The second part of Saatchi’s survey of current British Art cannot escape the legacy of Sensation; a similar survey show he held in 1997 that arguably launched the careers of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and the other YBAs, with the infamous sharks, elephant dung and portrait of Myra Hindley.
Vitrines and dead animals; haven’t we seen this all before?
As with any exhibition drawn solely from the inventory of a noted collector, it becomes wholly evident that the show reflects only the tastes of the collector; any boasts that it presents the current state of British Art are false. There is no video Art and instead we are left with too many rooms of expressionistic, seen-it-all-before painting. In one gallery figurative paintings by Robert Fry and Kate Groobey sit opposite each other, both uncomfortably, offering visceral, contorted forms that reference Bacon. Likewise, Tessa Farmer’s vitrine of reconstructed fairy-like insects painfully toes the line between homage and pastiche. Vitrines and dead animals; haven’t we seen this all before?
In amongst the paintings that claim to be Art Brut, but in fact seem to mask poor ability, are a few promising talents that appear to be working in new ways. Found photographs are reworked with thread in Maurizio Anzeri’s beautifully surreal, spirograph-esque collages; coloured string gently engulfing the mysteriously mesmerising portraits, starting from an eye before coiling outwards. Whereas a lot of the artists in this show poorly appropriate the work of 20th century greats, Anzeri chooses to weave narratives around anonymous images that have the capacity to deliver equally fascinating stories.
…but Hardy’s work succeeds due to the knowledge that these places no longer exist
The photographs of Anne Hardy combine a similar storytelling streak with a cinematographic edge in interiors she meticulously creates and then destroys, in her studio. The haunting photographs are the only documentation of these lost dreamscapes. Various textures and objects populate the rooms in which an absence of human life is notable. The hermetically sealed environments causing us to question who lived or worked there while bright artificial lighting adds a sense of clinical unease to the scenes. Were we to inhabit these interiors as part of an installation then we would be encroaching too closely on the territory of Mike Nelson’s downright weird, constructed environments, but Hardy’s work succeeds due to the knowledge that these places no longer exist. Perhaps this is also a passing reference to the title of the exhibition, Newspeak, and Winston’s job of destroying the past in 1984.
Nonetheless, one cannot help but feel that the presence of the few artists that are creating innovative work cannot prevent the exhibition from feeling disjointed and perhaps even doing a disservice to British art practice in 2011. The title as well seems distant and superfluous. However, this exhibition does have the capacity to launch the careers of a new breed of more sober YBAs and in a few years’ time we may be able to see whether Saatchi has once again constructed a new chapter in contemporary art.
Exhibition runs until 17th April.