‘Moneybags’ is an exhibition of new paintings by New York-based Danish artist Sergej Jensen. Everything displayed here is painted on to canvases made from money bags that have been sewn together. Jensen paints on to them stark and distressed images.
The ground material used is taken from real life banks such as Midland Bank, RBS, Barclays and Deutsche Bank. Often the text and logos are clearly viewable, so the symbolism Jensen is going for is pretty obvious from the start. What’s disappointing though is that he doesn’t really seem to do anything with this idea and in this way, choosing money bags as a canvas seems as arbitrary a choice as choosing a magazine or Royal Mail parcel. Any comment he wanted to make about the financial industry’s relationship to art probably could’ve been summarised by writing ‘Money = Art’ with a winking emoji.
That said, a lot of the paintings themselves are quite nice to look at, Jensen’s ‘Nude 1’ and ‘Nude 2’ being particularly calming highlights. The use of texture plays a key role, as works that seemed non-descript from afar reveal hidden depths of wear, scratches and specks of rust up-close. Repeated motifs such as patterned rings and checkerboard effects also liven things up, as well as the display of colour that shifts around the gallery from sparse monotone to deep primary colour.
For such minimal works, there are some surprising links to paintings from the art-historical canon here. Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Battle of Anghiari’ is recreated in a vague deteriorated grey for the final piece of the exhibition. Elsewhere, Jensen’s ‘Green Landscape’ feels reminiscent of Japanese print maker Katsushika Hokusai and his ‘Fired Jockey’ comes across like a sketch from Wassily Kandinsky’s ‘Blue Rider’. Given that some of canvases are roughly sewn together, creating a grid-like pattern, there’s also a looping effect that is similar to Andreas Gursky’s cut and pasted infinite landscapes.
Looking at previous works by Jensen, these new works don’t seem to be much of a digression for him. He’s used money bags as a canvas before and it seems odd that to repeat the process without any development of the ideas or materials. Given how well-designed White Cube Bermondsey’s expansive concrete space is, having everything neatly laid out here didn’t really add any distinctive element to the exhibit. Because of this, more significantly, there’s no critique of the commercial nature of the gallery in relation to the subject of Jensen’s works and his money-bags.