Champagne Life at the Saatchi Gallery

A sensational impact is half expected of Saatchi. Ever since his exhibition of a similar name drew record breaking crowds at the Royal Academy in the mid-90s the audience has presumed to see something shocking, something humorous, something epic. The world has moved on and many of the artists the collector now favours come from a different ilk, from different countries and even their exhibition home, the wonderful Duke of York HQ building - it's all quite different to the original warehouse space and the introduction of the YBAs.

The Last Peasant-Painters Peeling Potatoes (Old Woman Mill), Sigrid Holmwood, 2007

The Last Peasant-Painters Peeling Potatoes (Old Woman Mill), Sigrid Holmwood, 2007

That said, this is a show displaying a happy variety of works; day-glow paintings, the famed giant copper ball and string. There is a tied up blue donkey on the floor and wax figures melted onto bed frames. Plastic is used, bent and polished, skin is studied at an almost molecular level and burnt pots and pans adorn an entire wall. This is in some ways more Pop, more populist even, than the Tate's Pop Life exhibition of a few years back. Also in touring the show last year, celebrating South American art, there were similar global issues tackled.

Food for Thought 'Almuallaqat 4," Maha Malluh, 2016

Food for Thought 'Almuallaqat 4," Maha Malluh, 2016

The press and introductory texts have made much of this being a show made up entirely of women artists. That such a divide is made and is necessary is far from ideal but tellingly, much of the work on display and the themes approached by these artists does not seem overtly feminine. And it is better for it. There is compassion in many of the works and a gentleness in others but there is also strength and daring, a lightness of touch as well as obvious focus and conviction. In short, there is the full spectrum of human emotions and concerns approached by considerable talent, not merely a carousel of women called upon to emulate men and their work; none of these artists would not measure up devoid of their sex. 

Jelena Bulajic's portraits loom large and linger in the mind. Their scale allows deep inspection to the folds and creases of time, her subjects' faces showing the worn contours of age.

Grozda, Jelena Bulajic, 2014

Grozda, Jelena Bulajic, 2014

In fact, for me, despite the more physical presence of some installations and sculptures, it was mainly the painting works that were most arresting. Seung Ah Paik's Autolandscape is vast; measuring 4m high and over seven wide the flesh study is captivating - not just in being split into four and confounding the logic of a single image but by its size in the room: you have to actually cross the gallery to take it all in. Hands, nipples, a heal and toes redden the otherwise pinkish hue but the effect is dramatic in the way Sensation was, yet routed in unarguable domesticity. 

http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/champagne-life/ until March 9th