The exhibition True Colours, curated by Damien Hirst at his Newport Street Gallery (opened in 2015 to display Hirst’s expansive collection to the public), brings together three female painters, Helen Beard, Sadie Laska and Boo Saville, whose practice encompasses interestingly different usages of colour, form and subject. For those who have not visited Newport Street, the gallery spaces are cathedral-like in scale and use the idea of a white cube to maximum effect. There is room to view every work from a good, airy distance, and while taking a first look at this exhibition, it is impossible not to be astonished at the immersive colours of the works.
The catalogue (a fabulous, large-format, newspaper-type object) and the small A4 fold-out gallery plan are both lovely and, in any other circumstances, the difference between the printed images and the objects in the gallery would not be worth mentioning, but here the gap between the two is significant and unavoidable. First, my apologies to the patient gallery lady whom I marked 0 out of 10 for colour printing of the works. Second, I credit Belinda Bowring, director of communications, for pointing out that this is one reason we need galleries and paintings in the real world, because the physical impact of the works and the immersive emotional resonance of the colours are impossible to imitate even backlit online, let alone on any sort of paper.
Beard’s striking and marvellously simplified, flat colour images, take you by surprise in a number of ways. The fresh colour forms pack a satisfying punch even before the viewer has undergone the gradual realisation that the paintings portray a varied range of sexual acts.
Helen Beard. Cyssan, 2017. Oil on canvas, 240 x 200 cm. ® Helen Beard. Courtesy Newport Street Gallery.
New York-based Laska, who is both a painter and a drummer, brings her improvisation skills into her wall-based works, using collage, small objects and brushed colour in flight. Each work embraces the tactility of materials and the motion of thoughts and actions in the process of making.
Sadie Laska. Untitled, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 177.8 x 137.1 cm. © Sadie Laska. Courtesy Newport Street Gallery. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates.
Saville’s fields of colour shimmer, each massive painting drawing you in and, once you are up close, their surfaces seem to conjure immersive spaces, as though the air has suddenly been coloured and there is space to fall in. Such a physical and emotional impact is reminiscent of Rothko’s Chapel in Houston, where his 14 black and coloured hue paintings cover the internal space.
Boo Saville. Perseus (The Hero), 2018. Oil on canvas, 335 x 274.3 cm. © Boo Saville. Courtesy Newport Street Gallery. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates.
This is a fabulous exhibition, in scale, subject and colour. None of the documentation (on the website or in the printed accompanying matter) can do justice to the works; it is an exhibition that has to be experienced in person.
True Colours: Helen Beard, Sadie Laska and Boo Saville
Newport Street Gallery, London
6 June – 9 September 2018
Interview by MK PALOMAR
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY
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