London Art Pitch is a monthly column by Jamie Sterns, a New York curator and writer attending school in the British capital.
We all know these lists—the top, the best, the ones to watch, so on and so on. The word “emerging” has been bandied about so often that it almost glazes over the eyes when one sees it being used. What is the need for these types of list? They don’t mean all that much, beyond providing bragging rights for a few. But alas, they exist, and that being so, I decided I would try to write out one that shakes the staid and expected. This list is not about tooting horns of the already known, nor is it about reestablishing the establishment. The 15 artists on this list are young and most are under the radar, but trust me, they are making waves that you will see and feel sooner rather than later.
This list of artists is obviously culled from what is in my cultural purview, but in selecting them I aim to remove of personal attachment. I have selected them not because I happen to know them or “like” them. There are enough group shows for that type of nepotism. Rather, I have selected them because they all have that certain “something”—that “it,” which is hard to define but you know it when you see it and when you do it’s true, clear, and exciting. What is contemporary art if not a reflection of our contemporary age? All these artists exemplify this, and possibly reveal what is to come as well.
Ball’s sculptures almost always work alone but together they form a compendium of an investigation. What he is investigating is varied, but he translate and combines symbols, archaic forms, science, and fictions to make works that feel like prototypes for a classified experiment. The mixture of organic and synthetic pushes and pulls at the lines of what is natural and how materials might activate. This ambiguity of function makes Ball’s work perplexing and the accumulative nature of his process makes each one feel like a key for something vast and unknown.
There’s something very familiar about Bishop’s work that at first glance can be off putting, but he’s an artist who gets more interesting the more one looks. He makes installations, videos, and sculpture, but for me his treatment of space, his cutouts of walls, his minimalist-office like settings matched with solitude of his objects are intriguing and alluring. Bishop has a gift for manipulating space and time. He seems to make them hover and transforms them both with care, direction, and precision. He’s one of those artists that might produce an “Is that it?” feeling after a show or piece, but that’s okay because that’s all there needs to be sometimes.
Chavasse is an artist who employs sculpture, installation, and video to create moments of reflection. This might seem like a familiar mode of working, but he has something that makes it better and more engaging then most: sincerity. It is not the type that is self-aware or quotational; rather it is open and vulnerable. He is like a breath of fresh air and in his art his use of the elemental—water, wind, sky—makes the digital emotive. There is an intuitiveness that makes his work hard to pin down, but if you open up to it to the same degree he opens up in creating it, it generates a near ecstatic feeling.
Crowther is a cool type of artist. Her cool is edged with a touch of crazy (in a good way) and that translates in her work. Using photographs, installations, and a mélange of other materials, Crowther’s work oozes youth and sex with funny slaps of dirt and irreverence. She has a formidable eye and knows how to edit and place things in the way that screams “contemporary” but is not too stuck up about it. Watch out for her, as she seems ready to explode (in a good way).
Ruth Angel Edwards
Music, the body, sex, and politics are mixed and mashed together by Edwards to create images and videos that are tense and complicating. The female body (and how it is packaged in culture) is examined through repetitions that reveal the queasiness of it all, but it is not a hit-you-over-your-head investigation but rather one that seduces. To approach the sexualized gaze is difficult to do, but Edwards does it with raw intellect and uncompromising vision.
Tension, power, sex, the body, feelings, domination, distance—these are just some of the words that came to mind when viewing Gorodeckaya’s most recent installations. Originally trained as a photographer, she has veered toward sculpture, installation, and performance in her new work. There is a charge of sexuality throughout it that feels ambiguous and complicating. It’s the type of work where the sex/gender of the artist gets enmeshed into the narrative. I’m not sure if that is a fair impulse, but it is deeply complex and there are so few artists that can traverse such implications. Gorodeckaya can. She is like an artist on a tightrope, walking forward within this with such precision that it is both dangerous and exciting.
A writer and an artist, Heinemann is poetic in both roles. Heinemann makes sculptures out of seeming debris: empty water bottles, reused packages, twigs, and dried foliage. The limits of material are not reductive, though, as they are assembled with a care and balance that shifts them into mini monuments and architectural motifs. They are precarious, quiet, and sensitive, but have a clarity that makes them feel substantial and present. Heinemann’s writing is open, inquisitive, and stark in its honesty, and it doesn’t translate into the work in a one-to-one way but reading it or listening to it, one can see the same type of loose tightness that reveals.
Keil is a very good artist, and she has the brains and the aesthetic nimbleness to prove it. Working with just about everything—video, installation, painting, mixed media, and sculpture—Keil asks discomfiting social questions, and then creates works that hint at or reproduce our associations with it. Of exceptional note are her sculptures constructed out of cardboard that look like they were made by a mix of child and genius. They are delights to see. Her work is not about singular pieces, though. They are accumulations, and they create a setting or a stage in which to reflect, deflect, and ponder, even though it sometimes leads to nowhere.
Lees’s work is a little bit hippy, a little bit archeological, and has a touch of the ritual. A sculptor, she uses natural materials, things like vegetable dyes, shells, and bamboo. With them she creates a variety of objects, some loose and flesh like. Others are like artifacts or things used in magic making. There is a suspension of disbelief in her work. If you believe in what something is, is it not true? That approach is one that seems refreshing when interacting with an object in space and her skill of craft and the mystery of her intent make her works have substance versus being merely make believe.
Malthouse’s work has been on my radar for some time and although she is making more sculptural work these days, her previous use of photographs still appears in some interesting ways. Working with loose symbolic forms, she has a knack for elegance that is smart enough not to veer toward stylization. There is lightness to touch and palate that makes her work feel restive, meditative, and serene. Her new ventures into materiality are just beginning, but if her past work is any indication, what it will produce will be curious and undoubtedly graceful.
At first glance video would seem to be Melia’s forte but when you look at his works more closely it’s not really about that but about the body and the separation and production of feeling through the body. He is an adept and confident composer of images and stories. Narratives that go nowhere or are disconnected creating tension and a feeling of baited breath. This produces not stasis but rhythm—a gnawing buzzing that craves release. Melia doesn’t necessarily give you that, though, and because of this his work fixes you, your body and your feelings.
Nettell is an intellectual artist. Her work, her presentation, and the way it is contextualized in space, in the press, and in venues all reflect her precision and control. It is contemporary art in the most contemporary of ways, both good and bad, but there is a rigor to it that some such art lacks. This quality gives it breathing room and thoughtfulness. She makes paintings with digital traces to evoke the mechanics of process, and a pile of dirty dishes becomes a reflection on the conditions of labor. Things are never what they are supposed to be in her hands but she manages to reveal them for more then what they are. She is also the type of artist that works within the system of things, in all ways, and it would be a fault of any engaged art viewer not to take that seriously.
Hannah Quinlan Anderson
& Rosie Hastings
This artist-duo tackles feminism, queerness, politics, culture, and the symbols of them head on. A rainbow flag is not only a symbolic stand in; it can also be used as a palate, and in their video work it is bright and pop, but there is also something unnerving as well. Their videos and installations of objects have a deserted, apocalyptic tone that swerves the iconography of protest into an echo chamber. This forces one to really see, really think, and really imagine what it all means—the history of it, the past, and the point we are at now.
Sides makes installations, collages, objects, performances, light shows, sound experiences, plus more, more, more. This abundance is not annoying or over the top, though. There is a precision in the messy. He can take newspaper, glue, magazine cutouts and things that seem to be found on the floor and make them into the tightest tableaus. There is something punk about his work. It is a mixture of “I don’t give a fuck” mixed with “He’s probably the smartest person in the room.” Work like that is dangerously good but can be understandably off putting. I think it’s great, smart, messy, and referencing so much that it’s fine if I don’t get it all.
Swan is not a conventional artist in his practice. He works with musicians, fashion designers, and other commercial agents, but he is probably one of the most interesting artists out there. Using computer graphics he creates worlds, zones, and images that are hyper-real abstractions and imaginings. Liquid, earth, fire are smoothed and distorted to create a new type of surrealism. His use of timing and vastness produces a hypnotic effect. Also the way he creates space and the feeling of emersion is rarely achieved so successfully. There is touch of boyishness in his subject matter but that doesn’t take away or reduce the incredible worlds he creates.