What do you do with your old shopping bags – the paper ones? Reuse; recycle; throw them away? How about cutting delicate origami-like trees into the front panel, and folding them down inside the bag so when you lay it flat and look into the bag, you see the minature tree standing between the panels. This is exactly what Yuken Teruya, in the current Saatchi Gallery collection has done. They are impressive and strangely beautiful displays, using everything from a thin MacDonald’s bags to the higher-quality Gucci, Dior and Mark Jacobs ones.
In another room is a large structure made from wood and tissue paper – from one angle it’s an enormous Chinese dragon undulating through the room. Or is it thousands of butterflies packed together in a chain of coloured wings or tangle of kites? Further along is a tiny floating city, hovering just above the ground, made of tiny boxes and paper suspended on barely visible strings. Turn the corner and you’re in a room of child portraits, seemingly innocent and anodyne, but actually these are some of the most vicious dictators of the last hundred years – Hitler, Stalin, Mugabe and Amin among them. Also in this room are two vases of roses made entirely of newspaper; each petal and leaf has been individually cut from pages of the Daily Mail, and carefully constructed as an elaborate bouquet – how refreshing to see the DM being used for culturally beneficial purposes!
This whole exhibition uses paper not just as a surface to draw / paint on, but as the base for sculpture or photography. Although it shows how a simple and everyday material can be transformed into something quite different, there is little political comment on its use – more ‘look what we can do with it’ than ‘what are the consequences of this’. As with most modern art shows, there’s some nonsense as well but the good definitely outweighs the bad in this case. There are a couple of other interesting exhibitions too – the collections change quite frequently so you can go a couple of times a year and see all new things. And it’s definitely one of the least busy galleries, so perfect for weekend in central London without too many tourists.
Paper runs until 3 November at the Saatchi Gallery on the King’s Road and is free to enter.