“Out of focus” Saatchi Gallery Study Visit

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I went to the Saatchi Gallery group study visit yesterday to see the Out Of Focus Exhibition. Yes, thats me in the image above captured by Mike when we went back in after the study group had left – click the image to go to his website. As the first study visit I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was a large group of 23 students & 3 tutors. We each got OCA badges so we’d be able to recognise other members of the group as we toured the gallery which worked well and we all chatted about the photos on the way around. It might have been nice to have name badges as well though because I have actually no idea of who anyone was because hardly anyone said their names.

As we went in I picked up an exhibition guide because the information on the wall by the photos was almost non existent, pretty much photographer name, print type and title. It gave some nice context when the work wasn’t self evident. As I went through I’d look at the work. Then read the guide and re-view the work. This way I got my first gut reaction, then my informed reaction before I formulated an opinion. For each one I then marked in the guide what I thought. I have put this guide in my paper logbook for reference.

The following were the highlights in my opinion:

Gallery 1 was Katy Grannan’s photos of random people in San Francisco and it was a good set of work with which to start of the exhibition as theres a lot to consider about it. In fact we had a rather lengthy dissection of it afterwards when we all had coffee (kindly paid for refreshments too). I had mixed reactions to the work, some I thought were amazing portraits but for some I thought she was not portraying the subjects at their best (and that’s putting it kindly). For each though, their personalities shone though for better or worse (for them). Also although they were all against a white wall they weren’t all against the same white wall. There were subtle differences in the wall to bring out different aspects of the photos, for example one was all chipped & broken with an angry looking punky woman, one had subtle graffiti and a big hairy, burly looking man who’d look at home on a Harley, some had the light hitting it from a different angle for more texture. One in particular, the woman’s hair was over her face (so she really was ‘anonymous’ – the title of them all) but all the textures were emphasised, the swishy material of her skirt, the fluffyness of her fur stole and the harsh light bringing out the texture in the wall.

Gallery 3 – don’t miss the amazing black & white collaged maps of Paris, Toyko and New York by Sohei Nishino. I could have spent hours looking at those. And the faces in the rocks of Matthew Day Jackson’s work. I couldn’t discern all of them. One of them especially looked like a UK electric plug more than a face.

Gallery 6 – look out for the first two by Ryan McGinley – tiny naked figures in incredible landscapes.

Gallery 10 was dominated by a triptych of mosaics (by Mat Collishaw) of horrible things happening (which is best viewed from the viewing platform above so you can see all three), however them gem for me in this gallery were the two photos by Noemie Goudal. Look closely at what you are seeing.

Gallery 12 – if I was going to be a street photographer I’d like to do something like the work of Hannah Starkey. I love her bold choice of backgrounds where the figure if incidental but integral to the photograph.

second floor lobby: Berndnaut Smilde – Nimbus II and underwater still from a commercial shoot by Phoebe Rudomino.

Also of interest the google photography prize on the top floor and the amazing oil installation by Richard Wilson on the lower ground floor – unfortunately they’ve closed the access to the viewing area which gives you a little vertigo trip when you stand right at the end (I suspect too many people were getting oil on themselves), but you can still get a good view of the work.

I only got around to seeing up to half of gallery 12 before we all trooped off for coffee but I went back in afterwards with my boyfriend to see the rest of the exhibition and the google prize. I really enjoyed my study visit and I urge anyone who isn’t sure to take the plunge and go on one! I’m also very glad that not many people took a camera, there only seemed to be one guy constant taking photos of everyone, hopefully he’ll edit them savagely and only show the super flattering ones (if any)!

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