2 July 2016 § Leave a comment
This review is also posted in arts & culture magazine CELLOPHANELAND here
There is probably little point in making any sort of critical analysis of the latest Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It is what it is, which to be honest is rather a mess. Pretty much every gallery is hung by a different curator and whilst it is interesting to see what they have done it is ultimately beside the point.
The whole show should rather be taken more at face value – an annual opportunity for the talented, enthusiastic, amateurish and hopeful to apply to have their work on the walls of the academy. Here they can rub shoulders with the latest pieces from the Royal Academicians in a gloriously anarchic jumble.
This years ‘co-ordinator’ is the sculptor Richard Wilson best known for 20:50 – the oil filled installation at the Saatchi. He has invited twenty artistic duos to present their work within this years exhibition. We therefore have Gilbert & George with Beard Aware and Jane & Louise Wilson in the lobby stairwell with Chernobyl.
There are other obvious duos like Jake & Dinos Chapman, Eva & Adele, Allora & Calzadilla, Bernd & Hilla Becher and Tim Noble & Sue Webster. Their presence however serves no real curatorial purpose and they are lost within the show – at best it is simply of interest to see some of their work.
Almost all of the pieces are of course for sale and it is quite a good opportunity to pick some work for your own walls. Prices of course vary considerably from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand, and for the uninitiated it is not always easy to spot the difference!
For the first time the works are available to browse and buy online and we would highly recommend taking a look online before the show and before purchasing (link here).
For our part we loved a little George Shaw edition (we highly recommend his National Gallery exhibition reviewed here) , Marguerite Horner’s enigmatic painted landscapes and Tom Hunter’s Rose prize-winning photograph Winterville. Harry Hill had one of his witty celebrity-oriented works – a tattooed David Beckham (sold but we hear High House Gallery has work available).
With rather more to spend Gert & Uwe Tobias’ had two spectacular works and there was a bright Gillian Ayres, which all seemed reasonable value despite the big ticket prices as did Rose Wylie’s Spider, Frog & Bird.
The floor to ceiling ‘salon’ hang – which is the norm at the Summer Exhibition – makes for difficult viewing, but it is not often that so much (varied) talent is on view at the same time. Take it slowly and concentrate on works that catch your eye – we have posted a selection of those that caught ours – and you may just have a very enjoyable visit.
The RA Summer Exhibition runs until 16 August 2016
For more information visit www.royalacademy.org.uk
19 February 2016 § Leave a comment
Champagne Life is the title of a work by Julia Wachtel in this Saatchi Gallery exhibition of the same name. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West – better known as Kimye of course – feature repeated, inverted and brightly shaded, alongside pale blue Minnie Mouses (Mice?). Its a striking Warhol style work, from a Pictures Generation artist that critiques celebrity culture and one of several good Wachtel works that fill the first gallery.
This exhibition has selected fourteen disparate female artists to hang together. Unfortunately, other than the Wachtel piece giving the name to the exhibition, I’m not sure why it is entitled Champagne Life. Surely they cannot be suggesting that maybe girls tend to like bubbly drinks? The gallery tells us it is ironic but could it be rather more to do with the exhibition being sponsored by Pommery? In any case to hold a ‘girls only’ exhibition in the 21st century is surely unnecessary. The easy accusation is that Saatchi is guilty of tokenism when it should rather be concentrating on curating quality exhibitions.
The gallery is marking its 30th birthday with this show and still seems to have an unfortunate habit of shallow exhibitions based on rather on loose criteria. Recent major exhibitions have included for example Panagea I & II, which brought together a too-broad selection of both African and South America artists and Post Pop: East meets West, an incoherent overview of worldwide art linked only by a vague pop art aesthetic.
The works in the show are again decidedly mixed in quality. Sigrid Holmwood’s neon colours clash with the historical re-enactments depicted. They are striking and eye-catching but ultimately the sentiments are rather hollow.
Gallery three successfully brings together three middle-eastern artists making political tinged works. Saudi artist Maha Malluh presents a giant wall of battered and stained cooking pots, presented like a decorative arrangement of giant buttons. These discarded items speak of refugees broken lives and echo their sadness.
A stuffed mule atop a saggy green balloon by Iranian artist Soheila Sokhanvari was a work I saw part-finished at the RCA student show a few years back. I didn’t realise it had ended up in Saatchi’s hands, but it is a striking work that represents the deflation of hopes for Iran’s green movement.
In the same room Mia Feuer’s papier-mache Jerusalem Donkey, symbolises the plight of the Palestinians, restricted by the Israeli requirement to ride only mules over the border crossings.
Amongst more nondescript work a series of technically superb, giant sized works by Jelena Bulajić truly stand out. Minutely detailed but painted with a real delicacy and lightness of touch, her close-up portraits of elderly sitters convey real feeling.
Mequitta Abuja’s big, bright and fantastical scenes provide a welcome respite too. She weaves myth and legend in to canvases that are both autobiographical and trans-cultural and reminiscent of Chris Ofili’s work.
Filling gallery 10 are a giant bobbin and ball mummified in wound copper thread. Created by Alice Anderson, who we are told (unsurprisingly) entered a ‘meditative state’ during their creation, these demand attention but eventually leaves you to simply ask ‘why bother’?
The truly dreadful exhibition on the top floor where ‘Revelations’ by someone called simply Aidan (presumably to avoid the embarrassment of anyone finding out their real name) is presented by the ‘Tsukanov Family Foundation’. Does this reveal Saatchi’s formerly excellent artistic instinct being subverted by more mundane financial considerations?
I left feeling the same way I do at most Saatchi exhibitions, slightly unfulfilled. This exhibition is fine, but the wonderful space deserves just a little bit more. With an exhibition of Rolling Stones’ artefacts and ‘Graffiti Artist’ prints as the next two scheduled shows, I am not holding my breath quite yet.
For more information visit www.saatchigallery.com
17 May 2014 § Leave a comment
Anyone who visited Newspeak: British Art Now at the Saatchi in 2010 cannot fail to remember John Wynne’s monumental work, Installation for 300 Speakers, Pianola & Vacuum Cleaner 2009 (see video here on Vimeo). The undisputed star of the show it consisted of a giant gently writing vacuum cleaner hose pumping air to (from?) a pianola which in turn, seemingly randomly, activated never-repeating sounds played via a giant pile of loudspeakers. These enigmatic sounds filled the gallery and echoed around the Saatchi. It was at once monumental, minimal and immersive using sound and sculptural assemblage to explore and define architectural space and to investigate the borders between sound and music.
I was immediately therefore drawn to Gazelli Art House latest show – an exhibition of three new site-specific works by John Wynne. You enter immediately into the heart of the first work, Installation for high & Low Frequencies 2014. The whole room reverberates with both a high pitched ringing and a deep vibration. Is it a sound or rather a feeling? The effect is visceral and disturbing enough for some gallery visitors to immediately turn back and head out of the gallery looking somewhat unsettled.
Strangely this repulsive effect probably indicates success – questioning our relationship with the sounds and the internal space. Wynne certainly presents the viewer with a subtly unsettling merge between the external business of our daily urban lives and the apparent refuge of interior space.
In another work upstairs a 6 minute sonic loop played in a totally blackened space. Again it provoked an unease as the ability to use ones vision during the experience meant a total immersion in the sound that span around you.
Also showing are the works of Yoojin Jung whose works similarly are within the galleries curatorial theme of 2014 – that the only thing constant in life is change. Calm and reflective they provide a worthy counterpoint to John Wynne’s rather more provocative works.
18 December 2013 § Leave a comment
Following on from the Griffin Art Prize 2013 Exhibition – which is now on the road around the South of England for a few months (see post) – the Griffin Gallery are transferring Saatchi’s Showdown from the virtual online world in to reality.
The winner of the prize has been announced as Miguel Laino for his simple but expressive small oil painting shown here, winning over a very high quality – and truly international – final ten. The remaining finalists were: Chris Stevens, Casper Verborg (illustrated middle left), Stephane Villafane, Kristina Alisauskaite (middle right), Sergey Dyomin, Fiona Maclean, Minas Halaj, Maurice Sapiro, Daniel Gonzalez Coves (bottom).
Painted Faces is one phase of a continuing Saatchi Online competition that provides artists from anywhere in the world a showcase for their work. Chantal Joffe was the judge for this event. Previous judges have been equally big names of the contemporary art world and Barnaby Furnas, Ged Quinn, Wangechi Mutu and Dexter Dalwood have for example run their eyes over entries.
For the first time the works of the 10 Showdown finalists are being shown at the Griffin Gallery, from 5- 20 December with the winner and runner-up receiving art materials to the value of £1000 and £500 respectively – not bad I’d say.
The competition is being run in partnership with Winsor & Newton and is on at the West London Griffin Gallery until 20th December 2013. This is an excellent small show which is a short stroll from Westfield shopping centre – why not take a break from the Christmas shopping and drop in for an artistic break – or a more arty gift? All works are on sale and modestly priced.
For more details about the competition please go to www.saatchionline.com/showdown
- The Griffin Art Prize 2013 winners – Luke George & Elizabeth Rose (akickupthearts.wordpress.com)
- Saatchi Online, The World’s Leading Online Art Gallery, Appoints Veteran Business Executive Sean Moriarty As CEO (virtual-strategy.com)
1 November 2013 § Leave a comment
I first noticed Iain Andrews on the short-lived TV art ‘reality’ show School of Saatchi in 2009. Having picked him out as a potential winner he was of course immediately axed after the first show. My other pick, Saad Qureshi, lasted a little longer before being booted out, but was quickly picked up by the Mayfair based Gazelli Art House where he is doing very well indeed. Incidentally not much seems to have happened to the eventual winner Eugenie Scrase – forcefully steam-rollered in by Emin. She has a website but, it seems, no gallery.
Man & Eve , a Kennington gallery who pick up a lot of early career graduates, signed up Andrews a couple of years back. This is his first solo show for them. Andrews’ early works originate through dialogue with particular paintings from the canon of art history which he transcribes so that his canvases contain reference to them, whilst disturbing and animating the source. His technique runs from broad and gestural to fine and delicate, clearly unafraid of using bold colours that sweep across his canvases.
Il Teatro dei Leviatano is both a development of and departure from Andrews’ earlier paintings. At the centre of this new body of work is an intricate miniature theatre – another vehicle through which he considers different historical art movements.
Peter Fuller wrote about how, in the past, an artist could “transform the physically perceived by the manifestation of allegoric devices like haloes and ‘human’ wings, whereas now this can only be realised through the transfiguration of formal means like drawing, colour and touch”. In Andrews’ work, the act of making becomes inseparable from the message that is being conveyed through the marks, one of the importance of transformation and redemption.
Andrews’ states that his work illustrates the “struggle to capture the relationship between the spiritual and the sensual, apparent opposites that are expressed in my work through the conflict of high narrative themes and sensuous painterly marks.”
Iain Andrews – Il Teatro dei Leviatano, Man & Eve
Exhibition runs 2nd November — 14th December 2013
Private View Friday 1st November 6 — 9pm
Exhibition open Tuesday — Saturday, 11am — 6pm
2 August 2011 § Leave a comment
Even by modern standards Ryan Mosley’s rise in the art world has been a pretty fast one. Graduating from the RCA in summer 2007 he was already featured in the Independent later in the year as a ‘Hot Star of 2008’. Alison Jacques wisely picked him up soon afterwards plus the Saatchi collection scooped up a bunch of works and he was part of their British Art Now exhibition last year.
Mosleys paintings are dark, strange and brooding. They initially seem to indicate some sort of narrative with an otherworldy cast of costumed characters, strange landscapes, disembodied heads and odd symbols. This is a narrative that morphs as look deeper, and, as Mosley admits, also changes as he paints ‘you set out to paint something and it doesn’t quite turn out how you want it. That’s not to advocate lazy painting, but when it doesn’t turn out as you imagined, but takes on its own sensibilities that can be really interesting. Born of a fuck up, X can turn to Y, and Y can turn to Z.’
There are frequent references to the masters – here ‘A Bar in France’ is clearly a hommage to Manet – but for Mosley they are more incidental than referential. His process of painting allows the subject to drift and mutate and you are just as likely to spot references to history or popular culture as art history. It makes for interesting viewing – this is a world where anything is possible, the canvas a stage for a world of timeless characters and motifs.
At the gallery he is already on his fourth solo show – if you include a project room outing – which is again a sell-out. With most works selling north of £20,000 (still good value I would say) Mosley is an artist that we need to keep an eye on.
Exhibition runs at Alison Jacques Gallery until13 August at 16 Berners Street, London W1T 3LN
- Artist of the week 148: Ryan Mosley (guardian.co.uk)
19 July 2011 § 1 Comment
Is this Saatchi sculptural review really the Shape of Things to Come? One of the first things you notice is that it may well be a better picture of ‘How Things are Now’ or perhaps ‘Have Been Recently’ with only a handful of works less than about four years old. There also seem to be fewer new names than there are well known or long-established ones.
Amongst the latter is John Baldessari his Beethoven’s Trumpet probably, neatly adding sound to the visual puzzle. Roger Hiorns was a Turner nominee, here using trademark copper sulphate crystal growths growing over church maquettes to experiment with natural sculptural forms. The German Anselm Reyle examines influences of modernism and here has appropriated a kitsch African sculpture and blown it up with a shiny purple finish. Deep in the basement Richard Wilson’s 20:50 – a pool of sump oil which reflects and expands on the architectural space – still beats the lot.
The big spaces of the gallery work best for the larger works and in the first gallery the monolithic blocks of Kris Martin’s Summit work well. Each has a tiny paper cross at the summit – death, hope or achievement? Moving on ‘New Sculpture’ still seems to have plenty of the figurative. Rebecca Warren‘s rough representations of the female form take aim at sculptural cliches and fill another gallery nicely. David Altmejd large-scale figures seem to dissolve and change form as you walk around them. Non-traditional elements are woven in to the figures such as endless staircases and strange geometric forms whilst materials include, foam, wood, epoxy, resin and paint. Folkert de Jongh’s tableaux feature macabre figures and hint at the ghosts of colonialism and imperialism. Thomas Houseago is a recent auction favourite – filling another gallery his impressive works absorb a variety of styles with rough, flat painted planes building up 3D forms and sshowing a definite debt to cubism.
Elsewhere Bjorn Dahlem‘s room-sized Milky Way is an impressive neon which surely owes a big debt to Dan Flavin whilst David Batchelor appropriates found boxes for his strangely alluring installations of vivid coloured panels. Matthew Bannon, Matthew Monahan, Joanna Malinkowsa and other assemble various multiple objects with varying degrees of success.
Sculpture has certainly come a long way in the last hundred years – from wood, metal and stone there is a now a vast post-modern array of materials and influences to confuse us. So do we get any sort of hint here as to what is the Shape of Things to Come? This show certainly does not show us – but hints at the reality – that we simply dont know.
The Shape of Things To Come: New Sculpture at the Saatchi Gallery 10-6 daily until 17 October 2011
- The Shape of Things to Come, Saatchi Gallery / John Chamberlain, Gagosian Gallery, review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Roger Hiorns: using a calf’s brain in my sculpture (telegraph.co.uk)
- The Shape of Things to Come – in pictures (independent.co.uk)
- New Saatchi exhibition: Shape of Things to Come (telegraph.co.uk)
14 December 2010 § Leave a comment
Ida Ekblad is a young Norwegian artist who, despite being based in Oslo seems to manage to pop up all over the shop. Last year she had no less than nine solo exhibitions covering seven countries, and was involved in a similar number of group shows that also included multi-media collaborations. This year has been almost as frenetic and one somehow doubts that her obvious enthusiasm will wane next year either.
Her first solo show in Paris in 2009 received a strong review from David Lewis in Frieze magazine who raved ‘it is not every day that one comes across so expansive a talent’ whilst Saatchi likes her enough to have purchased five works, including ‘Drink a Glass…’ (illustrated) which are to appear in the forthcoming ‘Paint’ exhibition (dates tba).
Ekblad’s earlier work combined free and spontaneous painterly gestures with graffiti culture – she is clearly quite at home among popular and street culture. However, without breaking stride she has effortlessly moved through more traditional styles of painting and sculpture.
Her most recent London solo show was at Herald Street this summer, where, as usual she moved freely between expressionistic abstract paintings, multimedia installation and sculpture – moving off the wall, into the room and back again. There is a liberating playfulness in Ekblad’s work in which her artworks perhaps represent a synthesising connection between society and art, past and present and the street and the white cube gallery.
Her work is developing rapidly and her reputation should no doubt grow accordingly. Look out for her next exhibition.
- spotted at frieze – artists to watch (akickupthearts.wordpress.com)
3 December 2010 § 2 Comments
Following on from a similar look at the Saatchi Gallery’s Newspeak Part 1, here is an overview of the critics verdicts on the artists featured in Part 2 – both positive and otherwise. Sadly analysis fairly limited in scope due to relative absence of critical reviews of the show. The favourites are at the top of the list, the clunkers at the bottom, with about twenty artists ignored entirely.
Dick Evans has produced a dark brooding wave of black silicon carbide, reminiscent of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa. Toss in a crushed can and some fag ends and it has an undeniably ‘dark brooding aura’ loved by Metro and the Mirror. The Telegraph use it as their leading image.
Anna Barriball aims to provoke mystery in the familiar. She succeeds. A wardrobe is covered in black tape – it becomes a memory or void. A door is covered with tracing paper, repeatedly rubbed ‘broods with an ominous glamour.‘ (Independent).
Anthea Hamilton’s assemblages extract the cubist elements from imaginary works to reveal them in their 3D strangeness. They work quite well and the Independent loved them, the Telegraph illustrated them.
Idris Khan’ s photographs overlay multiple images such as Becher’s iconic water towers to create impressionistic prints ‘amazing in their depth’ (Mirror). Delicate images have been created from soulless objects.
Anne Hardy photographs fictional scenes carefully built from scratch. Littered with ephemera they create an elaborate narrative of events, place and time. Mysterious and captivating, I agree with the Mirror’s approval.
Toby Ziegler ‘remakes a Seurat landscape … for the computer age’ (Telegraph). His geometric landscapes, devoid of humanity feature star-shaped leaves fall from pixelated trees. Every Saatchi visitor stopped, stared and photographed. Genuinely eye-catching.
Tessa Farmer in Swarm has created a glass case full of insects, which on closer inspection are ‘elaborately constructed fairies battling garden insects’ which the Mirror wonders are just bits of craft that has not yet reached the guft shop. Rather cruel – especially as it was chosen as the articles leading image. One up to Tessa I would say!
Jonathan Wateridge’s oversized canvases of plane wrecks, Sandinistas and astronauts play on the accuracy of traditional paintings whilst adding contemporary elements, somewhat as Ged Quinn, but were criticised by the Mirror for ‘not going far enough.’ Their physical presence and easy interpretation will nevertheless make them popular with the public and no doubt we will see his work sell strongly at auction.
Alexander Hoda creates assemblages of junk which are covered in black latex to – well – to something. Unfortunately Hoda does not really seem to know himself – the artists comments in the Saatchi guide are a mish-mash of different ideas including (but not only) ‘exploring relationships, desires, and urges, to perceive them in different contexts rather than something that’s conditioned to be guilt-laden or perverted.’ Pardon? They left the Independent, and me, rather cold. Metro concurred as did the Mirror – at length!
Carla Busuttil gets the ‘wooden spoon’ for ‘total lack of talent’ from Brian Sewell at the Standard. It is hard to argue. The deliberate lack of draughtsmanship or painterly efforts do not seem to have any real aim or purpose other than to provoke.
There we go – all rather underwhelming. Let us now look eagerly forward to the British Art Show , currently at Nottingham until 9 January 2011 and from thence moving onward to Plymouth, Glasgow and London. Held every five years it hopes to be an overview of the development of British Art. Early reviews seem to be good – personally I am itching to see Christian Marclay’s The Clock, where some three thousand film clips featuring the time are collaged in a compelling 24 hour film.
22 November 2010 § 3 Comments
Following the unremarkable Newspeak: Part 1, Charles Saatchi‘s review of ‘British Art Now’ continues with the opening of Newspeak: Part 2. I conducted a gloriously unscientific review of the critical opinions following Part 1 and planned to subsequently add the latest assessment to create an overall league table of artists and a full review of critical opinion to cover the whole.
Sadly, the second, similarly unremarkable, part has proved so unattractive to newspaper editors that only a handful of major papers have run a review. Here then, is a less than comprehensive selection of reviews followed in the next blog by a critics selection of artists – both good and bad.
By way of a brief reminder Newspeak: Part 1 was, almost in one voice, branded as unco-ordinated – ‘a mess… the contents of someone’s attic’ (Independent). The quality was perceived as indifferent; ‘some good, some mediocre, some ghastly’ (FT) with ‘one or two instances of inspired brilliance’ (Guardian).
Five months down the line, we sadly have much more of the same. I wandered through one attractive space after another loosely filled with largely indifferent and uninspiring art. The critics agreed that Saatchi had perhaps once again used a scattergun approach to selection. ‘Arbitrary’ was Amy Dawson’s view in the Metro, adding that it is ‘difficult to make sense of this baggy hotch-potch of the good, the bad and the downright ugly’. Brian Sewell wondered if the work ‘truly represented British art Now’ whilst Laura Mclean-Ferris commented that the curating was ‘basic and clunky’ and that ‘if you want to see an exhibition that defines current art practice Britain [then] this is not it’.
But was there a deeper concern – that there was actually not much good art out there to select from? Brian Sewell thought that, contrasted to Sensation and the period following, ‘there is nothing to excite nor offend’ … ‘British Art has fallen in to a trough of sameness’ (Standard). ‘There is little to get excited about’ concurred the Mirror.
The only mild dissent, if you like, came from Richard Dorment in the Telegraph. He commented that the show was ‘strong‘ and gave a ‘good idea of what is going on out there’ but in the end what was out there was’ just the great big simmering bouillabaisse of good, bad and mostly mediocre art that we’ve been seeing for decades now’.
Once again there was little personal criticism of Saatchi himself and Brian Sewell seemed to hit the nail on the head observing that he was really ‘part impressario and part Svengali, part Barnum and Bailey’ and stepping in where the Tate should had not, to support the here and now of British art. It seems that – in the end – one has to say that there is not much confidence or consensus in quite what there is right here and right now!