One of our Editors, Rachel Chorley, visited The Saatchi Gallery’s press view of ICONOCLASTS: Art out of the Mainstream. Here’s what she had to say
ICONOCLASTS combines the work from 13 artists with massively differing practices, showing the diverse nature of successful contemporary artists out of the mainstream. Entering the clean stark white of Saatchi Gallery, you turn into the exhibition space and are immediately captivated by hypnotic colour. In the left room are the collage tapestries of Josh Faught, and on the right the vivid naive narratives of Danny Fox. Other artworks include the embroidered photographs of Maurizio Azeri, the mesmeric painted dreams of Makiko Kudo and the crazy large-scale scenes of Dale Lewis.
To kick off my preview of Saatchi’s new show I had a chat with Danny Fox. I found Danny posing for a photographer, both in the middle of an animated discussion and having a bit of banter. Not at all the “angry” or lofty artist depicted by British GQ. Discussing his work, you certainly get the impression that his huge descriptive canvasses that surrounded us are quite personal. His work uses intense colour to depict scenes of narrative, touching on themes such as religion, colonialism and abortion.
How does it feel to be an ‘iconoclast’?
“I hadn’t really heard of the word before this exhibition, but when I first started out there was no way I could see my paintings in a gallery like this.”
What would you say the biggest struggle is in terms of entering the art world?
“Time. I’m only just getting started but I feel as though I’m against the clock. [The hardest thing starting out is coming home from a job and painting and still having time if your girlfriend wants to do something.] The only way to get where you’re going is time. You can’t just dream yourself there, you have to paint yourself into it.”
Were you disadvantaged from not studying art formally?
“No, school wasn’t for me so I didn’t think studying art would be any different. My paintings are about narrative and instead of studying art I decided to have an interesting life with a narrative to paint about.”
What about GQ’s claims over your personality: would you describe yourself as (now) 31 and “apparently still angry”? Is it important to be angry?
“There were a lot of misquotes in that article, it caused a bit of trouble. I am angry in a way but not about family stuff, mainly about the world. Anger is different to violence, someone showed me a tshirt that said don’t say radical if you mean violent. I agree with that.”
Your work has some underlying colonial themes, would you say this was the type of thing you’re angry about?
“The thing about colonialism is that we are entrenched in it. I’ve gone from researching it in the UK to moving to the US and living it as an Englishman in America. It’s weird. I suppose I’m part of the problem of gentrification (in LA) but I don’t mean to be. I’m just a fucking painter.”
Any advice for students, perhaps be careful what you say to press?
“Yeah, but also don’t worry about it. It’s not what it’s about. Follow what feels fun. If you’re not having fun you’re going down the wrong path.”
Accompanying Danny’s work in the gallery Iconoclasts also features the raw collages of Aaron Fowler and chaotic painted scenes of Dale Lewis. The former uses his own photographs in his work to explore his black identity, and show themes such as family and violence. He mixes images of brand prints and knives with 3D elements like guns or chairs amidst a turbulent composition that gives the viewer a strong sense of confusion and turmoil. Similarly the latter paints large raw scenes, taken from observations and completed in one day. My favourite of these paintings being ‘East Street’ which reminded me of a more modern and quirky Da Vinci’s last supper.
From tapestries to embroidered photographs to photographs burnt into skin, Saatchi Gallery provides a lot to sink your teeth into and generate inspiration. ICONOCLASTS is running from 27th September to 7th January and admission is free- every art student’s dream. So be sure to have a cheeky visit to Saatchi on your next trip to London.