So on Sunday, before the rain and wind sets in, Jonah heads up to the King’s Road, to the Saatchi Gallery, located in part of the barracks where the Grand Old Duke of York kept his ten thousand men. The sound of marching has long faded, and all is quiet but for the gentle footfall of Londoners and tourists on gravel as they make their way in to see Champagne Life, the latest exhibition, which runs until 9 March. And believe me, this presentation of artwork by female artists from around the world is well worth seeing. There are a couple of inspired exhibits by Alice Anderson whom we visited at the end of last year in the Wellcome Foundation up in Euston. Equally, the refreshingly intriguing canvases by Florida-born Suzanne McClelland, are not to be missed.
Then there is the Serbian artist, Jelena Bulajic. Born in Vrbas, Serbia, in 1990, Bulajic lives between London and Serbia. The selection of her portraits in mixed media on canvas are truly mesmerising. According to the gallery blurb:
The human face, with all its softness, contortions, wrinkles and sags, is the subject matter of Jelena Bulajics’ minutely accurate paintings. Each canvas is filled with the faces of people she spots in the street, or encounters in daily life, whose character, look, or empathy catch her interest.
What is staggering about Bujalic’s work is its gigantic scale. The portrait illustrated, for example, measures 2.7 x 2 metres, and yet the detail is absolutely minute and meticulous. Saatchi’s policy of not roping off exhibits or placing them under glass allows visitors to get really close to paintings and appreciate the beauty of the artists’ techniques, which in the case of Bulajic, is of a standard of execution that Titian might have envied. Sensational.
If you haven’t seen it already, there’s still time to catch the free exhibition of sculptures by Alice Anderson at the Wellcome Collection in Euston Road, (diagonally opposite Euston Station), before it closes on 18 October.
According to the publicity handout:
Alice Anderson asks you to take a journey into memory. Displayed together for the first time is a series of sculptures which prompt you to rediscover things you thought you already knew. A computer, a record-player, sketch-books, a bicycle, even a staircase have been transformed into luminous half-recognisable shapes through a process the artist refers to as “mummification”. This process actually involves the objects being bound with very fine copper thread so that they are, theoretically preserved for all time.
The exhibition experience is broken down into a series of themed rooms. In the first room, called Studio, you are invited to contribute to a sculpture by becoming part of Anderson’s studio. Here you can participate in the transformation of a ‘naked’ object by weaving copper thread around a 1967 Ford Mustang. The space where this occurs has minimal lighting to heighten the impact of the glowing copper thread and the effect is absolutely breathtaking.
And as you move through the different spaces of the exhibition you are bombarded with a series of everyday objects similarly wrapped in the copper thread. The range of objects mummified includes a plasma tv screen, a guitar, a bicycle, keys, a telescope, a turntable, eye glasses, a smoking pipe, a telephone, coat hangers, a stethoscope, tools including screwdrivers and hammers, a basketball, a boomerang, a set of drums, ladders, shelves, geometrical shapes, and so on, and the cumulative effect is spectacular.
Two sculptures in particular caught my imagination: the first was a staircase wrapped in the luminous thread, and such was the scintillating play of light that it appeared to be a staircase to heaven. The second sculpture (illustrated at the top of the page) was a huge, twisting and turning cable of copper rope suspended from the ceiling in one room creating a beautiful abstract space that visitors are able to walk through and therefore observe the rope from every dimension.
Like with so much conceptual art, Alice Anderson is inviting us to take a fresh look at everyday objects we take for granted by reducing them to their essential shapes. However, the fact that they are bound in a glowing precious metal inevitably enhances their worth—especially given the market price of copper today—and the overall effect is as though Miss Anderson has transformed the objects into gold with her Midas touch. I would add incidentally, that it is probably no coincidence that the artist’s own hair is copper-coloured. Make of that what you will!
Never been to the Wellcome Collection? If that’s the case, make a note. It’s a fabulous exhibition space, and the museum’s permanent collection is full of informative displays. The building itself is worth a drop-in visit, and on the day I was there the cafeteria and bookshop were buzzing. On top of all this, the venue has a broad programme of events embracing the arts and sciences, the majority of which are free. Details available from http://wellcomecollection.org/.