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artist Sarah Lucas smoking a cigarette with long ash

Sarah Lucas: ‘Fighting Fire with Fire’ (1996) 17th April 2020


#Tellmethestory Arts Council Collection Visual art

Sarah Lucas, ‘Fighting Fire with Fire’ (1996), from ‘Self Portraits’ series 1990-98. Copyright the artist.

This artwork was chosen by women of Colchester to feature in Firstsite’s Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme Exhibition, ‘Tell me the story of all these things’.

Reflecting upon the work, members of the group commented:

“She’s not trying to look pretty or anything, She’s just kind of putting two fingers up, in my opinion to the world. But actually, it’s not what that’s about at all. The whole purpose of it was for her to create the longest piece of ash on the end of the cigarette. It sounds like a totally pointless thing to do. But actually in trying to it’s incredibly meditative.”

Sarah Lucas was born in London, in 1962. She attended the London College of Printmaking and then Goldsmith’s College from 1984 to 1987. ‘Fighting Fire with Fire’ is part of a series of prints, assembled from repurposed self-portraits, and is considered to be one of the most iconic of Sarah’s images. She claims that she had one clear idea for this work, which was ‘to get a long ash’ [on her cigarette]; rather than trying to look ‘defiant’, she wanted to convey a more natural look.

Use the arrows to navigate to an audio description of the piece, by Programme Manager, Communities, Emma Reeve.

This artwork is featured as part of the exhibition, ‘Tell be the story of all these things‘. The exhibition title is inspired by Rehana Zaman’s 2016 film Tell me the story of all these things (included in the exhibition), which revolves around a conversation between the artist and her two sisters as they prepare a meal. Find out more about the exhibition.