08/09/2010 12:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Exhibition Highlights: 'Newspeak' -- Show of New British Art at the Saatchi Gallery

Pink Cher, Scott KIng, 2008, Screenprint and paint on canvas, 3x2m photo:Kisa Lala
Pink Cher, Scott KIng, 2008, Screenprint and paint on canvas, 3x2m, photo by Kisa Lala

By Kisa Lala

The current summer show at the Saatchi Gallery in London brings to the fore a whole new generation of young British artists that now form the vanguard of the previously christened YBAs. But this show unlike its notorious predecessor, Sensation (1997), did not inspire scandal, which perhaps is a good indication of the current exhibition's rather muted showing.

Newspeak, titled after George Orwell's dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four, refers to a kind of abbreviated language that results from a gradual whittling away of expression and censorship of thought. This exhibition though claims to be about the opposite, showing that the range of "visual languages being exploited and invented by these new artists is, in fact, expanding and multiplying."

Though the show seemed cursorily curated incorporating many visual styles and strategies, there were still many inspiring artists that stood out. Scott King's Pink Cher, the sole artwork represented by this artist in the show, is graphically striking for its sheer simplicity and comedic pun. But the painting also is a sardonic reference to Warhol, celebrity obsessions, and the commodification of a revolution and homogenization by the media.

Ged Quinn, True Peace Will Prevail Under The Rule, 2004, © Saatchi Gallery
Ged Quinn, True Peace Will Prevail Under The Rule, 2004, Oil on linen, Saatchi Gallery

Ged Quinn's many layered landscapes appear at first to be romantic allusions of pastoral bliss but woven in wittily are contemporary mythologies. True Peace Will Prevail is a reworking of Claude Lorrain's 1666 Old Testament depiction of Jacob, Rachel and Leah at the Well. But the well is replaced by a depiction of the religious community at Waco, Texas, and Jacob here is David Koresh, the leader of the dissident group that was destroyed eventually by the FBI. Other paintings of Quinn's similarly offer contemporary fusions in beautifully rendered classical landscapes that make us stop at length and ponder at their strangeness.

One of the most brilliant artworks on display is the one on permanent view at the show: Richard Wilson's 20:50. Upon entering the gallery from a high platform, one's first impression is that the room is empty. Only on closer inspection does one see that the entire room is flooded with oil. The particular engine oil used is pitch black, and the mirror like sheen of its surface reflects the galleries architecture and creates an illusion of infinite space which is both disorienting and confounding. The work is best experienced in person and one of the most compelling reasons to visit the show.

Goshka Macuga, Madame Blavatsky
Goshka Macuga, Madame Blavatsky, 2007 Carved wood, fibreglass, clothes, chairs, photo by Kisa Lala

Sigrid Holmwood - The Last Peasant-Painters Peeling Potatoes (Old Woman Mill) 2007
Sigrid Holmwood - The Last Peasant-Painters Peeling Potatoes (Old Woman Mill) 2007, Fluorescent orange egg tempera; lead white, Prussian blue, Chrome yellow light, lead antimonate, Bohemian green earth, Spanish glazing ochre; iron oxide in soured milk; birch leaf lake in pine resin on board, Saatchi Gallery

Saatchi Gallery NEWSPEAK: BRITISH ART NOW, Part One on view till 17th Oct 2010, Duke of York's HQ King's Road, London, UK.