The third edition of Start Art Fair was held from 15th to 18th September, in the prestigious Saatchi Gallery, in a favorable environment which felt more like an exhibition than a market place.
The fair was brought to life by Prudential Eye Programme, a scheme to nurture emerging artists, focussed primarily on the Asian region. It presented, throughout, new art scenes and artists, with special attention to the Far East, showing fresh aspects and ideas outside the mainstream art hubs. Alongside them were the artists from Central and Eastern Europe, the highlights being the stands from Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.
It was the first time too the Art + Text Gallery from Budapest had taken part. Their programme included the older generation of established and internationally recognised Hungarian artists such as Miklós Erdély and László Lakner, alongside figures from the younger generation like painter Ádám Dallos, and the ceramist Mira Makai. The latter’s works from the series Organ Landscape and Pipes and Stones were popular, grabbing the attention with their intense colors and organic forms. These amorphous rock and organlike ceramic-objects are like fossilized abstract paintings, demanding to be explored.
On the first floor the Prague based DSC Gallery presented a progressive team of artists often working with mixed media. There was a huge skull, from the Faces series made by one of the best known Czech artists, the Prague and New York-based David Černý, whose huge public installations and provocative take on things have received intense media attention. His 2009 Entropa project tested the European boundaries on stereotyping and self-criticism, with Bulgaria presented as a urinal, France draped in a ‘Strike!’ banner, and Britain – prophetically enough – missing from the European map altogether. In the 2012 Olympics, Londoners also had the opportunity to encounter his work, when he transformed a decker bus into an athlete doing push-ups. Meanwhile, the Slovak artist Asot Haas had developed a sound-to-light translator in the form of optical plexiglass, capturing, in his Resonance of Sound pieces, sonic waves in real time, transformed into a static light installation. Apart from being aesthetically compelling, it also explored the borders between technology, science, philosophy and art.
On the second floor Nova Galerie displayed a solo show of a Slovak painter Samuel Paučo. In his stand he’d put together several canvases next to each other, turning them into a multi-layered installation. It was also a clever way to show more works during the fair, as he got to rotate the works and to change the paintings in front – among them a new work, entitled Flood, alluding to the well-known Biblical catastrophe. The huge canvases, calm abstract backgrounds anddetailed, deserted ruins seemed to give us post-human landscapes, making for an uncomfortable viewing experience.
London based l’étrangére had brought a solo show from Polish artist Piotr Kryzmowski. In his nostalgic obsession with cinema and media of the 50s and 60s, he collects original Polish film and lifestyle magazines from the “golden age”, reshaping them as a collage redefining the past, and getting into issues of manipulation and reinterpretation. In his short films and posters he’s inspired by the Polish and New Wave French cinema tradition and Jean-Luc Godard.
Faur Zsófi Gallery has a strong lead in contemporary photography, and the highlight of their stand was the Russian Katerina Belkina’s self-portaits, based on the works of great masters like Schiele or Gauguin. Also the Seuge prints of Bence Bakony are his self-portraits. He spent a year in China and he has investigated the new country trying to avoid citizens in his photos, and instead placing himself in the landscapes. His journey leads from the countryside into the cities, showing how man’s touch has changed the world.
Clearly, Central European art has been playing a stronger role lately on the art scene, and exhibiting at Start Art Fair is a shrewd choice for up-and-coming galleries. It’s impossible to show the region’s achievements in just six stands, yet the show gave some idea of current trends. In general, the region’s post-Soviet art is both politically engaged and socially aware, and seeking, always, new perspectives. Hopefully, this is just a taste of what’s in store for us from Central and Eastern Europe in coming years.
The Start Art Fair 2016 ran from 15-18 September at London’s Saatchi Gallery.