22 November 2013

Body Language and British Art Today at the Saatchi Gallery

Now that I am not working away from home for most of the week I am finding time to make quick trips to galleries. This time I was on my way to see West Side Story in Wimbledon and rather than take the easy route (train from Kingston to Wimbledon) I opted to take the tube from Richmond to Sloan Square and from there to Wimbledon, taking a couple of hours out in the middle to visit the Saatchi Gallery.

The Saatchi Gallery is relentlessly modern and that means that every work instils a reaction, asks questions and demands an opinion. It is never bland.

There were two exhibitions on. The first, Body Language, had works that featured people, a simple enough concept that allowed for a wide diversity of themes and methods.

I went to Gallery 3 first (an error I quickly corrected) as this was behind the reception desk and this picture, The Feast by Eddie Martinez, insisted that I go and see it. The picture filled the far wall in a visually striking way.

There was much more to it than the sheer scale and I stood back from it to admire the composition and the unusual line of heads then went up close to look at the things on the table.

Back on track in Gallery 2 I was impressed by several works by Makiko Kudo. They all had brash natural scenes and in them a person who looked a little out of place.

These pictures captured the mood of childhood brilliantly. I am that boy, proud to have climbed the tree.

If I could have sneaked out of the Saatchi with one painting under my coat it would have been this one. I would have needed a rather large coat though.

The graveyard room was one of the more unusual. The headstones scattered around the gallery (by Marianne Vitale) were all made from reclaimed wood while the pictures on the walls (by Denis Tarasov) were of tombstones decorated with (I presume) pictures of their inhabitants.

I was not sure whether putting a large picture of yourself on your tomb was some cultural idiom that I had missed or whether the artist had photoshopped them on afterwards. And I did not want to know, they were weird and interesting and so deserved to be true.

This is just a small selection of the many portraits by Chantal Joffe. The use of simple compositions and bright colours gave them a vibrancy and warmth.

The other exhibition that was on was New Order: British Art Today. This wider scope made for a more diverse collection of works.

Just to show that I do not "get" all modern art, this is a set of constructions by Sara Barker which did nothing for me at all.

Amanda Doran's Tattooed Lady was a jolly sight and while I would probably not want it on my living room wall I was very happy to spend a few minutes looking at it in the gallery.

I loved the blackboards by Alejandro Guijarro.

These were full-sized photographs from various universities that specialised in Quantum Mechanics and the boards had names like Cambridge and Berkeley.

I cannot vouch for the maths but it looked pretty real to me.

I also liked the way that one of them, Oxford, had been wiped clean leaving just a patina of chalk dust evenly spread across the board. Memories of school.

The Saatchi Gallery has lots of space and knows how to use it. The blackboards were generously spaced to allow them to be seen individually rather than as one large piece.

The perspex form on the red box in the corner was by Natasha Peel and was something else that I did not understand. I had more luck with Nicolas Deshayes' Soho Fats, the sheets of white polystyrene on the left edge of the photo. The sheets were weathered in some way to make interesting patterns that were reminiscent of sand dunes.

Steven Allan's We're All In This Together was a real highlight of the show for me.

The subject matter, dancing bananas, was imaginative and the use of just two bold colours gave it impact.

The shot of the gallery (with the picture on the left) shows both the size of the picture and how well the gallery was laid out.

And it needs a gallery like this to show off most of the works that I liked. They were either large or very large and needed the space to be seen individually and to step back from them far enough to appreciate their form. While I might have fancied the idea of having some of the works at home there are few people who have homes big enough for works like these.

What started off as a speculative visit to the Saatchi Gallery to add excitement to a tube ride became a very enjoyable immersion in to modern art. There were a few works that I did not like but even these did not offend and the vast majority of pieces I could either appreciate or love.

Who said Modern Art is rubbish?

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