Colour and commodity at COLLECT
By Sarah Bolwell
Published 9 May 2014
This weekend the object takes centre stage at the Saatchi Gallery, as the annual COLLECT art fair gets underway.
40 glass tiles (20 white and 20 a deep translucent blue) hang suspended from the wall in a linear grid formation on the top floor of the Saatchi Gallery. Stepping closer, the regimented stillness is broken as the tiles come to life, creating a ripple effect in sync with the viewer’s own movements. The piece, Wave, a collaboration between glass artist Min Jeong Song and robotics artist Wonseok Jung, perfectly embodies the convergence of tradition and innovation. It is one of seven pieces chosen by Simon Fraser MA RCA (CSM and UAL), Daniella Wells (COLLECT Director) and Annabelle Campbell (Head of Exhibitions at the Crafts Council) to appear in ‘The Project Space.’
COLLECT: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects is all about championing the new and the innovative in craft. The diversity among the selections is astounding, but the works are united in their demand for a perpetual reinterpretation of the genre. This is the fourth edition of The Project Space and the Saatchi Gallery seems the perfect setting for championing the new, for pioneering artists and for pushing parameters.
The calm wash of Wave belies the technical complexities that lie under the surface, and offers a respite from the hubbub of collectors buying and talking downstairs. “People tend to recognise patterns in everything - from nature or from artificial things,” says Min Jeong Song. “When you find familiarity you tend to find pattern.” And there is plenty of pattern to be found on the other two floors of COLLECT. The 2014 fair sees 37 exhibitors offering a wide range of desirable objects across a spectrum of media, from glass and ceramic to wood, metal and textiles. Here aesthetic and uniqueness are paramount and in such abundance, raising the question of whether there’s a point at which craft becomes art?
The mutual exclusivity of the “fine” arts and the “decorative” arts is highly contentious. Many of the artists and makers displaying at COLLECT blur the lines between what is considered art and what is generally accepted as craft. Jilly Edwards, whose woven work Wanderlust is also on display in The Project Space, says, "I've been invited to exhibit at COLLECT by the Crafts Council so I come as a craftsperson. But I don't really believe that there should be a divide between artist and maker. I like to think that I am painting, just with yarn and textile. The creative process is the same, a painter is making; a sculptor is making; I am making.”
Other highlights include Kate Malone’s Pair of Artichokes at Adrian Sassoon, Nelly Van Oost’s wire formations at WCC-BF Gallery and Tapisserie Bagnolet by Virginie Rochetti at Ateliers d’Art de France. The touring exhibition Legacy: Two works on hope & memory on the third floor is also well worth a look. In this, the centenary of the First World War, Julian Stair’s bone china funerary urn, made from the ashes of the artist’s uncle, explores ideas of personal loss and commemoration, while a field of white china bowls by Clare Twomey is a powerful study of legacy and remembrance.
COLLECT is a tribute to colour, commodity and the contemporary. Craft, whatever form it takes, is integral to our cultural landscape and it is important to celebrate it. This weekend at the Saatchi Gallery “the object” takes centre stage; whether you bracket it as a decorative or a fine art, the myriad patterns on display are just as remarkable, the lustre of the glaze is just as dazzling, the complex warp and weft just as intriguing.
COLLECT14 is at the Saatchi Gallery until Monday 12 May 2014.