Saatchi, screwed, in more ways than one: Paper

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Despite what the tabloids have been saying about Saatchi, and despite my on-going dislike for the gallery as an institution (£1 for a gallery guide!?), I just keep going back.

Although I often find the exhibitions ostentatious, convoluted and full of the so-called ‘naïve art’ which I just cannot stand, they are always thematically enticing. Recently several art exhibitions have failed to excite me, and therefore failed to end up on my blog – if I’m bored whilst writing it, I’m pretty sure you’ll be bored whilst reading it – but the idea of Saatchi taking on something as small and quiet sounding as Paper, had me marching off to Sloane Square at the first available opportunity.

This show has its fair share of flops, but it redeems itself with a vast number of varied, genuinely interesting and, dare I say it, skilled works! Some pieces such as Jose Lerma and Hector Madera’s Bust of Emmanuel Augustus did comply with Saatchi’s ever-prominent opinion that ‘bigger is better’, however there were many intricate and surprisingly modest works which carried the show in my eyes.

Ironically, just as the rest of society has turned against Mr Saatchi, I’ve decided I’m a fan – well, I have always been told I’m contrary.

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The most memorable works included the purely aesthetically pleasing such as Dawn Clement’s enormous ink pieces, and Yuken Teruya’s paper bag trees; as well as images from a darker place such as Eric Manigaud’s series depicting deeply disturbing scenes from inside a Nazi medical facility, and Annie Kevans’ room of gently painted children’s faces – children who grew into some of history’s most brutal dictators.ImageImageImage

Paper wholly succeeds in celebrating this often forgotten medium: as a substance to work on, to pulp, to manipulate – its everyday uses transformed. With huge sculptural works, it is depicted as surprisingly robust, yet elsewhere artists like Marcelo Jacome and Hang Feng praise the possibilities of its delicate nature with a tissue paper kite-like installation, and Floating City which sees meticulously printed, organised and hung tracing paper form a miniature city, just centimetres from the gallery floor.

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Of course there always has to be one artist to let the entire show down; for me this was Zak Smith with his awful 100 Girls, 100 Octopuses and Naked Girls in the Naked Girl Business. His work rides on the supposedly shocking truth that he knows all of these girls from the porn industry in which he also works, however the images he makes are roughly drawn in Tippex and Biro and completely degrading to women. His intention may be to reveal another side to his female porn stars, but drawings of women writhing around with phallic snake forms are not witty or clever, just blatantly objectifying.

In conclusion, aside from Zak Smith, Paper is hugely varied and successfully explores every possibility of the medium. In fact after a few rooms I had to limit the number of artist names I wrote down as I was running out of paper myself (this would be the perfect opportunity for a paper-related joke but it’s just too easy). If you’ve got the energy after fourteen galleries of the white stuff, New Order: British Art Today is at the top and has a few pleasing pieces – see Nicolas Deshayes’ Sebums for a fresh idea for recycling those aluminium cans.

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