ARTIST:

Steven Allan

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Steven Allan
Peeley Wally, 2012
Oil on canvas
130 x 90 cm

Steven Allan’s works are paintings that act like prints. His brushstrokes seem not so much applied as gouged, their scratched and apparently subtractive strokes redolent of the physicality of the woodblock printer rather than the delicacy of the painter. It’s perhaps the starkness of the printed image that particularly appeals to Allan: his works seem lit by flashes of lightning, the shadows graphic and hard. Their allusions to the printed picture calls to mind a history of book illustration that seems relevant to Allan’s curious iconography of characters. His banana men, leaping, scuttling or dancing in wild abandon, seem distant cousins of Tenniel’s proto-surrealist images for ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Steven Allan
Stains Of A Decade, 2012
Oil on canvas
190 x 130 cm

Steven Allan
One Off The Bunch, 2012
Oil on canvas
190 x 130 cm

In One Off The Bunch, a banana man seems frozen in a spotlight, ostensibly caught stealing a banana from a large bowl of fruit in the foreground; in Peeley Wally, his two banana arms wiggle, his mouth wrinkling in anxiety. Allan’s characters may be proxies for the artist himself; like Philip Guston’s Ku Klux Klan self-portraits, an acknowledged influence on the artist, this is the artist as a sad clown in a floppy hat. Even when the banana characters dance – in We’re All In This Together, a rueful allusion to contemporary politics – they’re spindly, weakened, cheered on by a stopwatch that gleefully awaits their demise.

Steven Allan
We're All In This Together, 2012
Oil on canvas
190 x 250 cm

And in Stains of a Decade – whose gloomy atmosphere and deep recession makes it a kind of semi-comic version of Durer’s Melencholia I – the artist seems adrift on a lonely coracle, with an irresistible punchline: a spoon poking out of his brain, like a grapefruit.


Text by Ben Street
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Thursday, 26 November 2020: COVID-19 / CORONAVIRUS UPDATE:

Following the UK Government’s latest announcement placing London in Tier 2, Saatchi Gallery will re-open from Wednesday, 9 December 2020. We will re-open with our free entry Ground Floor exhibitions (Philip Colbert: Lobsteropolis and Antisocial Isolation) from December 9. The new dates for our next headline exhibition JR: Chronicles will be announced shortly.

Government guidelines on health and safety measures will remain in effect, including social distancing within a one-way system in our galleries, the provision of hand sanitising stations, and the wearing of face coverings by visitors and staff. All visitors are encouraged to pre-book their tickets prior to entry.

We look forward to welcoming you back soon.