gender, the work hints at questions of equilibrium between historic stabilities and instabilities of identity.
In the past few years, Lebrusan’s work has become increasingly site-specific, using gallery spaces or alternative settings to create conditions charged with politics and history, providing capacity for marginalised voices – of people falling through the cracks of the system. Inspired by her grandmother and fascination with knives, Lebrusan created Blunt Blades and Blunt Blades Exchange respectively, which explore our complex relationships with knives and their variety of roles. For Blunt Blades Exchange (2021), Lebrusan invited women from vulnerable backgrounds to come together to customise rings made of metal from police-confiscated knives and other artefacts. To quote Lebrusan, ‘I’m fascinated by this idea that matter can vibrate and communicate with us; the way materials carry inherent meanings and how those meanings can be reshaped’. The jewellery was then engraved with the women’s own empowering designs for personal wear. Meanwhile, Blunt Blades is an intervention on The Higgins Bedford’s social history collection which comprise of seven new works in a variety of mediums, including photography, sculpture, jewellery, drawings and audio. This will be exhibited at the Higgins House (2021- 2022), a domestic setting in the museum to also insinuate how we may use knives in the private space.
Arabel Lebrusan was born in Madrid, Spain in 1974 but is currently based in the UK where she continues to live and work as an artist while overseeing her successful ethical jewellery brand, Lebrusan Studio. She has effectively engaged with the public through her art projects at The Higgins Bedford (2021); Women’s Support Centre, Surrey (2021); Museum of St.Albans (2015); St.Paul’s Square, Bedford (2012); Norwich Museum and Art Gallery (2011); Art in Fuse, Rotterdam (2005); Lunâ Art Collective Gallery, Cebu (2004); Louka Monastery, Znojmo (2000); Griftpark, Ultrecht (2000); Gesundbrunnen bunker, Berlin (2000). She has also participated in numerous group exhibitions, was awarded Designer of the Year (2017) by the National Association of Jewellers, UK and was the winner of Eastern Approaches (2014) at UH Galleries, Museum of St.Albans.
Arabel Lebrusan (b.1974, Madrid) is a UK-based visual artist whose practice centres on material culture and the feminine tactile environment, exploring wider issues of power relationships, exploitation and inequality.