The Saatchi Gallery’s collection, forefront of establishing famous artists such as the YBAs, presents Known Unknowns - an exhibition focusing on artists on the edge of making it big, writes Jemima Walter
As the title suggests, many of the artists in Known Unknowns are largely unfamiliar but have caught the eye of the Saatchi Gallery’s collection and now the wider art world. Unafraid to explore new media in thought-provoking ways, each artist pursues a highly individualised practice which brings great variety to the show.
With over half the artists being women, the show follows a recent upward trend of championing female artists. Exploring the struggles determining power relations across race, class and gender, Alida Cervantes’ work uses collaged photos of dolls to construct an alternate historical narrative. Domination, subjugation and submission play out through an assortment of scenarios, often tainted by sexual violence.
Deeply connected to her personal narrative, Maria Farrar’s work emerges from her experiences in both the East and West (having lived in Japan before moving to England). She often uses subtle references to the cultures and traditions she was exposed to growing up: calligraphy, manga and the flatness of the Japanese pictorial plane contrasted with the gravitas of twentieth century Western modernism.
Born between 1966 and 1990, many of the artists have graduated from Royal College of Art, Slade School of Art and University of Arts London, continuing a long tradition of feted artists evolving as alumni of these three British institutions. Recently a graduate from Royal College of Art, Theo Ellison uses photography and the power of manipulation to play on our feelings of desire and repulsion in relation to the world of images we are surrounded and seduced by.
Upon first glance, the work of Stefanie Heinze appears to be no more than hallucinatory abstraction, but on closer inspection one can discern intermingled figures who are caught mid-action. Interlocking fingers, heel-clad feet and trunks unexpectedly collide before dissolving into vivid, lush brushstrokes. Her colourful and chaotic forms can be read as culminations of her use of 'clumsiness' as an artistic tool.
Despite the artists being largely still under the radar of the mainstream art world, it is fascinating to witness the work of emerging artists that are beginning to see great successes since entering the collection. Admired by their contemporaries, each artist in Known Unknowns breaks new ground in their practice, making them highly deserving of wider exposure.
Showcasing an international selection of artists from the Saatchi Gallery’s collection, Known Unknowns continues until 24 June at the Saatchi Gallery, London.