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The Shape of Things to Come Review

Ben Hodgkiss peers into the future of sculpture at the Saatchi Gallery

Published on July 15th 2011.


The Shape of Things to Come Review

FOR the first time in its history, the Saatchi Gallery is presenting an entire exhibition dedicated to contemporary sculpture. Encompassing fifteen of their buildings spaces, The Shape Of Things To Come, demonstrates an array of varying subject matter, all appearing to be very much concerned with the collective “we” and our place within an ever-changing modern world. These are all viewed through the eyes of twenty different artist’s creations, aesthetic styles, tastes and opinions. Ideas of soft and hard politics, industry, nature, sex, death, consumerism, religion, ennui, the self, body image, science, memories, assumptions and ego are all themes addressed and discussed to varying degrees, enhanced each artist’s inspirations and challenges to the boundaries of art itself. From David Altmejd’s semi-esoteric, religious human forms to Mathew Brannon’s dioramas of existential crisis, room to room the visiting public are bombarded with an array of different visual stimuli, seeking answers to questions  in a modern world of hyper-emotion and information overload.

From David Altmejd’s semi-esoteric, religious human forms to Mathew Brannon’s dioramas of existential crisis, room to room the visiting public are bombarded with an array of different visual stimuli, seeking answers to questions  in a modern world of hyper-emotion and information overload.

Kris Marrin’s ‘Summit’ sees eight human-size pieces of found stone liberally peppered about the room. It is not until you discover the minute crucifixes upon each of the stone’s highest points, that they achieve a new context and a new scale. Evoking a kind of dream-like implausibility about them, each piece holds its own truth, unlocked when its re-imagined size is considered, and its testament to human will or banality of perverted ego’s ‘conquered’ claim is exposed.

Summit, 2009 by Kris MarrinSummit, 2009 by Kris Marrin

German artist, Dirk Skreber ‘s ‘Untitled Crash 1 and 2’, demonstrates mangled and contorted beauty meeting a sudden end. His wrecked cars hold a poised elegance, which makes it hard to imagine the complete carnage that awaits them, toppling and turning down the autobahn before they meet their inevitable fate. The cars in flight bring out the rubber-necked vulture voyeurs in the audience, who slowly and meticulously devour the savaged metal carcasses on their way to doom and demise.

Untitled by Dirk SkreberUntitled by Dirk Skreber

Peter Buggenhout’s painstakingly produced, epic dust colonies of refuse and kicked to the curb, forgotten components, resemble the clawed guts of industry and our throw-away culture. Perhaps once integral components to the smooth running of some mundane process, the installation’s pieces now function as immortal empires in their own right. Whether a catastrophe of epic proportions or a germaphobe’s worst nightmare, each disregarded relic sits drowning in its own worthless pity and disease.

Sterling Ruby’s work recreates and resembles years and years of nature’s cruel bloom. The pieces conjure a dark image in the mind; the viewer finds themselves stumbling upon some hushed away, abandoned temple of midnight’s held court. You see stalagmites dripping and a motorway bridge’s grammatically incorrect, poorly-spelt spray-can poetry – daunting in size and lurking over those brave enough to venture within. The affected and decaying architecture sits, terrifying and meanacing forms, waiting to be found again by only the most daring of young explorers.

Mathew Monoham’s contribution resembles the excavated burial chamber of some unknown culture’s King or Queen. Somewhat slapdash and thrown together, the ‘artifacts’ seem ceremonial, bordering into the territory of religious iconography. Charged with secret meaning, the illustrated pieces interact with each other, whether folded, spliced, dripped or draped. Smudged charcoal and dry board somehow appear priceless and rife with deeper meaning, as each of the materials oozes mystery in some undecipherable language.

Richard Wilson’s ‘20:50’ is a vast and all-encompassing act of sheer industrial brilliance. It is the gallery’s only permanent installation, sitting comfortably amongst its counterparts. A daring feat of infinite beauty, the piece exposes the simple brilliance of a reflection. This is perhaps to be determined by the beholder, who, on viewing the masterpiece, is at once subjected to a range of emotions and thoughts and nauseating smells.

Anselm ReyleAnselm Reyle

As pompous, condescending and self-aware as one may hope not to be, it is perhaps equally as rewarding for visitors to wander around the gallery as a flaneur, studying the art-loving public’s reaction to the pieces as it is to study the pieces themselves. Overhearing a “that’s good”, a “that’s ugly” or or a father explaining to his child what the artist might be trying to say, witnessing the cross-legged students feverishly filling space in their sketchbooks with heavily shaded shapes and forms or the tourists posing next to favourite exhibits and filming everything with handheld cameras, is all as much a part of the experience as the work itself. It adds another dimension and layer to the piece’s story and impetus, as it is in these minute studies, that one can be afforded the opportunity of witnessing yet another point of view on top of the creator’s intended or deliberately ambiguous statements.

Furthermore, it important and necessary to remind and reiterate that the exhibition is composed purely of sculpture, which changes the manner in which one views and moves about the art and space (circling, crouching and overlooking the larger than life works, interacting with rather than standing before to address them). The viewer is able to determine their own relationship with a concept, and afforded the opportunity, in some cases, to touch and feel, in the hopes that inspiration may literally rub off on them.

The Shape of Things to Come will run until October.

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