Saturday, March 5th 2016
Our first port of call today was to one of my favourite London art galleries, the Saatchi Gallery. It is always entertaining and challenging, admission is free and you can take photos without restriction. What more could you ask?
Currently, there are three exhibitions vying for the attention of visitors, though one, for some reason, seems to have been given less publicity than the others. As it happens, this was the one we were most interested in.
Entitled XX: A Moment in Time, its exhibits were all crammed into a single room in the basement. This did not deter visitors, however, and the exhibition was well attended. As to the theme of the exhibition, here is the Saatchi’s own description:
XX is an exhibition of new works by contemporary female street & graffiti artists. The show will consist of works by a selection of emerging and established artists from around the globe. This will be the first time that some of the artists will have been exhibited in the UK.
This is not the first time that the Saatchi has shown an interest in street art and I hope it will not be the last. The emphasis on female artists underlines the fact that many of today’s active street artists are women and it is not at all difficult to arrange women-only exhibitions or women-only ‘paint jams’. It is good for this point to be brought home to a public increasingly interested in street art. Another message relayed by this exhibition is that street artists are rarely ‘just’ street artists but usually also produce studio works as well. There is nothing odd about ‘street artists’ filling an exhibition with canvases, sculptures and installations. All the works shown were for sale.
As for the works themselves, I think I could have happily ‘collected’ all of them through use of the camera. However, as usual, I will limit myself to a few examples, though these in no way encapsulate the exhibition as a whole. All the artists produce very individual works.
This piece by the prolific and creative artist from Rome, Alice Pasquini, comprises four transparent panels, each with figures painted on it, producing the appearance of a three-dimensional scene.
This is one of two works in the exhibition by an artist I have only recently become aware of, called Caratoes. Though originally from Belgium, she, like many of today’s street artists, maintains a world-wide presence.
This delicate, poised and colourful work is by the Australian artist, Vexta.
This delightfully ironic piece – a fluffy toy bear revealing itself to be a real wild bear in costume – comes from Lora Zombie. The choice of animal is perhaps appropriate as the artist is from Russia.
Crajes is the joint name of two artists working together, Carla Rendon and Jessica Ruiz. Collaboration is something we see a lot of in the street art world, whether it is a more or less permanent association between two or more artists or ad hoc joint creations from time to time. I wonder whether Spleen was inspired by Baudelaire’s collection of poems, Spleen de Paris.
This at first sight religious work is by Zabou. It is not unusual to find works by street artists that refer to their art, its techniques, tools and materials, in an amusing or ironic way. Zabou in particular seems to derive pleasure from this genre.
This small but intricate piece is by Polish artist Olek whose medium of expression, believe it or not, is crochet. When the most that some of us can do is to fashion a small mat, Olek produces huge spreads and costumes. This Guardian article contains some splendid examples.
As I mentioned above, there were two other exhibitions in progress and we had a quick look at them. The first of these was Revelations, a set of works by Aidan Salakhova.
This large-scale work comprises print on canvas and this artist works in a variety of materials. Most of the items in the exhibitions, however, are sculptures and usually in the combination of white and black marble.
In some cases we have human figures portrayed realistically even if the meaning of the scene is mysterious.
In others we have abstract or almost abstract forms which seem to possess hidden meanings or portents.
In still others, white hands and looming shapes suggest hoods and monastic sleeves…
The other exhibition was entitled Champagne Life, and included works by 14 artists. The reason for the title remains obscure to me and I suspect it’s just a label to cover a set of works having no obvious relationship with one another other than the superficial one of being all by female artists.
Some had a mythic resonance like the colourful canvases of Mequitta Ahuja,
some were bizarre, like the set of fluorescent paintings by Sigrid Holmwood
some possessed a human resonance, like these careful portraits by Jelena Bulajic
some reflected the mulitmedia world in which we, and our imaginations, now live, but…
…my favourite piece was Stephanie Quayle’s cows which we had already seen on a previous visit.
Leaving the Saatchi with its delights and mysteries behind us, we now journeyed into the deep south, to Croydon, no less. On previous visits we had been impressed by its street art and we wanted to take a look at the current offering. We were not to be disappointed.
We first had a look in Park Street where we found the above pair of paintings by Tizer and Bronk RH, respectively, and the three that follow. Park Street falls within the ambit of St George’s Walk which is at the heart of a developing arts quarter. We await with interest the results of this development.
Here too we have work of two artists, Stedhead and Morgandy, but this time collaborating in a single work.
This cleverly designed painting by Rich Simmons shows a young woman in spectacles shedding tears at the scene she is witnessing. The scene is reflected in the lenses of her spectacles and shows two comic book superheroes, Batman and Superman, kissing. We may assume that the tears are the expression of her own frustrated erotic desires. Any work that embraces the theme of gay sex is likely to cause controversy, especially when people can attack it while preserving their anonymity. Some disaffected soul slashed this painting with a knife but all he (surely it was a he?) managed to achieve was to make the work even more famous, probably not the effect he was hoping for.
Here too we found the first of today’s two paintings by Artista, painter of vibrant foliage and flowers.
We continued into St George’s Walk where I photographed two paintings together although they are different in style and manner and are by two different artists, Enrico Cornuda and Jarvis, respectively.
In the High Street, we found a contribution from Mr Cenz. There is also lettering on the painting but if you can decipher it, you are cleverer than I am.
In Katharine Street we found this complex but perfectly symmetrical white on black drawing by Morgandy.
Here too was our second painting by Artista, complete with belegged toast and bottle, a cheerful and colourful piece to enliven a dull afternoon.
It had been a full day, what with the travel and tramping the streets, but we managed to see some good art and after a rest and a cup of coffee in an interesting place called Matthew’s Yard (more on that another time), we turned for home.