Contemporary Abstract Artists to Watch - Part I
Mar 18, 2016
As the global art world becomes more intimately connected, the number of captivating contemporary abstract artists entering the market continues to increase. It can seem overwhelming to keep track of compelling work, and difficult to judge which artists have the momentum and track record to succeed. As we travel to fairs, biennales, auctions and galleries, we take pleasure in discovering new voices. Here, in the first of a two-part series, are ten contemporary abstract artists we believe you should watch.
It’s been said that this contemporary British abstract painter studies, is inspired by, even worships color, light and sound. But far from being simple studies of, or homage to those elements, Marsden’s paintings somehow possess their essences. His works radiate with an inner illumination. They invite the eye into their depth with subtle translucence. Marsden’s practice is informed by an interest in both science and philosophy, and his work manages to inhabit the delicate intersection of both.
Oliver Marsden - Ultra Phthalo Halo, 2008, Oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm, © Oliver Marsden
The work of Brazilian-born abstract artist Christian Rosa reflects inward toward a subconscious alive with chaos and whimsy. Inhabiting an aesthetic sensibility that evokes the heritage of artists like Kandinsky, Miro and Calder, Rosa’s work jumps forth with vibrancy and color. His contemporary sense of color combines with an ancient gestural intuition to fill canvases with images that seem loose, energized and, most importantly, free.
Christian Rosa - This could be it, Spray paint, corn oil, pencil, oil stick and oil on canvas, 180 x 200 cm, photo courtesy Ibid Gallery
The maximum expression of luminosity that the Rayonists attempted to achieve with paint, Niko Luoma masterfully accomplishes through his idiosyncratic, deconstructed photographic process. What Luoma makes are technically not photographs. By working with light-sensitive materials and photographic processes, Luoma creates layered, pigment prints. The process culminates in multi-dimensional, vibrantly colored, geometric abstract images that dazzle the eyes and the emotions. As said the founders of Rayonism, Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Goncharova, “We perceive a sum of rays proceeding from a source of light.”
Niko Luoma - Self titled adaptation of Maids of Honor (1656 / 1957), 2015, Archival pigment print, Diasec, frame, 56 × 194 cm, © Galerie Nikolaus Ruzicska
Drawing on the same sensibilities as first generation abstractionists, Ingrid Floss begins her paintings in the same intuitive manner as a composer might begin a symphony, laying color on a surface like a single tone from a piano, and building instinctively from there. As her colors and brush strokes coalesce a conversation emerges leading to some moment of revelation when the composition becomes harmonious, balanced and complete. Says Floss, “My goal is for each painting to achieve its own character by means of its unique chromatic resonance, spatial depth, brushwork, etc., through which a cosmos arises that opens up a new window onto the world.”
Ingrid Floss - Edgy Weiss, 2016, Oil and wax pencil on linen, 170 x 190 cm, © Ingrid Floss
The work of Athens-born abstract artist Jannis Varelas is often described as theatrical, perhaps due to inherent entertainment value of the work’s frenetic personality. Varelas’ paintings speak with dual voices of abstraction and figuration, seeming to originate in a childlike dream world, evocative of Surrealist and CoBrA methodology. But there’s something personal and urgent about Varelas’ work that defies uncanny recollections of the past, and makes the work current and immediate, connecting with the simultaneously nightmarish and hopeful now.
Jannis Varelas - ABC Flag, 2015, Gesso, oil, acrylic, permanent marker on canvas, 210 x 210 cm, © Jannis Varelas
There’s something in the work of Carlos Arnaiz that invites comparisons, but only to the greats. A rugged patch recalls de Kooning. A color convergence evokes Frankenthaler. A hint of floral figuration suggests O’Keeffe. But the singular empathy and unity of voice that comes through in Arnaiz’s imagery offers something unique. The work of this Argentina-born abstract artist is a regular fixture at art museums and the world’s biggest art fairs, yet there is something personal, subtle and sincere about it that remains warm, private, inviting and serene.
Carlos Arnaiz - Untitled, quadriptych, 2016, Oil on paper, 134 × 97 cm, © Carlos Arnaiz
An encounter with Juan Iribarren’s paintings generates immediate buzz. Initial reactions range from visceral adoration to academic curiosity to objectification to something more private and contemplative. There’s a conversation occurring in the work between abstract art history and something idiosyncratically Juan Iribarren. Like decaying DeStijl, Iribarren expresses simplicity and reduction alongside primitivism and desolation.
Juan Iribarren - Untitled, 2013, Oil on canvas, 31 x 31 cm, © Juan Iribarren
Antonio Ballester Moreno
Simplicity and earnestness define the work of the Spanish abstract artist Antonio Ballester Moreno. An intellectualism steeped in philosophy, folk culture and craft has led Moreno to explore a full range of mediums and voices. His abstract works focus on a sincere understanding of the emotive powers of color and form. Like gentle transcendental reflections they convey serenity and honesty, while his more folk-rooted works come to life with.
Antonio Ballester Moreno - También la Coca-Cola neutraliza los efectos sobre la nariz y los ojos, 2014, Acrylic on canvas, 146 × 114 cm, © Antonio Ballester Moreno
Lyrical sweeps of color burst out of Yago Hortal’s works. The masterful gestures confidently speak of the artist’s controlling hand, while some animalistic presence screeches within. The works begin on the surface but rapidly extend their presence outward, engaging the space all around, pulling viewers into them and asking them to follow onward to unknown psycho-sensual horizons. Hortal creates some unnamed progeny of Lyrical Abstraction, Op-art and Abstract Expressionism that’s undeniable in its captivating presence.
Yago Hortal - SP86, 2015, Acrylic on linen, 190 x 170 cm, © Yago Hortal
Some images help us to better understand our times. The works of Secundino Hernandez connect with the sometimes-contradictory extremes of contemporary reality: the frivolity of it, the pandemonium, the bleakness and the cheer. The Madrid-born abstract painter expresses a fantastical complexity in his compositions, made comprehensible by a unified language of line, color and form. There’s energy and primal enthusiasm in the works that compel us to look forward into something both thrilling and bleak.
These fresh voices bring energy and enthusiasm to contemporary abstract art, and get us excited about things to come. Next week, we’ll bring you ten more contemporary abstract artists to watch!