November 20, 2010


In London in the week making a presentation about the Irwell Sculpture Trail to the Chartered Institute of Water and Environment Management ( ) to develop future project partnerships. (A bit scary to realise that I started the IST in 1993).

Anyway, the only show I had time to take in was Newspeak: British Art Now at the Saatchi Gallery

It wasn’t clear why it called Newspeak. I guessed that it somehow implied that as this is Saatchi’s next generation they are supposed to be speaking new. That was me assuming that they were trying to say something positive about the new collection. But it did seem a bit risky because of the Orwellian interpretations – that Saatchi is attempting to control the discourse (again) about contemporary British Art. I discover via Google that "this exhibition turns that Orwellian vision on its head, showing that the range of visual languages being exploited and invented by these new artists is, in fact, expanding and multiplying." This in itself is a mad newspeak distortion of the meaning of newspeak.

And the claim made for it is not supported by the work or oddly the curation. On my previous visits the latter aspect has not really struck me because the work carried the hang. But while there are some works worth seeing the absence of a sense that this is a cohesive vision makes the linear circulation pattern of the hang seem lumbering. The only locational surprise is Gareth Cadwallader’s Dead Horse installed alone in a thoroughfare between two galleries. In the loose context, I found myself more in the mood for abstraction and so liked (top picture) Marcus Foster’s Untitled form, which he describes as hot air balloon-like but for me was reminiscent of forms from 17th Century Chinese fluted ceramics.
Dean Hughes never puts a foot wrong but I didn’t think Saatchi displayed it very well.
And the other work that stood out for me was Systems House with his mix of minimalism and manufacturing.

Unusually nowadays, the only noticeable use of text was James Howard and his 46 digital prints appropriating the graphics and language of advertising and information posters. Apart from the soft spot for me of finding an artwork which features a dog called Barny in the Saatchi, I enjoyed Howard’s word play

When its fact of life teaching schedule remember to
Include tell her most important one.
“Is any other dog?
Has it happened
To Barny?
At an alarming rate?”
“Has the children?”

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