The Time Is Now: 8 Essential Artists to Discover

From a genre-bending photographer to a feminist icon championing sexual freedom, these are the standout artists that the Elephant team have their eye on right now. 

Talia Chetrit, Self-portrait (all fours), 2017
Talia Chetrit, Self-portrait (all fours), 2017. Courtesy the artist and MACK Books

Photography: Talia Chetrit 

Talia Chetrit unpicks the seductive power of photography in candid images that confront the viewer. Her self portraits, often taken in mirrors and other reflective surfaces, reveal the more-often unseen elements and equipment that go into the making of an image. Straddling the line between fashion and fine art, she shoots models, friends and other acquaintances to explore not only sexuality and the body but the power dynamics of permission, consent and intimacy. A brand new monograph of Chetrit’s work, spanning over a decade to include images taken in her teenage years, has just been published by MACK Books, and it’s a beauty. Titled Showcaller, it accompanies a recent retrospective museum exhibition at the Kölnischer Kunstverein in Cologne. (Louise Benson)

Rebecca Harper, Insight, 2018
Rebecca Harper, Insight, 2018

Painting: Rebecca Harper 

There’s something that feels incredibly accomplished—almost classical—about the work of London born and based painter Rebecca Harper. Her work, which is very often large in scale and ambitious in composition, mixes the realms of real-life events with dreams, memories and fictions. These are woven together to create new situations that feel plausible at first, before becoming increasingly strange the more you look.  From the beginning of March, Harper is showing a new series of paintings at Anima Mundi gallery in St Ives, Cornwall, in an exhibition titled Chameleon which runs until 6 April. “The motives of her works are intended to be contradictory, at once both particular and general,” says the gallery, adding that her work frequently addresses “ideas around displacement.” (Emily Gosling)

Sculpture: Clementine Keith-Roach

Clementine Keith-Roach’s bodily sculptures are both sensual and slightly unnerving. Many of her vessels take the form of an abstracted female torso, informed by the interiors of ancient Greek temples and a particularly titillating Cycladic nipple ewer from circa 3,500 BC. Although she originally worked in abstracted forms and utilized a vibrant colour palette, her most recent pieces feel fully anthropomorphised, and feature earthy tones that recall the surfaces of the ancient ceramics that inspired her. Many are also are accompanied by delicately placed arms and hands that grow from the body of the vessel, and flex in an alarmingly lifelike manner. Keith-Roach is exhibiting at Blue Projects until 20 April, and will have a solo show at  Hunter/Harrison in June. (Holly Black)

Painting: Marroni-Ouanely 

At first glance the work of Italian-French artist duo Marroni-Ouanely seems intriguingly scrappy—almost Cy Twombly-esque in its colour palettes and mark-making. It also, however, has a charming sense of humour to it: faintly drawn cartoon characters, googly eyes and confusing contortions abound. The pair collaborates in an unusual way, simultaneously painting each canvas using their less dominant hand, explaining the sense of abstractness, imperfection and kinetic energy their work is imbued with. Marroni-Ouanely are currently showing at London’s Public Gallery in an exhibition entitled Cagnara, which translates from the Italian as a “noisy disturbance.” The new series of paintings on show is largely based on “canine interactions”; which seems to mean prominent faces, hard-to-place limbs, mutant-like reworkings of dog bodies and beguiling textures. The show runs until 2 March. (Emily Gosling)

Video: Alicia Mersy

Alicia Mersy wants to save your advanced capitalist, militarized soul —well, kinda. The Montreal-bred, French-Lebanese artist who now lives in Brooklyn presents a four-part self-help series at Abrons Art Center until April 5th: Wisdom Fertiliser riffs on the language of YouTuber life coachers, clip-art, commercial graphics and news culture to reflect on whether it’s actually possible to self-actualize in such a world. “The Only Shame Is to Have Shame,” she tells us in her soothing and sensual voice. It might seem flippant at first but Mersy is serious: driven by her own heritage and time she has spent living in the Middle-East, working on local projects in Palestine in particular, her socio-political video art is well-informed and she mashes up gold chains, puffs of smoke, vases of flowers and ideologies to create fresh and unique visuals that aren’t quite like anything else. (Charlotte Jansen)

Jadé Fadojutimi, I'm Pirouetting the Night Away, 2019
Jadé Fadojutimi, I’m Pirouetting the Night Away, 2019

Painting: Jadé Fadojutimi 

This London-based artist is making bold strides with wild, expressive paintings that capture the ever-evolving internal landscape of our emotions. There is an immediacy to Jadé Fadojutimi’s vivid brushstrokes, which can be seen clearly in the many converging lines that criss-cross and circle upon the canvas; her process of painting is rawly felt. The Slade graduate presents her first institutional solo show at PEER (until 6 April), following last year’s exhibition at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery—and she was previously nominated for our very own Griffin Art Prize to boot. “Painting fills the gaps in language. There is a lot that I can’t necessarily put into words,” she explains in an interview with Elephant. “We respond in ways that we only know how. When I’m making a painting, unexplained emotions come out.” (Louise Benson)

Sculpture/ Installation: Romily Alice Walden 

As a queer, disabled artist Romily Alice Walden interrogates issues of gender, “othered” bodies and what she terms the “IRL/URL” context of our lived experience, both online and in the physical realm. She first gained acclaim for her neon portraits that depicted different female-identified nudes, which were inspired by a selection of anonymously donated selfies and served as celebratory counterpoint to the very narrow parameters perpetuated by the mainstream media. More recently, Walden has focused on her experience of living with chronic illness with My Body Is The House That I Live In (on show at SOHO20 in New York), an abstract, responsive neon installation that considers the multi-faceted notion of “wellness” and challenges the societal expectation that sickness should be isolated and confined to the home. In a move to open up the conversation around differently-abled experiences Walden will also be taking part in Flux/Us, a Tate Exchange event (21-22 March) with disability-led organization Shape Arts, where people can drop in, converse, read, learn and even make their own art. (Holly Black)

Betty Tompkins, Betty Would Be..., 2018. Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W New York
Betty Tompkins, Betty Would Be…, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W New York

Painting: Betty Tompkins

She’s a stalwart of sexual freedom and a pioneer of porn art—Betty Tompkins hardly needs introducing. Except that she’s never had a solo exhibition in London, until the latest at J Hammond Projects, titled Fuck Paintings, Etc—named after the famous giant pussies and phalluses she started making fifty years ago after flipping through her husband’s piles of porn mags. It was so radical that even the radical feminists rejected her. It was only much later on that Tompkins found any kind of art-world recognition. Another long-running project, “Women Words,” started in the 2000s, was contributed to by the public and revealing a horrifying and endemic hatred of women. “I have learned that women have good cause to be enraged and triggered and men, in general, continue to feel entitled.” Tompkins told Elephant in December. “It may take many generations for this to change, if it does at all.” The London exhibition will focus on both major bodies of work, to commemorate five decades of Fuck Paintings in our lives. (Charlotte Jansen)