Artefacts by Olga Lomaka Private viewing at Saatchi Gallery 12 October 2016 It so happens that in mid-October London, 8 p.m. is already nighttime. In the gathering darkness, a chain of photographers’ flashes, spread from the Duke of York Square to the entrance of Saatchi Gallery, serves as a perfect beacon for those coming to the opening party of Artefacts, the solo exhibition of works by Olga Lomaka. Despite the lack of light, the gallery entrance is unmistakable, again, thanks to photographers: no guest is allowed to sneak in and see the show without first experiencing a photo shoot in front of a press wall, patterned with the names of exhibition supporters; hence, a permanent queue of beautiful people right outside the gallery.

Courtesy of Irene Kukota.

Courtesy of Olga Lomaka.

Lomaka is a Russian-born London-based artist who mainly works with painting and sculpture, customising the aesthetic traditions of good old Pop Art for the present days. A graduate of Central Saint Martins College, she has been widely exhibited in Europe, Russia and the United States. Her artistic style is catchy and easy to recognise. Taking after the gurus of Pop Art, Lomaka developed a habit of producing her works in series, and the Artefacts project that is now showcased at Saatchi Gallery is no exception. The exhibition occupies one large room on the second floor of the gallery, where 18 wood-carved copies of a sitting Buddha are installed on the walls. Each Buddha is embellished with a set of shiny aluminium accessories that repeat the key symbols of modern culture — such as the familiar logos of social networks and fashion brands, well-known attributes of celebrities and references to the emergent standards of beauty and wellness. 
Courtesy of Irene Kukota.

Courtesy of Olga Lomaka.

Rather then a critique of the current state of things, Lomaka’s Artefacts can be described as an affirmation of contemporary consumerist values, global obsession with social media with its ‘heroes’, and a growing impossibility (accompanied by fading necessity) to distinguish an artwork from an object of interior design, or a fashion fetish. Contemporary culture is celebrated by the artist as an always-hungry organism that blindly swallows any and all available cultural codes: both old and new, as long as they contain some irony and glossiness, and/or refer to the popular vision of a happy life and success. Once swallowed, these codes are further digested and reconfigured by contemporary artists like Lomaka herself — in order to look like the cultural artefacts of our time. By putting the image of Buddha in the heart of each work in the Artefacts series, Lomaka determines the Buddha’s dominant value for contemporary society. This can be read as a comment on the recent popularisation of Eastern religious practices, including yoga and meditation, among Westerners. However, what is also highlighted here is the universal adjustability of a seemingly local cultural code — once it is swallowed by the contemporary pop-culture and corrupted by its producers. As a part of this exhibition, Buddha himself is reminiscent of a celebrity, employed to advertise the arrival of new values; he is now a billboard Buddha, a body that sells. His reworked image appears to be a prototype, “the beginning of other events and ‘characters’ that mankind needs today to go to the next stage of evolution” — to quote Lomaka’s website. And, perhaps, these are the only kinds of characters and events that would survive our company these days. Lomaka is right to suggest that: “the Buddha is still the guide for moral and spiritual value”. And to those cynics who may inquire: “But which one exactly?” she readily replies with a full range of tailor-made Buddhas that would meet every possible taste and level of education. To name a few, there is a Buddha-Lagerfeld, a Buddha-Queen, a Buddha-New York, a Duchamp-Buddha, and there is one for Superman, too. Each of these is a flattened, wall-friendly version, prudently cut to the size of an Instagram square. Please visit the artist’s website for more information.