Gesamptkunstwerk @ Saatchi Gallery

Charles Saatchi has collected and exhibited artists in his super rich King’s Road palatial gallery from across the pond, from China, India, various countries of the Middle East, Britain as well as many more. He has now turned his spotlight on to Germany. Currently in his impressive Gallery 24 artists, all based in Germany and aged between 31 and 64, take over the walls and spaces and demand attention.

Whilst the Tate has enjoyed notorious German artist Gerhard Richter over the Winter period, Saatchi (who collected Richter long ago) has on display his collection of the best and latest work that is exploding out of the country right now.

Mixed Media and Concrete 2010, Various Sizes

The rooms of the Gallery are cluttered with pieces that range in the media they are produced in. Within the same rooms sculpture stands in front and around paintings in a chaotic display that is both overpowering and intriguing at the same time. This can seem just a bit too much to take in. The rooms can feel claustrophobic and tight as the scales of the pieces dominate.

The title of the exhibition is Gesamptkunstwerk roughly translated as ‘total artwork’ and was originally used by Richard Wagner in his 1849 essay, ‘Artwork and the Future’. The term refers to a ‘complete artwork’ that brings different art forms together to create a whole. This title is at odds with the exhibition as most pieces are stand alone and seperate relating with each other on a minimal scale. The title seems to have been chosen simply because it is an art term (which has regularly been associated with architecture) and happens to be in the German language. Target language, yes, target meaning, not really. The only artist who seems to achieve some form of Gesamptkunstwerk in the traditional sense of the term is Markus Selg whose display encompasses sculpture, painting, furniture and prints all at the same time.

2010, Sublimation print on fabric 195 x 260 cm

Anyway, enough pedantic-ness over the exhibitions title and on to the works on display. The work exhibited has no clear running theme or style. The only thing that links these artists together is simply the fact they all work in Germany. Whilst this suggests a lack of clear direction for Germany’s emerging Contemporary Art due to a lack of unifyng style this isn’t all bad because it also highlights its incredible diversity.

Paintings fill the enormous walls with ease whilst sculptures stretch across the rooms as if trying to hit every point inside the gallery. The overarching theme therefore seems to be one of beautiful chaos and incredible large scale. Each piece seems to want to shout at you and gain your attention in the loudest possible voice.

Works are put together from bits and pieces of just about anything, from lashings of paint to cans and plastic bags. Materials range from those traditionally associated with art to complete non-art materials. This creates a diverse range of art from painterly abstract to the more obscure pieces formed with the likes of concrete.

Many pieces also take an undeniable inspiration from Modern masters. It is clear to see Giacometti in the works of Georg Herold. Instead of earthy tones however, Herold has used bold colours and poses more akin to the work of Henry Moore.

Batten, canvas, lacquer, thread and screws, 120 x 420 x 165 cm

Twin brothers Gert and Uwe, who have worked together since 2001, take up part of the gallery with their bold and exciting pieces that infuse a sense of surrealism with the bright colours of Miro. Colour and paint meet again in the other Gallery rooms in the artworks of Andre Butzer. Since the 1980s, Saatchi has had a penchant for action painting with a taste for pieces with thick lashings of paint. Here, with this artist, his desires seem to be satisfied. Butzer’s work is bright bold and resembles 1980’s cartoon style graffiti.

Woodcut on paper on canvas, 4 panels, overall dimensions: 200 x 1,200 cm

My personal favorite artist was Isa Genzken. Her pieces collect all the tat of everyday life and manipulate it together to form sculptures that are unnerving and disturbing. By making totems of everyday objects she plays with our propensity to attach symbolism to the most banal things.

Plastic, lacquer, mirror foil, glass, metal, wood, fabric 220 x 60 x 100 cm

Her work is mainly three-dimensional but it also encompasses photography, video and collage. Her crude sculptures are attractive due to the way she has defiled the original safe pieces and put them together to make monstrous totems. She has in this way made the most banal, cheap and mass produced objects into something that is truly unique in the form of her garish sculptures.

Whilst this exhibition may well be chaotic and lack a running theme, it is worth having a look. Germany’s economy may be in ruin with dark days ahead but its Art appears to be alive, well and full of the most boldest colours and ideas possible.

 

Gesampkunstwerk: New Art From Germany @ Saatchi Gallery, runs until 30th April 2012

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