From environmental activism to a celebration of the vulva, these artists are changing the creative landscape with work that is surprising, confrontational and uplifting.

Grace Haynes Feb 06 2020 1
Grace Lynne Haynes, courtesy of the artist

Painting: Grace Lynne Haynes 

Grace Lynne Haynes rocketed into the public consciousness this summer when her portrait of Sojourner Truth featured on the cover of the New Yorker, in celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. However, she had already caught the eye of the art world for her brilliantly vivid colour palette, which deals conceptually and technically with the process of painting Black skin. It has been a busy year for the artist, as she was selected as an inaugural member of Kehinde Wiley’s Black Rock Senegal programme. She is now exhibiting as part of London’s 1-54 Contemporary African Fair with Luce Gallery, and at the Long Gallery in Harlem, as part of Styling: Black Expression, Rebellion and Joy Through Fashion x Nordstrom. (Holly Black)

 

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  • Left: Jazz Grant, Athulya, 2020, courtesy of the artist. Right: Jazz Grant, Beautiful Jamaica, 2020, courtesy of the artist

Collage: Jazz Grant

Jazz Grant’s collages are brimming with energy. The cut and paste technique utilised by the artist inspires images which have a slightly disjointed feeling, ensuring the audience sits up and pays attention. And pay attention we must, for she doesn’t take the power of visual communication for granted. Wielding this talent to celebrate her community, she’s recently undertaken a collaboration with The Black Curriculum, an organisation that aims to deliver Black British history in schools. Together they created a zine targeted at youth, focusing on the history of Notting Hill Carnival and how it’s intimately intertwined with Black history and culture. Grant’s imagery shines on the front cover, and the DIY aesthetic of her work perfectly delivers the chaotic beauty of carnival. After a recent commission for new magazine Boy.Brother.Friend, which involved Grant turning her hand to stop frame animation to create the film Rhyging Sun, the artist now plans to exhibit her first solo show early next year. (Anoushka Khandwala)

Anna Glantz, Imagined Pregnancy, 2020. The Approach, London

Painting: Anna Glantz

Queens-based artist Anna Glantz combines the everyday with the absurd in her paintings, often infusing moments of mundane domestic life with unexpected bodily proportions, heavenly beams of light, and intense eye contact from her subjects. For Baby Grand, her new show at The Approach in London, she addresses a physical change which, while completely natural, is surreal for many. “She imagines her own potential pregnancy out of curiosity,” writes the gallery, in “a painting whose meaning is subject to change depending on whether or not she ever becomes pregnant.” Another work follows a family of cats carrying one another up a hill at dusk. “Each cat is smaller than the previous as it grips an even smaller cat between its teeth—the painting has the potential to go on forever.” Themes of anxiety and dread pervade her peculiar and intoxicating scenes. (Emily Steer)

Arinze Stanley, Mindless, charcoal and graphite on paper, courtesy of the artist

Drawing: Arinze Stanley

There is photorealism and there is photorealism; Arinze Stanley’s work sits thoroughly in the spooky camp when it comes to how many double takes it requires to believe that his images are the product of charcoal and graphite rather than digital or photographic means. As such, it seems fitting that his latest body of work is titled Paranormal Portraits. These works, which draw from Stanley’s personal experiences growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, will be on show this weekend (from 3 October) at Corey Helford Gallery in LA. “My art is a reflection of how I perceive the realities in my society─a simple language of my feelings,” says the artist. “In my opinion, artists are custodians of time and reality, hence why I try to inform the future about the reality of today and through these surreal portraits.” He adds that, through the portraits series, he hopes to create a document that demonstrates the “almost psychedelic and uncertain experience of being black in the twenty-first century.” (Emily Gosling)

 

 

 

Painting: Yang Xu

Yang Xu’s work explores childhood fantasies, fetishes and identity, though her practice takes both history and mysticism as its starting point. Driven by a desire to ‘resuscitate’ Rococo styles and sensibilities in her work, Yang paints ostentatious, unapologetic female figures onto silver coated plate, board and carpet—embracing historicised visual tropes and colours, but never losing sight of materiality of her chosen surfaces. Xu paints in a lavish, extravagant style, though her ethereal portraiture shows a deft touch, especially in balancing light and dark. Her work recently featured at No.20 Arts’ Wintergreen Boxwood exhibition and the Saatchi Gallery’s London Grads Now showcase, and she can often be found parading the galleries in flowing outfits that act as an extension of her practice. Xu graduated with a BA in Painting at Wimbledon College of Arts in 2018 and an MA in Painting at Royal College of Arts in 2020. (Ravi Ghosh)

María Berrío, The Combed Thunderclap, 2020, Collage with Japanese paper and watercolour paint on canvas, © María Berrío, courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

Painting: Maria Berrio

When I think of the artists working now who are truly expanding what the ‘female gaze’ might mean in our visual culture now, I think of Maria Berrio. An array of new works produced under the conditions of the pandemic in Brooklyn are coming to London, inviting us to travel the surfaces of her collage-based works on a journey through time, space and female bodies; to feel magic and encounter all the nuances of what it means to be ‘female’ and experience the world fluidly, and in a cyclical way. The artist’s unique visual language is crafted with delicate materials (watercolour, fine Japanese paper collage) that convey fragility and vulnerability but at the same time their large-scale, direct gaze and glorious colours have a confident, engaging presence. Berrio’s first gallery solo exhibition at Victoria Miro is sure to be a favourite of Frieze. (Charlotte Jansen)

Guanyu Xu, The Dining Room, courtesy of the artist

Photography: Guanyu Xu

Images are layered upon images, overflowing from a familiar domestic bedroom, kitchen and living room, in Guanyu Xu’s photographic project Temporarily Censored Home (2018-19). These ephemeral photographic installations are staged secretly in his childhood home in Beijing, creating a literal collision of artistic production and familial space. The Chinese photographer uses imagery taken from a wide range of sources, from self-portraits to found images of other gay men, and resolutely asserts his own identity through intimate takeovers of his conservative parents’ home. “The images bridge the relationship between personal and political in the context of the oppressive systems of both China and the US,” Xu explains. “Even though these installations were not permanent, I reclaimed my home in Beijing as a queer space of freedom and temporary protest.” These images are currently on show as part of the Photoworks Festival and the Breda Photo Festival, while Xu will also be included in exhibitions later in the year at the Hyères International Festival and Foam Talent. (Louise Benson)

Grace Woodcock, courtesy of the artist and Castor Gallery

Sculpture: Grace Woodcock

Grace Woodcock only graduated from her degree at the Royal College of Art last year, but her work is both incredibly immediate and beautifully beguiling. Currently showing at Castor gallery, her installation immediately feels deliciously fleshy. Which is fitting, since it looks at our pink squishy innards. Her solo show, titled GUT-BRAIN, looks at the idea of the gut as the “original brain”, exploring these complex biological ideas through soft sculptural pieces and a deliberately 1960s sci-fi-esque vibe. Kitsch aside, her pieces delineate the intimacy of the processes that happen within our bodies and the strange architectures that form a person. Using materials including foam, silicone, Perspex  and steel ‘subtly hijacked’ with traces of spirulina, pro and prebiotics and zinc oxide; Woodcock experiments with the interplay between texture and form, and the biological and the mechanical. (Emily Gosling)

 

 

 

Painting / Sculpture: Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim 

Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim creates work that is deeply embedded in his local environment. With a studio nestled between the Gulf of Oman and Hajar Mountains, he creates installations, drawings and sculptures that respond to the forms of the surrounding desert and ocean landscapes. Curves gently undulate in thickly drawn lines on paper and canvas, while papier-mache sculptures have the appearance of ancient archeological objects—albeit painted in hot pink, yellow and green. It was recently announced that Ibrahim is to represent UAE at the 2022 Venice Biennale, while Memory Drum, his solo show at Lawrie Shabibi, runs until 12 November. “My connection with the natural landscapes of the UAE has inspired my work since I was a teenager,” the artist told Arab News this week. “In exhibiting at the Venice Biennale, I feel I will be sharing an aspect of my home and culture with many other nations and starting a dialogue with other exhibitions presenting aspects of their own homes and cultures.

Fiona Banner, courtesy of the artist

Sculpture: Fiona Banner

A question often asked today is, can art make a difference? Fiona Banner’s new works prove that it certainly can: the artist is working with Greenpeace this month and has made an artwork that will stop illegal activity happening in British waters. The environmental activist group have given the artist three giant granite boulders from the North Sea’s Marine Protected Areas where they have uncovered illegal fishing; as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the destructiveness of this activity, Banner has made sculptures from these boulders, that will set sail on the Esperanza (Greenpeace’s shop) into the North Sea’s Dogger Bank next week, and will create a barrier on the sea bed to prevent bottom trawling in the area. The third boulder will be delivered to the government to demand they take action. (Charlotte Jansen)

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  • Left: TJ Agbo, Cucci, oil pastel on paper courtesy of the artist.Right: TJ Agbo, Designer Vag, Oil pastel on paper, courtesy of the artist

Painting / Drawing: TJ Agbo 

TJ Agbo’s vibrant works often explore the human body and skin, using intricate patterns and expressive marks for portraits and paintings of close-up features. He is interested in the concept of beauty, and the ways in which this is applied to the human form. The self-taught, London-based artist has recently added three works to the Vagina Museum’s Open Soon series, depicting front-on vulvas in sumptuous acrylic paint and oil pastel. The series brings together over sixty original artworks, with proceeds raised helping the “world’s first bricks and mortar museum dedicated to vulvas, vaginas and gynae anatomy” to reopen this month. (Emily Steer)

 



Kate Merry, Abi Titmouse, 2020. Courtesy the artist
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