This dazzling – if uneven – exhibition hosted by the Save the Whales campaign (sponsored by Shell) featured the work of seven artists now making an impact on the Berlin scene. Showing now till 31st December, make sure to get yourself a ticket.
Front and central, the latest triumphant work by the enigmatic Chapman Sisters features four shoddily-made female dummy heads, a dustbin and a letter apparently written by a boarding school girl name Dorothy. Work apparently thrown together in a few moments is a trade mark of the Chapmans (in fact the nom de guerre of a single woman suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder). A closer look, however, reveals that the dolls include a large quantity of the artist’s (or artists’) pubic hair. Ouch! Less exciting was Icelandic artist Guthmundir. Covering his poorly-painted work with wordy cod-philosophical jargon, and with a title featuring of all things a hashtag, Guth (is that pronounced ‘guff’?) might do better to study at the feet of the imperious Chapmans.
The exhibition also features two female artists engaged with themes of ageing and eroticism. Grete has long been known as the Queen of the Berlin Scene, teaching many young artists in her long career at Berlin University, but she has not made the breakthrough to commercial success in her own right. The work selected here seems an odd choice, a recent piece assembled from two identical late-60s soft-porn prints, at different stages of decay. Though echoing the Chapmans’ piece, I fear that in this case the teacher has been surpassed by the pupil. Moon, meanwhile, has created a powerful sculpture/painting ‘Breathe III’ from polystyrene and spray paint, echoing at first glance a cheap stone-clad fireplace, such as she might have seen in her youth in the early 1970s, but on closer inspection (and the viewer is encouraged to caress this piece) reveals a moving paean to the soft folds and curves of a sumptuous Willendorf Venus.
Equally powerful is the exhibition’s only video piece, by Archie, who like Moon has talent to burn but at times lacks the self-confidence to push it forward. A beautiful blonde woman’s face occupies the centre of this compelling installation, moving through a mundane cityscape, shops and flats. Superimposed on her forehead, as if occupying her dreaming mind, is imagery of jungle foliage and a naked man.
Completing the show, two contrasting male artists, Banjo Stanley and Davis Blood. Banjo’s piece ‘Amoeba’ appears to depict a church with quasi-religious overpainted words. Broad brush strokes are the currency of Stanley’s work, fooling the casual viewer into thinking him an idiot. Blood, at 29 no longer passing as the enfant terrible of the scene, has apparently disowned ‘Scalar’, the piece displayed here, a classic piece in his trade mark medium of expression, two-metre oak planks. A press release from his representative hilariously included comments prejudicial to the generous sponsors of the show and even referring to Climate Change.
No-one familiar with either of these artists will read anything other than savage self-satirical intention in these strategies.