“Revelations” by Aidan Salakhova shows her latest sculptures, paintings, prints, and film work in conjunction with “Champagne Life” at Saatchi Gallery, London. Ends 28 February.
Feminist work both sensual and exalting the feminine
After taking in all the women in Galleries 1-10 raising a glass of “Champagne Life” at Saatchi Gallery, it was only fitting to go upstairs to see “Revelations: New Work by Aidan Salakhova“. Also known as just “Aidan” is a Moscow-born Azerbaijani artist, now working between Carrera, Italy and the Russian capital. “Revelations” showcases her latest marbles, a few prints/paintings, and a large-scale video/installation work, all concerned with Orthodox religion, the feminine, or both.
From the first glance, the softly cone-shaped sculptures in black Zimbabwean granite have a mysterious yet arresting presence. Head-height, it is uncertain if they are human or something else. But then walking around these ghostly creatures, it is clear they are sort of weighty nuns or maybe muhajabi (women ensconced in Islamic veil). But the matronly mein is not precisely visible there either; I only know they are women based on the presumption of a symbolic black burka, under which the figures remain completely anonymous.
Aidan’s work contains obvious allusion to “traditional and religious symbols which set out to deconstruct and challenge the patriarchal order… the artist recreates the sealed-off feminine intimacy of the harem and appears to celebrate female hegemony and self-sufficiency.”
Along with the feminist challenge to patriarchy, expect a lot of the vonic in this exhibition. Once you notice them, the sensual and maybe even downright erotic undertones remain poised at the periphery of vision: in the depths of the Callas Lily, folded deeply in a curtain of fabric, at the centre crease of wordless books.
The feminist message concludes in the video piece that covers one wall with an indisputable and unnecessarily forceful affidavit of sisterhood in which glittery harem girls whip a circle of men bound up in ball gags and chains. The weird yet well-produced film is either an homage to a Madonna video or perhaps a reference to the 50s or some other near past when women were outwardly happy housewives but dreaming of getting back at The Man?
In the next room, The Man/Saint Whoever is clearly defeated, prostrate on the floor beneath some exquisite drawings of drapery.
In the final gallery there is a shift from the feminine to a wall of…wait…are those testicles? Little sac-like works hang like trophies adjacent to a duet in black marble, the woman defiantly posed over the somewhat reticent male at her feet.
This impressive and strong exhibition may be of interest to people studying feminist art, Russian/Azeri artists, political art, and/or more generally, it is good for those who appreciate the consummate skill to goes into deceptively simple and uncannily life-like marbles. And despite all the references to the lady-business, this one is still “family-friendly” (as younger children probably won’t even notice all the pudenda). And even if they do, it’s all good because, it’s Art.
*”muhajabi” is the English transliteration of the Arabic word for “veiled woman”, indicating a woman of Islamic faith and/or a woman who has completed her Islamic piligrimage to Mecca.
More links and information
- Read up on Aidan Salakhova and “Revelations” on Saatchi Gallery website
- Check out Aidan Salakhova’s website
Reviews about “Revelations” by Aidan Salakhova
- “Revelations: New work by Aidan Salakhova at the Saatchi Gallery” by Edward Till for The Upcoming online magazine – 19 January 2016 – “clearly has much to say about the changing nature of gender roles in the 21st century” 3/5 stars
- “Man free: Russian delicate art detonates in London” in Customscreening.com, author unknown, exact date unknown
Exhibition details: “Revelations: New work by Aidan” is on from 13 January to 28 February at Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York HQ, Kings Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4RY. London. Free admission, step-free access.
Opening hours: 10am-6pm, 7 days a week