The subtitle British Art Today positions the current exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery as an overview of contemporary art in the UK. Of course no single show could ever be a comprehensive examination of British contemporary art, so the Saatchi Gallery will follow up this show with further exhibitions, gradually building up an overview of British Art Today.
Steven Allan We’re All In This Together 2012 190 x 250cm © Steven Allan Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery
This first exhibition runs until 29th September and is themeless, save for the fact that all the artists live in Britain. Even so, British Art Today does not suffer from the higgledy-piggledyness of most group shows, owing to the superb galleries and the generous space that all the works are given. Amir Chasson presents pairs of images that link a portrait with a statistical diagram. He shows the human behind the numbers, reminding us that statistics ultimately refer to individuals. His subjects are shown as close-up head shots, passport-paintings if you will, though I doubt Her Majesty’s Passport Office would accept them, even if signed by a vicar on the back. The diagrams deliberately tell us nothing. Bereft of labelling they are stripped of their usual precise meaning and operate as abstract examples of data analysis. Maybe statistics always tell us nothing at all.
James Capper Nipper (Long Reach) 2012 © James Capper Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery,
James Capper’s work is displayed in sculptural tableaux, but the real location of his art is not in the objects themselves but in the performances that he creates with them. The building-site aesthetic is unusual, but it is seeing the machines work, move and swim that is where the work comes alive. Capper is doing something interesting, taking engineering skills and applying them to fine art. Rather than just creating he is trying to solve problems and in doing so his work gains a relevance that makes some other art appear merely decadent.
Tereza Zelenkova, Cometes, 2012 © Tereza Zelenkova Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery
The Saatchi Gallery intends this series of exhibitions to support emerging artists in the early stages of their careers. The programme allows artists, many of them recent graduates, to see their work displayed in a museum environment, as well as giving visitors to the the chance to discover new artists such as Sara Barker. She works on the borders of sculpture and painting, her ethereal pieces constructed of steel and aluminium. Strangely delicate they show a pared back, stripped essence, willing the viewer to add their own flesh to the narrow skeleton. Labyrinthine, they are laid out like monochrome Mondrians in 3D.
Dominic from Luton, Shoes Off If You Love Luton! 2012 © Dominic from Luton Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery
The work of this new generation of artists tries to offer an insight into the nature of British art today. The exhibition also includes paintings that mine British caricature from the 18th century, the iconography of earthly power (kings and politicians), everyday elements from ordinary life (tattoos, underpants, banana skins) as well as traditional oil paint and gouache. However there is no clear link between the different artists, their methodologies or the direction their works are taking. In a catalogue essay Ben Street describes the artists on show as ‘…not an evidently coherent group…’. Maybe it is in this reflection of the diverse nature of British society that the value of the exhibition can be found.
Artists in the exhibition:
Nathan Cash Davidson
Dominic from Luton