“Painters’ Painters” at the Saatchi Gallery extended to 22 March 2017

Richard Aldrich, Future Portrait #49, 2003 Acrylic on panel 30.5 x 30.5 cm

At Saatchi Gallery to 22 March, this exhibition showcases the work of 9 contemporary artists, all of whom work with paint in an art world currently dominated by more modern media such as video, installation and conceptual art – paint was entirely absent from the Turner Prize this year.

The Saatchi’s glorious exhibition space and relaxed attitude to displaying artwork (art is not cordoned off but you are asked to ensure that children don’t touch) makes it an ideal venue for a family trip, and this exhibition is upbeat, cheerful, colourful and thought-provoking. The exhibition is arranged in 9 gallery rooms, each devoted to a different artist.

David Brian Smith’s large-scale paintings of multi-coloured but highly realistic sheep are entrancing. The series of paintings (planned to be 100 with 25 completed) was inspired by an old newspaper clipping of a shepherd tending his sheep, found by the artist’s mother in the 1930s, which recalled the artist’s Shropshire farming childhood – his father was a shepherd.  On a life-size scale, the intense paintings draw the viewer in until one feels part of the psychedelic scene, and the sheep are really fascinating. “Great Expectations – A Windy Day” 2015 is a highlight:


David Brian Smith, “Great Expectations – A Windy Day” 2015. Oil on linen 220 x 270 cm

Raffi Kalenderian’s zebras which are the subject of his painting “Spirit Guides and Sunflowers” 2008 is strongly reminiscent of The National Gallery’s treasured “Tiger – Surprised” by Rousseau.  Rousseau was a self-taught 19th century French painter whose jungle scenes were marred by his never having visited a jungle or seen the animals and plants he painted – he worked from zoo specimens, sailors’ stories and botanical books, and produced unnatural animals, football sized oranges, and upside down bananas. His paintings are loved for their child-like simplicity and sincerity, and Kalenderian, born in Los Angeles in 1981 has much of this flavour, and a Rousseau-like disregard for whether zebras and sunflowers exist in the same places.  His spirit zebras perch unconvincingly on top of the foliage, just like Rousseau’s tiger in “Surprised”.  A Spirit Guide comes from shamanic belief in Native American Indian cultures, and is an animal spirit that protects educates, heals and inspires humans.  As humans and animals live in the real world together the Native American Indians deduced that they must also inhabit the spirit world together.  Shaman practitioners receive a specific animal guide to help with their duties, although you don’t have to be a Shaman to access the animal spirit guides. The zebra spirit guide reminds us that there is more than 1 way to look at issues and that we should be ready to accept alternative views and new ideas. As Kalenderian’s zebras are Spirit Guides they are not intended as realistic representations of zebras, but rather as a symbolic plea for understanding and tolerance in a torn world:


Raffi Kalenderian, “Spirit Guides and Sunflowers” 2008. Oil on canvas 152.4 x 248.9 cm

Dexter Dalwood (born Bristol 1960) is one of the older artists, short-listed for the Turner Prize in 2010.  His work encompasses the personal, social, political and historical, as well as drawing on other artists.  In “The Deluge” 2006 Dalwood foregrounds the anger of God in a huge jagged red wave, while Noah is shrunk and side-lined to the edge of the canvas, represented only by his boat.  This painting was part of Tate Britain’s exhibition “Fighting History” when it was shown next to Francis Danby’s “The Deluge” 1840, a visceral dramatic vision of drowning humanity.  Danby’s melodrama was contrasted with Dalwood’s cartoonish rendering where dominance is given to colour and shape rather than narrative.  Dalwood focuses on the place of the flood in the natural world rather than the human tragedy:


Dexter Dalwood, “The Deluge“, 2006. Oil on canvas 274 x 457 cm

The exhibition is a treat to visit with a child and a sketchbook – highly recommended.  Click here for further details: Painters’ Painters


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