Thursday, August 27th 2015
I wrote the preceding post early this morning, thinking that it would be my last before we left for foreign parts. After all, we had all that packing to do, didn’t we? Packing, what packing? For a short trip like this one it’s sufficient to chuck a few things into a bag, and making sure you have all the chargers for your iPhones, cameras, geotagger and battery backups! That takes about ten minutes flat and leaves you wondering what to do next.
Walking along the front of the Saatchi Gallery
See here for a history of the building
In the event, we took a bus to Duke of York Square and popped into the Saatchi Gallery. I have written several posts about our visits to this interesting and exciting gallery. (Just type ‘Saatchi’ into the search box.) It is a gallery of modern and contemporary art and specializes in lesser known artists. On our first visit, Tigger, knowing my taste in art, confidently predicted that I would hate it. Guess what: I loved it! We have returned a number of times and each visit has proved to be an exciting experience. The gallery is big enough to display enormous artworks such as Richard Wilson’s installation, 20:50, and to give the works on display plenty of space.
The Saatchi has a programme of visiting exhibitions, combined with longer-stay exhibits and some permanent ones. There is usually a lot to see though not everything attracts me with equal intensity. Today’s small haul includes visiting works and works we had seen before.
When you enter this room, your eye is immediately drawn to the dark – and perhaps sinister – figure at the end. Supported at only two points by the backs of two ordinary chairs, the body appears as stiff as a board. Is this a trick by a stage hypnotist, an optical illusion or a piece of fantasy? The hands arranged on the breast suggest death, a corpse. Only the hands and face are visible; the rest of the body in wrapped in a voluminous robe. One approaches with trepidation.
By Goshka Macuga, the work is entitled Madame Blavatsy. Helena Blavatsky (1831-91) was a occultist and the founder of the Theosophical Society (1875) which still exists and has branches in several countries. Blavatsky was a believer in the acquisition of knowledge through trances and this work presumably represents her in a trance, though the irresistible reference to stage conjuror’s tricks seems to be to be poking fun. See the Saatchi’s description of the work here.
The exhibition took an even more gruesome turn with what at first sight looked like a termite hill. Closer inspection showed that it was not a natural object but a construct by David Falconer with the enticing title of Vermin Death Stack. The roughly cone-shaped object is 305 cm (10ft) tall and is covered all over with tiny corpses. This close-up will give you an idea of it:
Happily, the creatures are not real though they are casts of frozen dead mice which is virtually as bad. The work was originally designed to stand in the middle of an old butcher’s shop off Brick Lane where it reached nearly to the ceiling. The connection between butchers’ shops and the mice seems to be that this species of mouse is sold in pet shops as food for pet snakes. I was content to shuffle away muttering “They’re not real, they’re not real…” but if you want more information you will find some here.
I take a deep breath and continue…
Ah, this is better; I like this, though I am not sure you are supposed to like it, exactly. Then again, why not? I have seen Rafael Gómezbarros’s Casa Tomada several times before, e.g. see Ants at the Saatchi, where I also retail an explication if the work’s intended meanings (and see here also). Perhaps it is my fascination with ant colonies, bees’ and wasps’ nests and, not least, human monastic colonies, that draws me to this work. (Not that I would ever wish to be an ant, a bee, a wasp or a monk, I hasten to add.)
It is one of those art works that doesn’t have a fixed form: its shape depends on where you set it up, perhaps in a room, as here, or on the façade of a building, for example. Because its extent is large, I could photograph it only piecemeal on previous visits but this time, relying on photo-stitching software, I was able to give a broader view, though I still couldn’t capture all of it. (Rotating through 360 degrees would have added too much distortion to the image, for one thing.)
This is one of the rooms in the Saatchi, though I don’t remember which. It too is a stitched image and you can see that there is a certain amount of distortion. Microsoft’s ICE (Image Composite Editor) allows several different projections but these are nonetheless limited and it’s not always possible to find one that fits.
Bright, colourful and complex are the paintings of Boris Nzebo, originally from Gabon but now living and working in Cameroon. This one speaks of the life of the streets but retains a sense of mystery too. Who are these people; what are they thinking and saying?
(See this Saatchi article on Nzebo.)
This is another work that I have photographed before. For the photographer, it poses a problem, that of the large object in a small room. In addition, there are people continually walking by. It’s hard not to give the impression that this object is triangular in shape but it’s definitely rectangular. Once again I have made a composite image using ICE to stitch several photos together. By Jean-François Boclé, it is entitled Tout doit disparaître! /Everything Must Go, and consists of hundreds (thousands?) of blue plastic bags containing I know not what.
What does it mean? Thus speaks the Saatchi: ‘Jean-François Boclé’s metaphorical installations propose a wasteland in which the ruins of civilisation are shored against its discontents. The artist’s alchemical process involves bringing everyday objects into a network of relations, highlighting dialectics such as capitalism and consumerism, privilege and injustice, and so forth.’ Are you wiser now? I am not sure I am, but there’s more and you will find it here.
The Saatchi Gallery is always worth a visit. There is so much there that I always find things I like, things that intrigue me and things that challenge me.
In front of the gallery is this open space. I don’t know who owns it. Perhaps it was once the parade ground when the building was a barracks. It is closed to the public and acts as an oasis of piece amid the bustle of the town.
But now our thoughts were turning beyond the Saatchi, London and the UK. We should return home and get ourselves ready for departure.