New Art from London at Werkstattgalerie, Berlin
Sam Jackson 'Life is dangerous', Oil on Board, 30cm*30cm, 2009
British Art Now
NEW ART FROM LONDON
Oleg Tolstoy, Luke Jackson, Sam Jackson, Hugo Dalton
an exhibition curated by Edward Lucie-Smith.
Although the exhibition features only four artists, it is intended to give a kind of snapshot view of what is happening in the London art world today.
The current view of London as a center for avant-garde activity was formed rather more than a decade ago, and was linked to the rise of the so-called BritPop artists or YBAs (Younger British Artists). It reached an early culmination with the Sensation! Exhibition of 1997, seen at the Royal Academy. The works in this were drawn entirely from the holdings of one individual, the advertising magnate Charles Saatchi.
Some of the artists closely associated with the YBA movement have gone on to major international celebrity, chief among them Damien Hirst. Some have faded from the scene. One at least is dead. Angus Fairhurst committed suicide in 2008, at the age of 41. The fact is that the survivors are no longer young- they are now all in their forties.
The British, and indeed the international, art worlds have however been unwilling to recognize that times have changed, that there are newer kinds of art being made in London. Indeed, the tendency has been to feature artists who are felt to be 'typically British' because they are paler carbon copies of those who immediately receded them.
The four artists featured here have been chosen to stress difference, not likeness. One, Oleg Tolstoy, is a photographer. In London, as elsewhere, photography is increasingly important as a creative medium. As his name suggests, he is not of British descent, and perhaps this gives him a sharper eye for what is happening in British society. However his work belongs entirely to the contemporary London context and stresses, in particular, the variety of types that are now to be seen in the streets of a huge, ethnically diverse city. His images speak of togetherness, and at the same time of apartness. That is typical of London today.
Hugo Dalton is a maker of projections, who also produces a wide variety of other kinds of installation work. He has undertaken commissions in New York and in Hong King, and recently collaborated with Christopher Wheeldon's international dance company Morphoses. When they performed last month at Sadlers Wells, several reviewers commented that they represented a revival of the eclectic, experimental spirit of the Ballets Russes, as this existed in the 1920s, after Diaghilev's severance from Russia. One way in which Dalton differs from his seniors is that, like Diaghilev and his designers, he is not afraid of elegance.
The two painters, the brothers Sam and Luke Jackson, offer a radical break from the giganticism of much recent painting. Their work is radically miniature, and is intended as a rebuke to the rhetorically overblown quality of much recent art. A similar spirit can be found in some of the recent work made by artists of the Leipzig School in Germany. The Jacksons' link to their YBA predecessors is that they are not afraid to be provocative. Their small works often ask large questions about sexuality, politics and aspects of human personality. Their paintings are the tip of an iceberg: I know of a number of other young artists now working in Britain who paint on the same scale and in a similar fashion, though perhaps (it must be said) with a little less punch. In the Jacksons' hands, a small painting can be a karate-chop.