Champagne Life – Saatchi GalleryJanuary 29, 2016
I’m not massively keen on exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery. The sloppy “I can’t paint” works leave me cold, and I think I’ve outgrown his fascination with the corporeal body, the sort of school boy giggling at the grossness and faux teenage marvelling at the wonders of it. As well as this, the exhibitions usually include some taxidermy and that just makes me sad and Champagne Life is no exception.
There is a roomful of garish neon coloured works that lazily pastiche the style of 18th Century depictions of peasants by Sigrid Holmwood. We have the sad stuffed horse of Sohelia Sokhanvari, we have the intimate closeups of skin of Jelena Bulajic and Sueng Ah Paik.
Champagne Life – a female show
Champagne Life is a group show widely publicised as being by women only. The curating at least avoids the trap of many group shows, putting in just one work by each of many artists, leading you unable to form many thoughts on the artist, based on this one work alone. Some artists have plenty of works to choose from here.
But I don’t think that by itself an artist’s gender provides any kind of theme for the Champagne Life show, since women – gasp, shock – create wildly disparate work, even within the parameters of “an emerging artist who is in the Saatchi Collection”. It does, however, help with the game of Did a Man or a Woman Make This? Is it the male gaze or the female? In this case, it’s always the female.
It’s interesting because in the case of Sueng Ah Paik, I thought that the detailed patterns on the tip of a nipple would never be painted by a man. I don’t think they’d see them, however much they stared at a woman’s breast. I might very well be wrong on this, but in here I was right and the work is the result of long hours of self contemplation with an unswerving scrutiny. Sueng Ah Paik takes inspiration from a traditional Korean portrait style where every minute detail of a face including pores, scars, and wrinkles is depicted for an honest, un airbrushed record. Both the nipples and the silvery tracks of her cracked feet looked beautiful to me.
Champagne Life – Technical skill
Speaking of wrinkles, Jelena Bulajic’s depictions of older Serbian ladies was full of them, blown up to two meters high. Intricately depicted primarily in pencil, they are the kind of drawings that are so photo realistic that they provoke gasps of admiration at the technical skill involved.
The Champagne Life of the title comes from the work of Julia Watchtel. Her works depict people who may well be more keen on airbrushing – social media stars and actresses in their Oscar gowns, screen printed Warholesquely.
Oh, the irony
Julia Wachtel Champagne Life 2014 image courtesy Saatchi Gallery
The press release for Champagne Life assures us that “the irony of the title is palpable and throws into contrast the reality of many long, cold, lonely hours working in the studio with the perceived glamour of the art world”. Which is strange because I’m not sure how glamorous the art world is perceived to be. Does’t everyone assume that artists lead a cold and lonely life, labouring away in their attics? And then dress up for a quick meet and greet at the opening, hungrily scoffing the vol-au-vents provided by the gallery?
Well, however you perceive the art world, it may be worth popping down to the Saatchi Gallery for the odd thoughtful moment. Champagne Life on until 6 March 2016 and is free entry.
Soheila Sokhanvari Moje Sabz 2011
Seung Ah Paik Autolandscape 2012-13 image courtesy Saatchi Gallery
Seung Ah Paik Autolandscape 2012-13 detail image courtesy Saatchi Gallery
Jelena Bulajic Alise Lange 2013 image courtesy Saatchi Gallery