Exhibition | Champagne Life

As part of the celebrations for its 30th year, the Saatchi Gallery opens “Champagne Life” the gallery’s first all-female exhibition.

Featuring 14 international artists, the exhibition showcases what it means to be a working female artist today.

The title is taken from one of featured artists Julia Wachtel’s piece “Champagne Life” which offers a commentary on how champagne’s appropriation of hip-hop culture indicates success “when artists transition from economically depressed ghetto to uptown highlife,” she says.

Applied ironically to the exhibition’s title, the phrase serves to show a stark contrast between the expectations, and the reality of working as a female artist.

There could be a preconception of what an all-female exhibition may possess, and this one arguably shatters them all.

With the absurd notion that “female artist” automatically equals “feminist art”, “Champagne Life” is a cocktail of variety, with each artist offering unique perspectives.

With all of the participating artists still being relatively early on in their careers, the Saatchi provides the perfect exhibition space for up and coming international artists who rarely showcase their work in the UK.

Featuring a range of diverse works from sculptures and installations to canvas paintings and portraits, its clear that each of the artists have important messages to convey.

Soheila Sokhanvari’s taxidermy installation of a horse “stuck” in fiberglass and jesmonite typifies her work, which moves between political commentary and the surreal. Notorious for using her work as a metaphor for the Iranian state, the horse being “stuck” represents the societal restrictions seen in Iran.

'Moje Sabz' -Soheila Sokhanvari (2011)

‘Moje Sabz’ -Soheila Sokhanvari
(2011)

Saudi Arabian artist Maha Mullah’s piece entitled Food for Thought is an installation of aluminum cooking pots, and seeks to expose the impact of consumer culture throughout her home nation.

Whether the agenda is political or not, each of the pieces communicates important messages about society today.

American artist Julia Wachtel’s work is housed in the first gallery of the exhibition, and offers commentary into contemporary popular culture, featuring screen prints of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian.

Touching on popular culture within her work equally is Marie Angeletti, who juxtaposes images that might appear together in a Google search. Like Wachtel’s Champagne Life, she also features Minnie Mouse in one of her prints.

The paintings on display are all entirely diverse in what they represent. Whilst Sigrid Holmwood showcases portraits of domestic life in the 19th century with neon tones, Suzanne McClelland’s canvases use text to show data sets alluding to both body builders and domestic terrorists in the United States.

Korean artist Seung Ah Paik uses large strips of canvas which have been fused together to make tapestries, conveying flesh and the human form. Drawing her technique from the traditional Korean portrait style, Paik’s identity is revealed without showing her face; every scar and imperfection featured a reflection of her own self.

Similarly, Jelena Bulajic’s portraits seek to portray the fragility of human flesh, with her paintings showing older, more vulnerable subjects. Bulajic ‘s fascination with the lines and wrinkles of the human face are what drive her to paint older subjects, as she is attracted to the energy of the people she works with.

Mequiita Ahuja’s paintings have been the subject of a lot of press coverage for the exhibition, and is the largest collection of paintings featured in “Champagne Life”.

Her use of deep, saturated colours means that each painting stands out in contrast to the stark background.

Both trans-cultural and autobiographical. Ahuja “conveys the conviction that identity is ours to fabricate”, according to the wall text.

'Rhyme Sequence: Wiggle Waggle' - Mequitta Ahuja (2012)

‘Rhyme Sequence: Wiggle Waggle’ – Mequitta Ahuja
(2012)

The sculptures throughout the exhibition seem to have gained the most public attention, arguably due to the scale of the pieces.

Mia Feuer’s piece entitled Jerusalem Donkey is a sculpture of a lying donkey, who’s legs are bound by rope, and was created as the result of a series of workshops spent in Palestine, where Feuer saw that animals are vital to manoeuvre military roadblocks.

Stephanie Quayle’s clay sculpture of Two Cows rendered at a life-size scale is a reflection of nature and how it links to man.

French artist Virgile Ittah shows the contrast between man-made and organic substances with her sculpture, which shows two wax figures leaning against an antique metal bed frame.

Almost shown to be “melting” into the bed frames, Ittah illustrates the struggle of feeling bound to one’s home despite a need to leave; a commentary on our current migration crisis.

It is Alice Anderson’s copper thread sculpture however, that reigns supreme in its scale, made of 181 kilometers of copper thread, as reflected in the piece’s title, she addresses “the loss of tangible, mummifying items in copper threads”.

Throughout the exhibition, the stories and motives behind each of these pieces weren’t displayed; merely a name card with the title of the piece.

As someone who generally relies upon text inserts in order to understand what each piece means, the curation and attention to detail in each piece mean that the text wasn’t necessary.

Allowing audiences to project their own ideas and thoughts onto the pieces, I found it easier to drink in subtle details of each piece on my own, without being told what I’m looking at or for.

The variety and different mediums of artwork on display meant that each room evoked an array of emotions, keeping me interested and intrigued throughout.

“Champagne Life” is an interesting and diverse exhibition which showcases a vast array of beautifully curated pieces.

Spanning through ten of the Saatchi’s galleries, it provides both a visually and mentally stimulating experience, with each artist exceeding the boundaries of what it is to be a female artist.

Champagne Life is on at the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London, SW3 4RY from January 13th – March 6th 2016.
Admission is free.
All images courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery