Written by Aaron Jolly
13 Monday 13th September 2010

In George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984 newspeak is described as “the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year". Surely the Saatchi Gallery’s current exhibition isn’t admitting to the ever-dwindling pool of modern British conceptual art, are they? While populated by the supposed best of new British artists, very few shine through as particularly brilliant.
Not to be completely pessimistic, there are some very talented and inventive artists’ works on show throughout the galleries. A few that caught my eye include Alastair MacKinven, Pablo Bronstein, William Daniels and Ged Quinn. These guys are actually doing something different and interesting with art and have a great deal of talent.
Alastair MacKinven has a very varied style. His largest piece, the wonderfully named Jerking Off The Dog To Feed The Cat, comprising 16 grayscale oil paintings reproducing propaganda posters from diverse and conflicting causes is like a Crass song on canvas. His other works consist of weathered industrial looking Penrose staircases (you know that never ending staircase illusion) and folded posters of Thomas Jefferson as both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
Pablo Bronstein works with ink on paper, his drawings depicting 18th century historical French style architecture. His illustration style shows real and imagined historical scenes and buildings to great effect. The precision and skill in his work was what really impressed me.
William Daniels work may seem from afar like an abstract mess but as you draw closer the amazing attention to detail is apparent. His oil paintings show traditional still lifes wrapped in tin foil to give them a very tactile and visually striking look. The reflections, shadows and highlights are just amazing – requiring a double take to check that it wasn’t 3D and coming off the canvas it’s painted on.
Ged Quinn’s work juxtaposes borrowed scenes from Claude Lorrain’s baroque landscapes and other classic paintings with his own dystopian modern twists – such as subtly placing the spaceship from 2001 into one of the paintings.
Another artist that I feel is worthy of an honorable mention is John Wynne, his one installation piece that is featured in this exhibition is quite awe inspiring. I had seen his work before as I took a short sound arts course that he taught. I was surprised to find his work at the Saatchi, the work in question is entitled 300 unwanted speakers and consists of just that and a pianola (self playing piano) adapted to be played by a vacuum cleaner. The visual effect of the 300 speakers piled up combined with the haunting unpredictable sounds being played through the speakers is hugely powerful.
The two works I feel this exhibition will be remembered for are Goshka Macuga’s (whose other work is mediocre at best) eerie sculpture of Madame Blavatsky, a Ukrainian mystic ‘levitating’ between two chairs, or Little Whitehead’s disconcerting sculpture It happened in the corner.
The vast majority of the exhibition seems to offer the same old pop culture references, with the artists somehow expecting them to have some deeper meaning and impact with the viewer just for being placed in a gallery context. Ian Hetherington’s ‘diversified cultural worker’ consisted of paintings New York new era hats placed on abstract artistic splotches with no real cultural value; while Scott King’s hideous Che Guevara style print of Cher (in a hideous pink colour) offered no originality, no skill, just the juxtaposition of two clashing culture references. Bleugh come on now, that’s just too easy.
Newspeak runs at The Saatchi Gallery until October 17.

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  • Guest: Banana
    Mon 13 - Sep - 2010, 16:02
    Interesting article but rather poorly written in places!