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Multidisciplinary artist Philipp Humm often reconceptualises classic concepts for our contemporary age; from Michelangelo to Hegel, and now Goethe. Goethe’s Faust is the classic cautionary tale of a man who makes a pact with the devil. He exchanges his soul for pleasure and knowledge. Humm, the former CEO of Vodafone, draws on years of corporate experience to reimagine this story through an exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, coinciding with the Start Art Fair, on view until October 17. It is a story in which Wall Street watches everything, influencers are consumed by superficies and the devil dresses as a hedge fund manager.

Humm voices the moral failings of industry leaders, something many are afraid to do, and depicts a society where morality is in chaos. With insider status comes insider knowledge and this is reflected in Humm’s work. Having studied philosophy, he aims to understand primary human drivers: greed, ambition and power. In this exhibit, the artist does not stand as an omniscient social narrator. As we view his work, there is a sense that we are, like him, an individual attempting to make sense of the moral chaos we see around us. Humm states that his work is “cerebral, multi-layered and symbolic” and this exhibit encapsulates this; he deftly layers philosophy with contemporary popular culture.

Since swapping the boardroom for the art studio, Humm has created over two hundred multidisciplinary works, including his 2019 feature film, The Last Faust. He states that his core discipline is drawing as it helps him to conceptualise and communicate an ideas and stories. With Humm’s work having been labelled as pop expressionism, some of his inspirations, expressionists Salvador Dalí and Paula Rego, come to the fore.

In this exhibit we see these narratives transformed illustratively into oil painting and bronze sculptures. A potentially sombre story of moral deficiency amongst the powerful elite is anything but life-denying. What could be a sombre social critique is imbued with optimism, personal experience and wit.
Faust runs at the Saatchi gallery in London until October 17, coinciding with the Start Art Fair.

Maeve Gorman

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