I was introduced to Amba Sayal-Bennett’s work (above) via her drawings, which are intimate small-scale pieces that at first resemble architectural sketches. Flat and diagrammatic in a limited palette, they are — like the best abstract art — somehow familiar, yet not quite like anything I’ve seen before. Amba has now begun to develop them into painted MDF sculptures. Like her drawings, which are sometimes exhibited in frames lying flat on a glass shelf, the sculptures are unshowy; lying on the floor they demand a step back or even a raised perspective so they can be viewed in their entirety. If you like Picabia’s mechanical drawings, or Ettore Sottsass’s designs, you’ll love her work.
Aishan Yu’s charming paintings hover between abstraction and the real physical world. They resemble computer modelling with their roughly painted gradients and simplified shapes. In looking at them your eye constantly flickers between the flat effortlessly painted surface and the suggestion of unfathomable depths. As though Fernand Léger had designed the landscaped backgrounds for Super Mario.
Mixing technology with art is so culturally relevant, and Em Cole does it with originality, sharp intelligence and a healthy dollop of wit. I love her exploration of human nature vs digital influences; it’s refreshing and her visual approach is fantastically brazen. She’s one to watch.
I also love Hayden Kays’s mix of deadpan comedy and bold visuals. His work is like 1950s Pop Art meets the YBAs, made ready for Instagram. Whether it’s sculpture, illustration, painting or printmaking, Hayden always takes a humorous and provocative slant on modern culture. I’m a sucker for any artists who can laugh at themselves.
I would love to draw your attention to the work of Nancy Fouts. She recently showed at Flowers Gallery in Cork Street in London and has a new monograph on her work coming out any day. Nancy’s surrealistic work has an acerbic wit, she makes things that, frequently drawn from art history, are accessible and clever simultaneously. She uses acute model making skills to make her art feel like its always been in our lives which makes a powerful uncanny impression. Her work can sometimes be dark but somehow never fails to put a smile on your face. It would be wrong to explain the work too much as it makes a dramatic visual sense on its own. Hope you get to see it.
Art sales programme curator at the Royal Academy of Arts
Having work by artists such as Azita Moradkhani hanging in our 250th Summer Exhibition (until 19 August) truly shows how much the institution has progressed to embrace developments in contemporary art in recent years. Moradkhani, born in Tehran, makes casts of her body — as well as performance work — but it is her intimate drawings of lingerie which first caught my attention. Upon closer inspection the intricately detailed lace reveals ‘secrets’ — images emerge exploring notions of beauty and pleasure through western and middle-eastern cultural perspectives. Made with the childlike medium of coloured pencil, there is something intensely vulnerable about these images — but the artist’s head-on tackling of complex political and feminist issues shows a steely strength and confidence. These seemingly quiet, small-scale works reveal that art doesn’t have to be glossy and super-size to make an impact.
Senior curator of Contemporary British Art at Tate Britain
Lisa Brice is a South-African born, London-based artist. On show as part of Tate Britain’s Art Now programme, her drawings and paintings of women provoke questions around the long-standing art-historical tradition of the female nude and the complex relationship between artist, model and viewer. Often referencing sources such as the paintings of Degas, Manet and Vallotton, Brice’s women are subtly captured in moments of downtime in such a way that imbues them with a new-found sense of self possession.
Editor, Apollo magazine
Painting is like the novel: whenever it’s pronounced dead (which is often), it wakes up bristling with intent. Of the younger generation of British painters, those justly getting a lot of attention from museums and collectors include Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, with her enigmatic portraits of fictitious black subjects, and Michael Armitage, who paints scenes that have all the challenge and enticement of dreams and are thick with allusions to Gauguin, Goya and others. Nick Goss is a painter of everyday mysteries: in a sense his works are collages that disclose how cultural and personal memories haunt the spaces we inhabit. And then there’s Caroline Walker, whose recent exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, featured large paintings depicting women refugees in their temporary accommodation in London, a reminder of how powerfully figurative painting can engage our sympathies and make us question our role as a viewer.
Director of Somerset House
I’m lucky to see a lot of work by promising emerging artists who are in Somerset House Studios, our workspaces for experimental artists, makers and thinkers. That makes it invidious to single one out, but for Hannah Perry, 2018 seems to be a breakthrough moment. Her curiosity leads her into diverse disciplines from sound, light and technology to dance and moving image. For upcoming shows she is creating a dialogue around issues relating to our collective welfare, looking at the complexities of our inner worlds and the interdependence with our hyper-technological society.
Treasurer at the Royal Academy of Arts
Nana Shiomi is a printmaker who has regularly been seen in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. She is within her cultural tradition of Japanese colour woodblock printing, but has absorbed a range of western influences. Her sensuous prints are luscious and lyrical, fulfilling my dictum of ‘poetry through mechanics’. Her subject matter often concerns the domestic.
I was introduced to Thao-Nguyen Phan through the Rolex Mentor and Protégé programme. I was drawn to Thao because of her work. She came to New York from her home in Vietnam when I was working on a major project, so I think she learnt a lot by watching me. We had dialogue about her work, but I felt she should also be left to develop in her own way. I only gave her comments about her videos and simply told her how much I like her paintings. Thao is a very accomplished artist. Her work should be shown in many different circumstances.
Larry Achiampong is very much an artist whose practice is in the ascendancy. He was one of the British artists included in 2017’s Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, a selection of which was presented at Wolverhampton Art Gallery earlier this year. Achiampong, who lives and works in London, studied for a BA in Mixed Media Fine Art at University of Westminster (2005), followed by an MA in Sculpture at Slade School of Fine Art (2008). He works across a range of media to produce highly engaging, compelling work that resonates with no end of concerns, but often finds itself speaking, cogently, to matters of identity. His work is described as employing ‘imagery, aural and visual archives, live performance and sound to explore ideas surrounding class, cross-cultural and post-digital identity’.
Rankin Unfashionable – 30 Years of Fashion Photography is out on 25 September.