Saatchi’s New Sensations – A Pop-Up Of Absurd Invention

Saatchi Art presents New Sensations 2014 at Victoria House, Bloomsbury, London. The competition was launched seven years ago to support the most imaginative and talented young artists in the UK and to present their work to an international audience during Frieze Week. The Prize is now established in the UK and is an important annual prize for emerging artists, and it claims to showcase each year the best graduates studying at UK and Republic of Ireland art schools.

The New Sensations exhibition, held every October, is recognized as one of the major events of Frieze Week in London, and states to ‘offer collectors an unparalleled opportunity to see the finest emerging art from across the UK’.

Since the Prize was launched in 2007 the judges have included key figures in the contemporary art world such as artists Rachel Whiteread, Antony Gormley, John Stezaker and Gary Hume; gallerists Sadie Coles, Maureen Paley and Alison Jacques; museum directors Kate Bush, head of the Barbican Art Galleries, London, and Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery, London; critics and broadcasters Tim Marlow, Louisa Buck and Matthew Collings; Tabitha Jackson, Commissioning Editor, Arts, Channel 4; and Rebecca Wilson, Chief Curator, Saatchi Art.

This is the 8th edition of the prize, and includes art students graduating from BA and MA courses at UK and Republic of Ireland colleges and universities in 2014 have been nominated by Saatchi Art curators. The longlist of nominated artists was announced in August 2014, and the shortlisted artists, chosen by a panel of judges, was announced in September. The shortlisted artists then went on to show their work in the New Sensations exhibition.

The exhibition is a sprawling survey of varying levels of quality; but it is no coincidence that one of the stand-out works on display belongs to this years winner of the prize artist; Charles Richardson, graduate of the Slade School of Fine Arts, MA Fine Art Media. The artist won for his film ‘Rehearsal’; a panel of judges chose Richardson as the winner from a shortlist of 25 artists, awarding a cash prize to fund a studio for a year.

The work is a video piece; consisting of a 3D computer-modelled head – presumably that of the artist; even though his face is obscured by various detritus taped about it. The viewer explores the animated model even travelling inside the ’empty shell’ of the artist; an autobiographical act on film; a self-portrait both ridiculous and slightly disturbing. The work is an obvious experimental leap into the absurd; where the artist presents a kind of parody of the internal void screamed at us by Munch.

The young artist’s practice is said to be driven by the ambitious task, perhaps mistakenly as he states himself, of understanding what it means to exist. No small task for any artist. Richardson’s winning work ‘Rehearsal’ evolved from a process of associative investigation, and is an obvious act of experimentation; resulting in a work of intentional confusion amounting to a form of poetic hilarity. Absurdity and gravity, are the attempted balance – luckily for the artist; his clumsiness is entirely intentional.

The installation is probably the most enjoyable work on display at New Sensations, and its knowing sense of absurdity elevates the work to a level of maturity that paradoxically conflicts with its methodology.

New Sensations 2014 at Victoria House, Bloomsbury, London – until 18 October

Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2014 Photo courtesy of Saatchi Art all rights reserved

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