Over the last few days the Start Art Fair has once again taken over Saatchi gallery for its annual presentation of emerging artists and young galleries. Now in its fifth edition, Start presented 48 exhibitors from around the world offering collectors and art lovers the opportunity to discover and support inspiring new talent to add to their collections.
Start Art Fair comprises of three section: Start Galleries which showcases young galleries, Start Solo which showcases individual artists and Start Projects which is a series of curated projects, that aims to offer the audience an alternative art fair experience. This year Start also featured a special collaboration with China Academy of Art in celebration of their 90th anniversary, featuring a group exhibition of up and coming Chinese multidisciplinary artists entitle ‘Will to Faith’. The exhibition explored China’s new generation of artists making sense of faith in a time of uncertainty and in an expanding technological future. Through their artwork they explore their place within the world today as traditional views on art make way for the contemporary generation.
Start continued this more curatorial approach within the solo and gallery sections rather than simply being a commercial space to just purely sell art work. As seen in exhibitors such as ‘Gallery of Everything’ (London); which helps fund its partner organisation ‘Museum of Everything,’ with the aim of supporting artist creating work beyond the cultural mainstream. Meanwhile Pichai Pongsasaovapark (SAC galleries), explored geo-political themes in his exploration of carbon emissions which are also used as a medium in his work. SMO Contemporary Art (Nigeria) curated a mini exhibition in their stand entitled ‘inBETWEEN’. This displayed a collection of works by Nengi Omuku, Ngozi Omeje and Olumide Onadipe, who ‘discussed the socio-political and emotional state of Africa’s youth who often find themselves “inbetween”; which is a thread also discussed in the China Academy of Arts exhibition. One of the artists that was particularly interesting was Ngozi Omeje, who presented an avant-garde perspective on migration and identity, however explored this from an African viewpoint which was refreshing take on such a widely discussed subject.
Abode also applied the more curated approach in our display, creating a dialogue between the works to explore perceptions of abstraction. The stand displayed two female Russian artists; Maria Agureeva and Viktoria Ikonen alongside two male UK artists; Karl Bielik and Andrew Robinson and this sparked an interesting debate into the different countries approach to abstraction. This conversation was also taken into account in the curation, with Agureeva’s piece ‘Mirrors are Always an Illusion’ hung adjacent to Bielik’s ‘ Landfill’. The two pieces are both bold in their use of colour and line, however use very different approaches into creation and context. Augreeva’s pieces focus on the narration of a context; she is concerned with the process of objectification, as a result of our desire to change in order to escape social pressure. The artist shows how the body becomes a hybrid space where materiality of flesh is connected with an individual consciousness and identity. Meanwhile Bielik is less concerned with the meaning behind the pieces as his work is process driven. He takes inspiration from the studio itself and found materials that lie within, and his pieces often have long periods of incubation, giving them breathing space to develop. His expressive pieces are open to interpretation rather than have a definitive meaning and this is something reflected in Robinson’s work. Robinson’s oil paintings dissects reality into its smallest constituents and then reassembled with intention to engage viewers to create their own narratives. His more subtle use of paint creates a lighter approach in contrast to Bielik’s, and the placement of Robinson’s piece opposite Bielik forms a conversation into the use of paint and form. Ikonen’s paintings have a similar subtleness to it; her moody, transcendental landscapes explore the ideas of duality in painting and the world around us.
Abode’s selection of artists not only provided a solid narrative to the stand but returned to technique and form over a heavily informed context made a refreshing change and stand out among the other exhibitors. The overall effect equalled a mini exhibition into abstraction due to the cohesion of artists selected, and it is this the overlap between exhibition and commerciality that Start does so well. It showcases galleries and artists for their artistic merit rather than just commercial value and is a vital platform to the promotion of emerging artists and galleries. This mission is something reflected in Abode’s own aims making it the perfect opportunity to present our artists on an international level.
by Claire Walker