Sunday, December 13th 2015
Sunday is the day when we have breakfast in one of the local cafes and then trundle the shopping trolley round to Sainsbury’s to do the weekly shopping. As Sainsbury’s doesn’t open on Sundays until 10:45, there is no point in hurrying. We can take it easy and enjoy a slow start to the day. This means that by the time the shopping has been taken home and crammed into the fridge, the morning has gone and only the afternoon remains to be filled.
What with? Well, that depends on what is available and Tigger usually has a few ideas. Today’s idea was a visit to the Saatchi Gallery in Duke of York Square. I have mentioned the Saatchi before and no doubt said that it has become one of my favourite art galleries. Admission is free and photography is permitted. There is a small number of ‘resident’ artworks but most of the space is devoted to a programme of exhibitions, the emphasis of which is on contemporary art and the rising generation of artists.
Today, there were several exhibitions but I am not going to go into detail about these. I will just show you some of the artworks that I photographed, chosen because they interested me or puzzled me or otherwise caught my attention.
The gallery was once a military hospital, that is, a home for the orphans of soldiers. In front of it is a large playing field which creates a pleasant open vista as you approach the gallery.
The above work (the second photo shows a detail) was part of an exhibition entitled Thailand Eye but I unfortunately failed to note the title and name of the artist. The larger pieces are suspended by transparent threads as though they have been caught as they fell, while smaller pieces lie below on the ground.
One room contained a complete set of Tarot cards as re-imagined by artist Jamie Hewlett. I chose L’Empereur as a sample.
These two objects, placed side by side but made 4 years apart, were created using copper wire. The bobbin is particularly eye-catching because it closely imitates an object that we might encounter in the real world but magnified in size as though we have suddenly been projected into the oversized environment of Land of the Giants.
At the thematic heart of these sculptures is the subject of memory and recognition. If that seems hard to fathom, the explanation provided here might help.
Kneeling, with his hands tied behind his back, is Stephanie Qayles’s Lion Man. He is made of clay strengthened with steel and chicken wire. His form seems to emerge from the tangled mass of clay as we watch and the eye slowly recognizes features. Who or what is the lion man – a symbol, a figure from the unconscious or… or what? The fierce strength of the lion has been cowed so that the figure seems tragic, as though awaiting some disaster.
Do you like cows? I like cows and I like this sculpture. In contrast to the strange Lion Man, the cows are utterly realistic. One is resting her chin on the other’s back in the confident, comfortable and companionable way that cows have. Standing in front of the sculpture, you feel you are being looked at. The cows’ eyes catch yours. They are not alive but you feel they should be.
These works were arranged in their own enclosed space which was completely dark except for the light that seemed to emanate from the objects themselves. The secret revealed itself when the design on Tigger’s tee shirt started to glow brightly: a phenomenon known as ‘dark light’. According to the label, this artwork has ‘variable dimensions’, that is, its size depends on exactly how it is laid out when it is exhibited. It is not fixed but can be arranged in different ways. It was created by a group or co-operative of artists called Dis/Order and the paradox of their name is reflected in the title of the work in the word ‘muternal’ which would seem to be a combination of mutational and eternal. Perhaps it signifies something that by continually changing, remains the same.
Thus says the artist: ‘My large scale photo-installations refer to a forgotten industry; industrial relics become urban follies, shrouded as they lie precariously between construction and deconstruction, archaic and futuristic.’ For a little more, see here.
It.s not often that the list of materials in a work of art includes ‘fire’ but this is one such instance. By the Ukrainian artist, Roman Mikhaylov, this installation is made of paper that has had fire applied to it. Happily that fire is now extinct and we are in no danger as we stand near to it. (One of the virtues of the Saatchi Gallery is that it trusts visitors to behave sensibly and rarely erects defensive barriers, meaning that we can closely approach – and on occasion, walk through – the works on display.)
Also from the Ukraine is the creator of this image entitled Horizon. If you thought that this painting smacks of street art, then you would not have strayed from the truth. Mykytenko is known primarily as an ‘artist of open spaces’. On the other hand it should not surprise us to find a work of his in conventional framed-picture form in an exhibitions because the line between street art and gallery art is becoming ever more blurred as street artists are catching the eye of critics and dealers and being – literally – brought in from the cold.
Human figures always attract particular attention, especially when, as here, the use of unusual materials confers novelty and causes the ordinary to suddenly seem extraordinary. The title of the work, Homo Bulla, is a Latin phrase meaning ’Man [is] a bubble’, and was coined by the Roman writer Marcus Terentius Varro who, in Rerum Rusticarum compares man’s fleeting existence on earth to that of a soap bubble. In view of this, you will not be surprised to read that the material used for these figures is soap. For a statement by the artist, see here.