Newspeak: British Art Now (Part 1, The Saatchi Gallery 30th May – 17th Oct)

Introduction

I have complete intentions to be more prolific with my writing here but currently I am in a truly rubbish position as the internet has yet to be connected at home – thus I complete posts after work which is a shame. But alas, one thing I want to start doing is going through exhibitions I have visited in London. I personally see that Art is the foundations for almost everything – may it be Film, Music or Drama. It is that sense of expression which creates tha wonderful art today. I could go on with how Scorsese completed incredibly well drawn and accurate sotryboards – or discuss how James Cameron is an accomplished artist (it was his drawing of ‘Rose’ Jack was drawing in ‘Titanic’), but whether there is evidence outside of their cinematic back-catalogue or not, the films themselves show enough to prove their artistic merit. (Nb. All the Art I mention is in the pictures displayed but, be aware that some are not next to the point they are discussed…)
The Walk Around
Having walked around the gallery it truly is impressive – a wide variety of styles and approaches to Art. Accurate observations alongside obscure, abstract sculptures. The inluence of culture of many pieces of work is inevitable – whether it be an sculptures of almost-Greek origin or an update of previous styles, inevitably, everyone will find something interesting about this exhibition.
Lowlights
I followed The Saatchi School – a reality TV programme that followed a group of artists leading to one being chosen to appear in this exhibition and the tour it is a part of – which begun in St Petersburg. The Winner was Eugenie Scrase with her piece ‘Trunkated Trunk’. I remember watching the show and, though not a big fan of the Duchamp object-is-art approach, I could appreciate the unique entity of the hevy weight of a log and what appears to be careful balance on a fence. More impressive was the gate holding, virtually, the entire tree before it was trunkated – but alas, it is what it is and, upon viewing it, it truly isn’t as inspiring as I believed it could have been. I think, by seeing the ‘trunk’ in comparison to the range of other artists part of the exhibition showed how, in comparison it was not really that impressive. Make of it what you will.
Another ‘weaker’ piece was Scott King‘s ‘Pink Cher’. Andy Warhol was fifty years ago – the Cher and Che connection is weak, at best, and – in my opinion – has been commented on enough. We understand the disease that is the celebrity culture – we have seen Marcus Harvey’s Moors Murderer painted by childrens hands. It says very little that is new.
Finally, we have John Wynne – an artist who uses 300 speakers to create an environment that, though uneasy, I had previously felt before. The Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles’ Tate Modern Exhibition included a piece titled Babel – a huge tower that was made up of small radios all individually tuned and, with their glistening LED lights and discomforting sound even reminded me a little of Blade Runner. John Wynne didn’t seem to have many of the speakers on it seemed – walking around the space seemed to show that the majority of sound was from around the self-playing piano. If all the speakers were clearly working, I may have been more understanding – but alas, the range of speakers that didn’t work merely highlighted a lack of atmosphere. Ultimately, Meireles’ tops him anyday.
Highlights
Personal favourites were in the form of ‘littlewhitehead’, Hurvin Anderson and Iain Hetherington. Both Hurvin Anderson and Iain Hetherington are both, primarily, painters. Andersons almost abstract landscapes are fascinating. ‘Untitled (Black Street)’ is clouded in darkness gives the feeling of coming back from a school trip, whereby the school is closed and darkness surrounds the buildings. Its eerie and dark, whilst at the same time comfortable and engaging – the single road leading you into the darkness. A beautiful work of art. Iain Hetherington, on the other hand, seems to merge objects into canvases of mixed colours. The NYC caps I have seen are often worn by the cliche ‘youths’ who torment communities – so, to see the same cap tunred into a work of art through an abstract setting changes your opinion.
Finally, ‘littlewhitehead‘ (Should I call you ‘head’?), in the style of Joseph Beuys, uses mannquins and places them in a position that forces you to personally get involved. The one piece I saw at this exhibition was ‘It Happened in the Corner’, whereby the figures are all huddled in a corner – their clothes appearing tatty and rough – and you are forced to look into the corner with them. The entire look of it and unsettling nature makes you question your reaction to this type of situation – our facination with potential-horror and the mob-dynamic and sheep mentality as every follows each other. Every person in that room walked to the corner and joined the group – peering at the ground…
Finally, the link to the actual website to explore more – and their truly is alot to explore.
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3 comments

  1. All the speakers are working in John Wynne's piece. The sound moves in subtle trajectories through 32 channels of sound (think of stereo and multiply by 16) distributed across the 300 speakers. It's difficult to pinpoint an individual speaker and hear a sound from it because the sound will only come from any single speaker for a short period of time before moving to another speaker. Amongst other things, the piece plays with people's expectations – the sound seems to come from everywhere and nowhere. And people also expect 300 speakers to be loud. But obviously some people are sensitive to the subtleties of sound and some aren't. One needs to spend some time in the space in order to become aware of the gentle diffusion of the sounds. The piece is also deliberately left untitled so that people bring their own interpretations and metaphorical meanings to it rather than saying, Tower of Babel, right, I get it. Sorry you didn't like it, but most of the press seems to disagree…

    Adrian Searle: ian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/jun/06/newspeak-british-art-now-saatchi-gallery
    Brian Sewell: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/arts/review-23840864-is-it-me-or-is-this-good.do
    Charles Darwent: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/reviews/newspeak-british-art-now-the-saatchi-gallery-london-1992313.html
    Jackie Wullschlager: http://knowingviews.blogspot.com/2010/06/newspeak-british-art-now-part-1-saatchi.html

  2. Thanks John for commenting first-off! This was my first attempt at 'reviewing' an art exhibition – I thought the connections between cinema and art should be more clearly depicted.

    I did spend a while in the space – and maybe as I was so attracted to Meireles work, I simply couldn't get it out of my head, thus affecting my judgement. I like the play on expectations, I personally just didn't 'feel' all the sound (I guess I am not “sensitive to the subtleties of sound”), but I think that, as so many other people were so positive about it, I must be in a minority.

    Well done though on being a part of such a successful exhibition!

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