Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Art of Corruption

On the same day that Saatchi Gallery was offering a free catalogue of 'Gaiety is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union', I was booked in for an early visit to 56 Dean Street 'your friendly convenient central London sexual health and HIV clinic.'

Arriving soon afterwards at the gallery (along with a large primary school party of mainly Muslim girls), I was confronted with a huge print of a diseased and blistered penis as part of the exhibition of Boris Mikhailov's 'Case History' series. I assure you my penis is neither huge nor diseased (touch wood).

Saatchi Gallery has not been shy in their presentation of this incredible series and have given it an entire floor. I confess this is, in my opinion, the seminal collection of images from the 20th Century, seminal being the operative word.

I had the incredible privilege of working with Mikhailov in Ukraine in 2011 and he mentored me during the development of Hospital Gardens, Boys in a City Park and Mother & Child; I was able to form an opinion about the man first hand.

My overriding impression of him is that he is most like an elderly bacchanal elf; mischievous in the extreme. During a presentation of his new works (including rock formations in the shapes of female genitalia), our director and curator fell off her chair and his immediate response was to burst with laughter; at lunch he directed a young and beautiful intern to pose suggestively with a bottle, putting it in and out of her mouth. I love him obviously. He said my work was 'the skeleton from which all the other meat hangs'...a very creepy critique indeed but I'll take it, thank you.

Case History is a benchmark for any artist exploring concepts of truth and reality in their works, there is no work I know that comes closer to a sense of complete corruption both in the process of creation and presentation of the finished works. In the very act of corruption it is corruption exposed. Paradoxically, it is the most honest, 'real' work there is; the artist is present, literally within the works and it is free from the aesthetic ambition in the moment that challenges the authenticity of all other works.

Here's an image of Guy from the series 'The Big Society', throwing up in a bucket next to some fruit.

Man in Sheltered Accommodation, from series 'The Big Society' © Richard Ansett 2013

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