Peter Saul is gross. He’s weird and violent and nasty and strange and surreal and, most of all, he’s brilliant.
The American painter has been pushing his melty Pop art satirical aggression for decades, and despite being almost in his 90s, no one comes close. His new paintings here are the same old Saul, but that’s exactly what you want. He uses dappled splodges to create soft airbrush-like paintings filled with talking hamburgers, mutant horses and leaky brains. One painting shows a two-headed being – part-Superman, part-God – having an argument as planes drift overhead in a sneery takedown of political power gone mad. Another finds an old man losing a fight with a pile of bricks, another shows a bloke having his head chopped open by an axe-wielding tree. In Saul’s world, everything fights back, every face gets a slap, everyone gets their comeuppance. It’s all punchlines with no set up, like someone’s isolated a single comic strip panel and deleted all the words. You know it’s violent and weird and funny, but you don’t necessarily know why.
It’s a shame the gallery is so unwelcoming – forcing the assistants to follow visitors from room to room creates such an intimidating, uncomfortable art environment, like they think everyone who comes in is some art criminal mastermind – because Saul is a special painter, and getting lost in his Bizarro World take on Pop is a trip we should all get to take.