Paper at the Saatchi Gallery

-This exhibition is now closed-

Paper at the Saatchi Gallery, a new exhibition celebrating the use of paper materials in contemporary art, embraces a wide variety of different techniques and has some dazzling, whimsical and thought-provoking highlights.

Many of the artists on show make use of paper’s malleability to transform it into new, 3d objects, such as Miler Lagos in his work Fragments of Time, in which stacks of newspaper are carved and painted to resemble tree branches. It is as if the paper has reformed into its own raw material, its origins betrayed only by the snippets of newspaper pages still visible where the branches have seemingly been cut. José Lerma and Héctor Madera’s massive portrait bust of American boxer Emanuel Augustus uses eccentric material and exaggerated scale to celebrate an equally eccentric, fascinating historical figure.

Some of the most beautiful pieces in the show make use of paper’s lightness, such as Tom Thayer’s delicate nature scenes depicting birds and trees through intricate paper sculptures, or Marcelo Jàcome’s show-stopping Pianos-pipas n17, coloured tissue suspended in the air in bamboo frames, like a cloud of living colour.

Other works aim at social commentary. Dominic McGill’s drawn and collaged Moloch upends paper’s role as a carrier of written and visual messages by creating a chaotic network of clichéd and often contradictory slogans in which common patterns dissolve the longer the viewer attempts to read the piece. It is like looking at the mad and maddening world of mass internet commentary writ large. Yuken Teruya’s muted series of paper carrier bags, transformed into tiny scenes of trees by intricate cutting, critiques the consumer culture which turns these beautiful paper objects into throwaway items.

There are also a number of interesting drawings and photos on show, such as Gerald Davis’s autobiographical triptych Fag Boy, which explores the artist’s feelings of childhood exclusion; it is hard to imagine that any other medium could capture the same sense of adolescent innocence and isolation as these three drawings. In her series of lavatory self portraits, Nina Katchadourian uses the materials on hand in airplane toilets to recreate self-portraits mimicking the style of 15th century Flemish painters. Given the context, the photos are simultaneously light-hearted and, if the artist’s face is to be believed, deadly serious, creating a whimsical sense of material, medium, style and mood being hopelessly at odds.

The exhibition is well worth a visit and is open until 3 November.