Exhibition Review – ‘A World Within Worlds’ – The Art of Derrick Santini
Over the past few years, indeed pre-Covid, Timothy Oulton has ramped up the aesthetic voltage of World’s End, Chelsea in no uncertain way, writes Robin Dutt. I was at the initial vernissage several years ago, now and his hallmarks of exquisite displays and ironic contents remain the same – although of course, those objects and trinkets long gone. But the ethos is true to form. Oulton specializes in amassing paraphernalia together – whether a tranche of Victorian and Edwardian cutlery – all mismatched – glassware and sports memorabilia to give ideas to commissioned interior designers or those brave enough to make costly mistakes when not settled by the right hand in the correct context.
It looks easy to style a place. It isn’t. Oulton is nothing but eclectic (a much overused and misappropriated term for many) and has a roving, travelling eye for things which shouldn’t be married together but when they are look perfect. The sleek or shaggy-pile couches and chairs all around can cost a fortune and are balanced by irony and ecstasy of experimentation. Cliche although it may be, Timothy Oulton really is the consummate magpie. Uniforms on mannequins guard the inspiration, rugby balls remind of a very British tradition. There’s also a space ship-esque fluffy-seated bar crash pad just to keep things fizzy and cushions galore for spinning heads.
His latest find is Derrick Santini, left, whose ‘A World Within Worlds’ exhibition opened to much enthusiastic comment and curiosity. Santini is a devotee of the Lenticular – a technology in which sheet lenses are used to produce flat images with the illusion of depth and movement. It is a form of optical illusion and artists have been pursuing different ways of ‘fooling the eye’ for hundreds of years. Some would say that this is a sort of trompe l’oeil. Others might not. In one sense some may also say that words on a page but to a far less dramatic sense have also been experimented with, where the shape of a poem echoes the title. Or blocks of words suggest brusque, even angry intent as in say Concrete poetry of the 1960s. But with Lenticular photography it brings every subject to life, made evident when the viewer passes by and sees, say the expression of a face change or even mouth…’I love you’. How very reassuring especially after a difficult night!
This very ‘vivant’ presentation may recall for those of a certain age, special souvenir cards which were lenticular, ranging from postcard seaside holiday slices to dinosaurs which moved on the surface. Of course, the idea of a Lenticular work might be reminiscent of say a triptych where a story is told and developed over three sections. The Lenticular fuses different poses, expressions, feelings on an admirable flatness and still fascinate and look magical, even though one understands the tectonic science when it comes to how they are achieved. We look at these images with an almost child-like wonder. The same kind of wonder, perhaps when on Bonfire night as children, we might have signed our name in the night sky with a sparkler.
It has been observed that certain portraits created hundreds of years ago and still today, had the facility of the eyes following the viewer around the room from almost any angle. With Santini’s work, they certainly do and one feels somehow also something of an object as opposed to the authoritative audience. The captured, magnetic gazes and movements encourage a moving from side to side, a shifting of rocking feet, then a stroll past and then a stroll back…
‘For Silver’, for example sees a playful Phil Daniels in a clearly stage-like setting, dressed in almost period costume (but not) a mix of steely greys and charcoals, standing on a vivid chessboard tiled floor. There is something Dickensian about him. Somehow, despite the suggestively Cockney spoons which one can imagine being used to accompany a crowd pleasing street song, a la Dick Van Dyke in ‘Mary Poppins’, there is also something Shakespearian about it, too. It is a soliloquy in motion, a speech without words. And Santini reminds that in this ultra colour world we live in, black and white imagery still possesses power which is not just about a yearning for the nostalgic. Would it be too much to say that it always will? I don’t think so…
Fashion designer, Pam Hogg has also been captured by Santini in a shower of gold tones with disturbingly cobalt, although luscious, clearly Warholian Marilyn Monroe lips, her tousled hair a waterfall of sand, olive oil and treacle hues.
Derrick Santini has photographed amongst others, Adele, Lady Gaga, Alexander McQueen and Idris Elba and his work is in the private collections of Damien Hirst and Lakshmi Mittal.
Derrick Santini, ‘A World Within Worlds’ is at Timothy Oulton, Bluebird, 350 King’s Road, London SW3 5UU until 18 November.