Familiar shocks and surprising light touches in Newspeak Part Two at the Saatchi Gallery

By Mark Sheerin | 18 November 2010 | Updated: 01 May 2012
An abstract paainting in shades of pink, red and purple
Ximena Garrido-Lecca, The Followers, 2010, Mixed media installation. Courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London© Bridget Riley, 2010. All rights reserved
Exhibition: Newspeak: British Art Now - Part Two, Saatchi Gallery, London, until April 17 2011

If one work could speak for all the others, in Part Two of Newspeak at Saatchi Gallery, it might be Steve Bishop, It’s Hard To Make A Stand.

Bishop’s ready-made foam horse, still in its wrapper, has been discreetly castrated and is blinkered with a fur coat. Apparently, the plinth gave the artist most difficulty and it was this aspect of the work to which the title refers.

The finished work, which is also unfinished and indeed vandalised, has the look of a gesture of despair. In the context of this particular collection, any public statement is to some degree neutralised.

Bishop’s horse has less thrust than it should have, because it is just another of the spectacular gestures we have come to expect from work bought by Charles Saatchi. In this respect the collector may be a victim of the succès de scandal of his 1997 show Sensation.

Many works in the current exhibition are still capable of dazzling the crowds who will still venture to see them, and the gallery must be praised for making art like this accessible.

There are Jontahan Wateridge’s epic history paintings with a Hollywood twist, and a Peruvian burial wall installed by Ximena Garrido-Lecca which is alarming in its scale. Tessa Farmer also does something grim and painstaking with dead insects and tiny winged skeletons.

Elsewhere there is work which is more low-key. The painting of Ansel Krut, for example, is too muted to really grab attention, but with subject matter ranging from sausages to human turds, they are in fact among the most caustic pieces in the show.

So it is a paradox that the most lighthearted work here appears to stand out the most. Spartacus Chetwynd makes startling animal costumes recalling the merry dance of her live performances, and Anne Hardy photographs studio-built rooms full of detail and an aura of magic.

But as a character in Olivia Plender’s multi-part pencil-drawn graphic novel says, we criticise art “at one’s peril.” Newspeak will always provoke a strong response, and all those views may say more about the visitors than about the world’s most famous art collector. What better way for a reclusive millionaire to engage with the world?

Admission free. Open 10am-6pm, check website for possible closures.

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