Saatchi Gallery, the hot-spot for contemporary art based in the heart of Chelsea , London, just opend “Champagne Life”, an exhibition that celebrates the Saatchi Gallery’s 30th anniversary presenting the first all-female show.
Charles Saatchi has been collecting during the years works of emerging and recognised artists: this extensive collection will honour the contribution of female artists (working in a variety of mediums and on a variety of subjects) to the ongoing development of art today
The title itself is taken from one of the works , by Julia Wachtel. It comes from a succesfull song of American singer Ne-Yo, who refers to a lifestyle involving the enjoyment of luxuries pleasures. A life “where dreams and reality are one in the same” : the stereotype of a culture driven by the pursuit for celebrity, and the symbol of champagne as an affordable luxury. Indeed, the perception of art word is mostly linked to the idea of glamour, prestige and success, that the exhibition’ title revokes. . However, on closer inspection, it reveals the reality of many labourious, lonely days ( or even months) working on a piece of art. Bringing together 14 emerging women artists,Champagne Life allows us to reflect on what it means to be a female artist working today.
Let’s pick some of the most impressive artworks displayed.
Alice Anderson: Bound
Quoting the artist: “The digital revolution is probably going to turn out as decisive for the mechanisms of human memory as the invention of writing was. This evolution is a fascinating process, and I keep track on it by crystallizing its phases. “
Alice Anderson artworks lead us to think about the act of memory. How we create, record, and transform the present and how we imagine the future?
Inspired by the digital evolution, Anderson developed a unique weaving technique with copper wire initially taken from inside an alarm clock.
Mummifying an object as an act of protection, preservation and resistance. The sculptures are the result of performances revealing a process similar to the shamans’ dances.
It’s good to know that the artist founded the Welcome Collection: itinerant studio, open to anybody who wishes to contribute to a collective archive by recording with copper wire significant objects of our time. People can take part not only in the performances but also in choosing what is to be archived or not.
According to the Guardian ( Johnatan Jones):
“This might be in a museum a thousand years in the future, dedicated to the strange artefacts of the 21st century. Why, archaeologists will ask, did the people of that time choose to mummify their old TV screens, obsolete telephones and loudspeakers? Was it a bizarre religious attempt to apologise for the culture of waste that was at that moment eating up the planet? ”
Anderson is not the first artist to have wrapped up everyday objects. Wrapping indeed is a modern tradition. German sculptor Joseph Beuys wrapped a grand piano in grey felt .
Rene Magritte represented lovers with a sheet covering their faces.
So Alice Anderson is working in a tradition almost a century old.
Coke bottle, bicycle, tools, telephone, suitcase, canoe, and even a mummified car. This way of recording no longer consists in representation by the image, rather it takes shape through the presentation of the object, which the artist and the participants choose from among the everyday shapes of contemporary life. She revisits what Magritte referred to as “the treason of images”, the original title of his late 1920s painting of a pipe. Just as the surrealist pipe wasn’t the object it was intended to be, so Anderson’s mummified objects are no longer the objects they once were.
“This is not a pipe – it is a mummy. It is a ghost.” A.A.
Sounds like the Magritte of the third Millennium.
“Will this collective ritual of mummification awaken the gods of mass production? Can things come to life if we love them and respect them as Anderson does? “
Copper is the most ancient metal in terms of human usage . It was mostly mined on Cyprus, therefore the name. The “red metal”, key to the fortunes of the Minoan, Mycenean and Phoenician cultures, shows remarkable conductivity and malleability and is resistant to heat and corrosion. Last but not least, it was associated with femininity by the alchemists.
N.B: Anderson’s hairs are red, and sometimes she used her own mane in her artworks.
She captures an aspect of how the brain makes possible the creation and re-creation of our familiar and unexpected visual worlds by connecting our perceptions over time.
We can properly remember people, places and things we have seen because images of them have been imprinted and permanently stored in our brains. But we are much better at recognition than this would suggest. We recognise people despite their ageing. We recognise Picasso’s style even in a painting of his that we have never seen before. When we do this, we are recognising categories that can include variation.
Our capacity to remember, then, is not about recall of a specific image stored somewhere in our brain. Rather it is an ability to organise the world around us into categories – some general, some specific.
Another remarkable artwork is the one of Sohelia Sokhanvari. Her taxidermied horse revokes magic realism, in which reality is revolutioned with imaginary events, revealing meanings more profound that naturalism could do. Sokhanvari shows the use of the form as a method by which artists have been able to create an open-ended narrative to promote or resist a totalitarian political system.
Indeed, the title Moje Sabz refers to the ‘Green Movement’ uprising of 2009, in which violent protesters’ demonstrations lead to the annulment of a fraudulent election result.
Also here, we can go around the art piece, an look at it in its entirely. And I think it’s no coincidence it is exhibited in the same gallery of the work “Jerusalem Donkey”.
Sohelia research is about collective trauma and collective amnesia interpreted through irony and absurdity.In her drawings and paintings she often uses earth elements like crude oil or natural pigments like Lapis lazuli, malachite etc., she wants the earth being part of the work.
“Moje Sabz” represents a taxidermied horse mounted onto a jesmonite ( a mix of gypsum and resin) blob. Through the denaturalisation of the horse, Sokhanvari shows us a open-ended narrative, with the intention of encouraging discussion about worldwide political systems.
Describing herself as a “cultural collage between East and Western philosophy” the work of Iranian-born artist Sohelia Sokhanvari are both methaphorical and politic, they deal implicitly with the Iranian state.
“Things are always what they are but also point to something outside of themselves, the art object then becomes a metaphor for an event, emphasising the mutability of meaning and form through viewer participation.” ( S.S)
Copper tools, bodies (human and animal) and why not..pots!
Food for Thought, by Maha Malluh. She lives and works in Saudi Arabia, her installations are assemblages of found objects from junk shops and flea markets, reflecting on the impact of globalization and consumer culture in her country. “My inspiration for art comes from my country, a country of contrasting images and ideas. Good art forces us to take a pause, to contemplate and take greater account the surrounding environment.”
“Al-Mu’allaqat” (the artwork takes its name from the most famous collection of Arabic poetry of the sixth century) consists of 233 aluminum cooking pots- I would say heavily used- – across the Arab world.
A wall of pots, how many stories and how many lives could tell ..
Women codes and practices deserve representation, as subject and object of art. Not only in the UK.
Coming back to Italyto, do not miss Veritas Feminae, the Art Contest to be held in Matera from the 24 to 31 March 2016, an open call for artists inspired by a project by Alec Von Bargen: photographs, portraits –all about marginalized women. And of course, I invite you to consult the profiles of the artists on artooms.it: in spite of national and international ranking that see women always considered still too little compared to the male universe, our portal has a massive presence for women (about 50%)
AnnaChiara Della Corte