The latest expose at the Saatchi Gallery, Known Unknowns is the work of 17 contemporary artists whose work is appreciated within their fraternity however not yet widely known to the wider public. Pioneering sensory immersion comes in many forms, and the exhibitions capture the viewer and approach them with challenging subjects.
A fascinating young man with a penchant for challenging human nature and confronting our uncomfortable and uncontrollable nature, Theo Ellison has already featured in many art displays despite only recently completing his MA at the Royal Art College, London.
“Naturalistic Fallacy 2” combines the symbolic elements of Salvador Dali’s Lobster with traditional uses of colour and pose from classical styles of painting the human form. Voyeurism is unavoidable, as this fascinating image at once captivates your human nature yet repels your social sensibilities and leaves the viewer with many more questions than it does answers. Appearing recently at the Saatchi gallery I was lucky enough to speak to Theo about the works on display.
A naked woman lays on a bed of silk, the deep blue of the sheets intensifying the mystery surrounding this sleeping beauty. “It’s oscillating…very, very ambiguous. You’re not sure-is she conscious? Is she not? I couldn’t tell you.”.
The unmistakable suggestion of eroticism hangs from the figure, the fleshy-pink Lobster resting at the focal point of the picture where the casual viewer may least want to be “caught” looking-yet will always be drawn into by their natural curiosity and human desire.
“Is she consenting? Is she enjoying it? It’s up to the person viewing it. It’s deliberate, to make the viewer uncomfortable.”. This conscious effort to confront the viewer and challenge their Freudian “Id” is so clear as to be absolutely unavoidable-even a refusal to acknowledge this is an admission of sorts. “Even if you avoid it, that is a conscious decision. I bought these two ideas, sex and food, together. Two animalistic drives that everyone is chained to. I want to confront people-and try to seduce them”.
Entombment is an altogether different image; a Pigeon laid dead on its back. Yet despite being such an un-glamorous creature, an urban pest of sorts, this Pigeon is both aesthetically pleasing and almost grand in its representation. This work is a contemporary incarnation of Caravaggio’s work from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries AD, using realistic depictions of “ordinary” beings and elevating the status of the subject. “It’s about giving the Pigeon its due, raising [it] to the status of the Dove and sanctifying it”.
Through this “lifting” of the humble Pigeon, the value of its life and meaning of its death is also thrown into sharper relief, and the viewing of this dead creature brings some discomfort. This, Theo tells me, is a reference to the Paris morgue of the nineteenth century. Looking upon the anonymous dead became something of a fashionable pastime for the Parisian, and similarly here the Pigeon is perhaps the most anonymous of all the animals. ThusEntombment has confronted another element that every human is chained to death.
“Known Unknowns” will be on display at the Saatchi gallery until June 24, 2018.”
By Danny Holden