Remember those wobbly toys which you had as a child which, no matter how hard you pushed them, always bounced back upright (apparently they were called “wibble wobbles”)? Russian sculptor Gregory Orekhov’s daughter Agatha had such a toy when she was young and Orekhov has recreated a larger sculptural version named after her. Orekhov has a gallery in the historic centre of Moscow where he promotes international artists and this week his sculpture “Agatha” has been in London, inviting visitors to START at the Saatchi Gallery to think back to their childhood and, while the sculpture is set in motion, to reimagine those dreams they once had and whether they were realised. If not, why not?
The fourth START fair brings new work from international artists and galleries to London, this year with a theme linked to society, religion, emotion, culture, immigration and the issues of the modern world, a theme evident in the projects which have been curated as part of the fair and also in the works of many of the artists on display.
The projects reinforce the role which artists have in not only representing troubled times, but optimism for the future. Vietnam has emerged from the long period of the war with a national pride, but with challenges, shown in the project “Vietnam Eye: Blood, Sweat and Tears£, even including work using blood as paint by Nguyen Van Du in his slaughterhouse paintings (with a double meaning). Chinese artist Liu Bolin, many of whose works are on show, is presenting a live performance of “The Disappearing Act” where he will be painted against the background into which he will disappear, as have many people around the world. In “Totem: Sacred Beings and Spirit Objects”, the totem and spiritual beings are explored by artists such as Dana Hargrove in “Wall”, and a totem made of all those empty blister packets of medicines by David Batchelor, reminding us of the benefits of medicines on the one hand, but the commerciality of the huge pharmaceutical companies on the other.
Moving beyond the projects, the galleries and artists have responded to the theme, including Chris LO Sze-lim’s ceramics which explore life infused by spirituality, Bimbi Larraburu’s paintings focussed on the theme of fear of the unknown, Owais Husain’s “The Unfolding Wall” which reflects on immigration, identity and displacement with the ocean contained in the suitcase, not the other way around, and “Q-Targets” a project focussed on messages of peace by the Ukranian artist Chernovil Andril, based in Doha in Qatar. And, its not all about countries far away – we have our own challenges, as Francis Matthews reminds us with his photographs of Dublin.
There are many more works beside these – several questioning what we have become in the 21st century and what Christ would have to adjust to if he arrived today. What, for example, would a politically correct Last Supper look like – a question posed by Johan Andersson.
Not everything is about society – there is some work which might (perhaps) be just art, such as Karl Singporewala’s beautiful architectural chess set, though it too has a message of the developers of tall buildings (in black) fighting historic buildings (in red).
This is a fair where you should talk to the galleries and the artists and delve underneath the suble meanings of the work. It is a show which should not be rushed.