Painter's Painting @ Saatchi


Emoji summary: 🌿⬜️🆒

This is our first text of 2017! I couldn’t help but feel like this text had to be, not just good, but exemplary. Start as you mean to go on. Reflective of the way I want to be in 2017. Like when you get a new notebook and you’re really scared of writing on the first page because literally how can anything ever be important enough to constitute and deserve that first page, and even if you pick the right thing, you have to make sure ur handwriting is smashing it and use a nice fancy pen. So many first-page related anxieties.

I am sorry to disappoint you, but this is not going to be a good first page, full of happy news and celebration. Because on Thursday I went to a lot of shows I didn’t want to write about. And then on Friday I went to the show at Saatchi: Painter’s Painters.

Now I want to start by saying that this is a stupid name. I hate things like this. They normally end up in listicles, don’t they. I think the idea of a painter other painters look to as a good painter: good, fine, excellent, admirable premise for a show. I am not a painter of anything other than sarcastic horses. I am not privy to their particular discourse. I wrote about trying to get my leg into this discourse when I wrote about the Bhupen Khahkhar show @ Tate last summer. It’s a difficult thing when you aren’t invested emotionally and academically (with ur heart and ur mind; ur body and ur body of work). So this review will not have the weight of someone who has thrown themselves into this headfirst/handsfirst.

However, I will say with ReLaTiVe CoNvIcTiOn: I’m not sure this was a show full of paintings by painters who are admired by other painters. I think the Saatchi Gallery likes to show works by artists they like/represent. AnD I know that is either a trite or naive thing to say; bc u either agree with me, or think I am a fool who knows noTHING about the art world. I am either boring u with facts u know / or disgruntling u with a weird radical distaste for commercialism for the sake of anything but the commercial. BC see, now… I don’t mind fancy Mayfair galleries or those galleries u catch between Green Park and Oxford Street. The ones with big expansive spaces and tacky sculptures of bears made of bottle tops. I admire them. I respect them for being brazen and saying: ‘I AM WHAT I AM’. I would much rather Mr Saatchi was upfront n said, ‘I am a business man, not a curator’ and was honest that this was a show full of painters he makes money from. I was bothered by the slight of hand. It upset my sensibilities. Also, how dare they charge £1 for the little handout! I’m sure I am not alone in my disgruntled-ness.

ONE painting in this show made me stop and tilt my head. I turned to my boy and said, ‘Ah. That one’s nice, innit’. Richard Aldrich’s ‘Past, Present and Future (#1)’(PICTURED) was nice. It was nicer than all the other works combined. I liked the simplicity and the space of the painting. It was minimal without being abstract and the size felt expansive, but not scary. It was an open-arms kind of large. It felt maybe maternal in its open-ness. And the plant in front was sweet. I think there was something about the surface-ness of it all that I really respected; and something about the aesthetic it spoke with made me look it in the eye without rolling my own. The rest of his large paintings felt facetious, and in comparison, there was something nice and earnest about this. Like a nice, straightforward still-life. I read the entire piece with a tiny and maybe misplaced naivety. Maybe that’s a good and accurate way to characterise my attempt to write about this show that I 40% hated, 59% ignored, 1% ah, that’s alright. I went in naively thinking, ‘We’ve never written about a Saatchi show, I haven’t been since I was 16. How strange! How biased!’ As my tone hardened, I surprised myself by being softened and charmed by this one peculiar little work.

Maybe this last part can be the nice first-page-of-the-notebook bit: the bit where I start as I mean to go on. While I looked at this one, weird Aldrich painting; I took my half-eaten packet of vegetable crisps out of my bag and stood with the work for a while longer than I expected. How sweet! To share vegetable crisps among friends.


there is a big outline of what looks like a towel hanging on a rack with a small painted hanging bask at the bottom of it, and then there’s a real hanging basket on the floor in front of it
there is a big outline of what looks like a towel hanging on a rack with a small painted hanging bask at the bottom of it, and then there’s a real hanging basket on the floor in front of it