What connects a picture of a dog barking at a rooftop sunbather, a collection of destroyed Yemen buildings and a painting of a meme? Welcome to FBA Futures, where forty-three recent art school graduates have been brought together in the UK’s largest annual showcase of emerging art at Mall Galleries in London. Variety is the order of the day here, with artists exploring everything from gender identity to the queer black gaze in painting.
Mark Bletcher hints at medieval monsters and the iconography of black metal in his dark, dreamlike images, while Ewan Keenan’s Pop Belly makes use of fluorescent shades of green and orange to render his subject strangely supernatural, upending reality into something altogether more sinister. It is this suspension of the real that connects many of the works on display in the exhibition, where painting is instead used to represent a state of mind. These highly subjective reflections offer new perspectives on the world around us, one that is playful, strange and occasionally surreal.
“Variety is the order of the day here, with artists exploring everything from gender identity to the queer black gaze in painting”
Oliver Mulvihill’s portrait of four women preparing for a party is cartoonish in its stylized, exaggerated geometry and tones, while Lydia Blakeley’s Is This Internet Art immortalizes the familiar Persian cat room guardian meme in a delicate painting, as part of a series that saw her focus on the meme from multiple angles. Blakeley, who is the cover star of Elephant’s very own current Winter issue, is also the recipient of this year’s Minerva Prize, awarded to one artist as part of FBA Futures.
As Blakeley explained in an interview with Elephant last month, “The source imagery for the inspiration behind the paintings seems to almost always originate from the digital life I spend online.” The same could certainly be said of several of the artists who appear in this exhibition, as the time that we give to our digital devices becomes an ever-more present force in our daily lives. FBA Futures offers a snapshot of a new generation of artists, and so it is little surprise that their outlook has been shaped by the hyper-connected, frustrating and frantic experience of the present moment, and of modern life.
All images courtesy Mall Galleries