If Not Now, When? at the Saatchi Gallery
As part of the Saatchi Gallery’s Season of Sculpture, this exhibition has transferred from The Hepworth Wakefield. If Not Now, When?: Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain 1960-2023 approaches its subject through the novel concept of a gendered experience of time. Do women experience time differently, perhaps due to the ever-present thrum of the menstrual cycle that beats throughout the majority of their lives?
The show brings together 29 female sculptors divided into three concepts: Women’s Time, which celebrates women’s unique value as life-givers and the carers of others; Tumbling Through Time, which addresses deep time, the cosmic and geological and the growing sense that time is of the essence; and, The Time is Now, which addresses injustices and discrimination.
There are many striking highlights. Cornelia Parkrer’s Endless Coffee (2022) is 13 silver coffee pots that have been flattened by a 250-tonne press and now dangle in their newly achieved rejection of three dimensions, a bit battered as you might expect but also beautiful. It might not have been the artist’s intention but there is something amusing about the concept and its lateral thinking. Questions arise about the process that led to these: how and why did she come up with the idea? Does she have plans to de-dimensionalise any other classics of British design? It’s a good introduction to this show, which mischievously broadens what could be construed as sculpture almost when you aren’t looking. There are many different mediums used from textile to trees, glass to wire.
Michele Howarth’s She Still Calls Herself a Mrs (2011) lingers, not altogether welcome, in the memory, vaguely grotesque and with a residual laconic coquettishness in her eyes. Rosie Leventen’s B52 (2004) creates the shape of a plane out of cut-down sweet chestnut trees. The most spectacular work here is Annie Cattrell’s Capacity, 3/3 (2001). It is a depiction of the lungs in borosilicate glass. The precision of the branches that lead into the bronchioles makes them look almost like a tree or plant. The patience it must have taken to create such a delicate piece in such a fragile material is impressive. From a certain angle, the shadow the price casts on the wall brings to mind wings. It is a multi-faceted work that has an initial visual impact and then a further impact as you consider its creation and its interaction with light and shadow.
This show demonstrates that sculpture does not have to mean exactly what we think it means.
If Not Now, When? is at the Saatchi Gallery from 15th November until 22nd January 2024. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.