Xavier Mascaro's sculptures outside Saatchi Gallery sit in lotus position upon stilts in a line of four, as if guarding the entrance to the gallery. Their armour looks like a cross between a fencing mask and a medieval suit of armour. The Buddhist knights' rusted bodies suggest they have been here for an age. In fact, they've only just arrived — as part of Departures.
The artist's theme for the exhibition is the movement of peoples around the world. These sculptures are particularly fitting. They remind us of the many foreign soldiers who have helped countries win wars, including Britain in the First World War and the Roman army, both of whom relied on a large contingent of fighters from overseas.
The exhibition continues inside the gallery, occupying two rooms on the top floor, containing more sculptures built around the same theme. Heads cast from jigsaw-shaped pieces fuse with delicate materials such as netting and veils to bring migrant faces to life, although it's never quite clear whether the artist intends to show a glamorous or vulnerable side to his subjects.
An entire room is dedicated to sculptures of boats used by those fleeing poverty or war. The flotilla is a testament to mass migration, but doesn't feel substantial enough to capture that feeling of a ship graveyard, which we think Mascaro is trying to convey.
Departures is full of visually-arresting work but the experimental nature of Mascaro's sculptures means they are often unclear on the message they're trying to express. The sentinels outside — the first and last thing you see — are the strongest works on display. They alone leave a lasting impression.
For more art in London, check out our September listings.