Paper at the Saatchi Gallery

2013-7-18

For a few years now businesses have been green-washing their activities by encouraging customers to switch to paperless billing. The nature of this encouragement is often punitive: Talk-Talk, for example, charges £1.90 for the privilege of receiving a paper bill (which, incidentally, comes stuffed full of advertising for their other miserable services). Furthermore, one is periodically faced with the reality that an electronic bill is not sufficient to serve as a proof of address - paper is required. Leaving aside the issue of whether or not paper is really less environmentally sound than the massive datacentres required to store our digital documentation, it is clear that paper will be with us for quite some time. In this context it is curious that the Saatchi Gallery chooses to frame their Paper exhibition as a kind of reaction to paper's decline. As is often the case, The Saatchi Gallery struggles to come up with a frame that is both meaningful and broad.

In a somewhat haphazard way, the exhibition presents a range of applications of paper's qualities. Unfortunately, the most frequently utilized property of paper is as a surface for rendering an image. This is probably the first thing anyone thinks of. The sculptural works make less predictable use of papers attributes. For example, Miller Lagos's Fragmentos del Tiempo uses compressed newspapers as a material for carving wooden logs. A highlight of the exhibition is Han Feng's Floating City which makes use of paper's lightness and rigidity to create a subtly undulating cityscape suspended on fishing wire. The effect would be impossible to achieve with any other material. For the most part however, it feels as though the artists were not really engaging with the papery-ness of paper. This would be fine under normal circumstances, but not for an exhibition called Paper. It would have been preferable to see a few artists prepare paper five ways, Iron Chef style.

Paper runs until the 3rd of November, 2013.


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