Body Language and New Order II at The Saatchi Gallery London

Body Language appealed to me moving on to part 4 Drawing People and New Order II was a happy bonus.


Michael Cline


Michael Cline ‘Free Turn’ (2008) oil on linen, 241.3 x 190.5 cm

Michael Cline’s satirical paintings show slightly distorted characters in hyper realised situations with uneasy perspective adding to the discomfort of the paintings. Both amusing and uneasy to view, they hold a mirror to the darker side of modern living. In this way they have similarities with Hogarth’s 17th century grotesque fables. Cline Criticises American society as an American citizen and an artist.

The paining style is smooth and well planed. Some where between cartoonish and reality the artist pays great attention to fine detail. They are highly narrative pieces. Chocked full of little punch lines that comment on American/western society. Intricate relationships playing out in the characters. Nosy bystanders who do nothing but watch the central characters in there plight are present on the periphery. As we peer into the paintings ourselves we become yet another passive onlooker. The artist plays down the importance of these lesser figures by leaving them less finished and less life like than the central figure.

The thing that attracted me to these paintings is the strange warped proportions of the figures that trick the eye giving a hall of mirrors effect. In ‘Free Turn’, a painting with a strong depth of field on of the characters appear flat and 2d. In another ‘ That’s That’ unusually close cropping on the table chops a lot of the figures in half. The table again at exaggerated perspective crams the canvas giving a claustrophobic feel.

Nicole Eisenman


Nicole Eisenman ‘ Beer Garden at Night’ (2007) oil on canvas, 165 x 208 cm

Sharing a room with Cline, Nicole Eiseman’s two large paintings depict large groups of people. The one that really resonates with me is ‘Beer Garden at Night’. It remind me of by gone weekends drinking in London where every thing starts getting a little weird.

Eisenman borrows many of her figures form art history. For instance we can see Munch’s The scream kissing a Cubist Muse.

The scenes are full and lively and grotesque. The artist seems to favour earthy tones where red is dominate again unsettling.

Tanyth Berkeley


Tanyth Berkeley ‘ Grace in Window’ (2006) C-print 61 x 51 cm

Although at first glance you may think Berkeley’s large portrait photos to be touch freak show. However after just a few seconds observing you will see that they are sympathetically shoot. The artist sees beauty in all her female subjects, all be it unconventional at times. Her sitters are New York women she chances upon including transgenders. All of the women shoot by Berkeley have been outcast at some point. They have suffered hardships and survived.

As a collective her work must be seen a celebration of womanhood beyond that of the air brushed stereo type on the front of a glossy.

Berkley sets her subjects in every day places in dresses or varying states of undress. She photo’s head and shoulders or full body. Blowing the images up to life size and beyond. Often the woman are seen in font of a widow with light illuminating their face, body or hair in a Vermeer style. This gives the sitters a glow and warmth that seems to emanate from in them. I feel the women that sit for Berkley seem empowered by the shoot. They all show a quite inner strength with confident pose. These woman are not passive objects.


Virgile Ittah


Virgile Ittah ‘Regarding the Pain of Another’ (2013) Mixed wax, marble powder, antique church chair 100 x 130 x 60 cm

Virgile Ittah’s three sculptures entitled, ‘Dreams are guilty absolute and silent by fire’, ‘Untitled (For man would remember each murmur)’, and ‘Regarding the Pain of the Other’

where the stand out pieces for me.

The artist uses wax, marble powder and fabric to make her life sized figurative statues that are not quite complete. Some limbs appear to be melting. Wax bulges and bubbles reviling sinew under the smooth surface of the represented skin.

Dreams are guilty, absolute and silent by fire, represents a fleshy woman  on a stool, her hands (or one hand and one stump) rest on her thighs palms up. The body seems relaxed and the face is at rest with eyes closed. The figure looks like it may be meditating. The fact the eyes are tight shut gives the on looker licence to observe. The figure does not seek to interact but instead seems other worldly, helped by the alabaster surface. All three figures appear to me like bodies in a trance.

‘Regarding the Pain of the Other’ Again a life size female figure. Although I think the head is a little disproportionately large. This one lays horizontal supported by an uncomfortable chair. Such an interesting relationship between the figure and the chair. The slender figures flesh melts at the shoulders over the chair top and the buttocks are lifted up and pinched by the seat of the chair giving a real sense of weight and gravity. Both of these give the impression the sitter has been her for a long while. This one appears more corps like than asleep. The body is stiff as if rigor mortis has set in. the arms hang limply down towards the ground and the head flops back mouth aghast. A feeling of discomfort is give through the angle of body relative to chair. Again the legs from the knee down appear to be either melting, decomposing or just unfinished.

‘Untitled (For man would remember each murmur)’ is the least complete figure. Merely a melted bulbous torso with stumps where legs and arms should protrude. I found the viewing relationship the most disturbing with this one. The male figure is low to the ground. His head hangs down in front. As a view you are above and the figure. To me he looked to be cowering. It reminded me of photos from war zones where people are bound on there knees before an firing squad. I found viewing this unsettling for that reason. It seemed to put me in the role of executioner as I was above it looking down at it’s pitiful shape. I don’t know if this is the response the artist had hoped for, but it’s how  felt about it.

The artist explores the notions of loneliness, nostalgia and the inability to return in her work. All informed by her families history of exile and constant wandering.

I think she moulds wax around a steel frame then carves the figures out of the wax with tools. I have surmise  this by a picture on her web site. I can not be sure they are not at least partly made from cast. The features and anatomy is so accurate. This is partly why I  love them so much. It shows how a classical training and strong knowledge of anatomy can stand a person in such good stead. It offers the perfect foundation to then go and be experimental and deconstruct the figure whilst keeping a strong and recognisably accurate structure underneath.

Martine Poppe


Martine Poppe ‘Analogical Change 8’,(2013) Oil on polyester restoration fabric, 160 x 120 cm

The Sculptures have been well curated. They share a room with Martine Poppe’s faint and hazy paintings. The two styles work well together and complement. They seem to give the room  a calm feeling. A break from other rooms that compared to this one are full of works that vie for attention with bright colours or dominating scale.

The large paintings on display here are part of Poppe’s on going series ‘Analogical Change’. The artist say’s of her own work on her website.

‘My current work is a series of paintings that are at once both copies and originals. They balance between being analogies of the source material and necessarily subjective records of the process of making. Within the paintings the images are simultaneously revealed and concealed, playing on the ambiguous position of the work as both object and iconography.’ – Martine Poppe

The images themselves seem disconnected. Some are still life, some portrait. some look like they are painted from magazine clippings. The similarity comes in the size of canvas and the unusual style of the painting. The artist paints using oil on polyester restoration fabric. I am unsure it the fabric aids the finish of the paintings. Like your viewing them through thick fog or like the image is fading away.

‘Analogical Change 8’ works like an optical allusion. I did actually think the artist had left one polyester paint surfaces unpainted and wrinkled. On closer inspection I see she has painted the creases on top in such a convincing way the eye is fooled.


About Emma Perring

Artist, oil painter

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