I had a lot of fun visiting the London Art Fair 2017 which was hosted on 17-21 January at the Business Design Centre in Angel. As in past editions, the variety and quality of the art on display were impressive. I was particularly interested in the work of a number of up-and-coming and mid-career artists who had enough output on show that one could form a better idea of their interests and processes (as opposed to other artists who, as is common in a fair setting, only had one or two pieces on display). Once I took my courage in my hands and and started asking questions of the staff of various galleries they were invariably courteous and helpful. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the artists who caught my eye at the fair (if I tried to write such a piece I probably wouldn't finish before next year!), but rather a very personal series of notes, influenced by my own interests and my practice as a painter.
The Contemporary London is an art gallery and online platform established in 2011 which works primarily with emerging artists. When I arrived at their location at the Fair I was immediately intrigued by the work of painter Vassilis Avramidis, who completed his Fine Art BA in Thessaloniki before taking an MA at London's Central St Martins. Vassilis's paintings look like fantastical, pared-down and abstracted jungle-like landscapes in the process of being invaded by (no less fantastical) manmade constructs. Vassilis has spoken about being inspired by memories of tourist resorts and other structures encroaching on the natural environment in his native Greece (memories to which, as a fellow native of the Med, I can fully relate). As a painter I was impressed by the painstaking nature and the originality of Vassilis's work which has already proven popular with audiences in solo and group shows and will be exhibited in Japan in the near future. Besides the bold conception and skilful use of oil paint, I think it is Vassilis's deft use of light and shadow that makes these paintings so evocative.
The veteran Portland Gallery near Green Park in London specialises in Modern British and contemporary painting and sculpture. Out of the work I saw at the Fair I was struck by Oliver Akers Douglas's beautiful landscape paintings. Oliver works on location, choosing the place and weather conditions carefully, and returns to the same point of view at the same time every day until the painting is finished. As a painter myself, I was very impressed by Oliver's beautiful sensitivity for colour and chiaroscuro as well as by his handling of the medium, using a palette knife and heavy impasto application to achieve an extremely painterly effect. What I found fascinating about these pieces is how the use of such broad knife strokes confers an abstracted quality to a work which is obviously naturalistic- Many lessons to be drawn from this work for anyone interested in the craft of painting.
The equally veteran Jill George Gallery represents both established and emerging artists. Since the human figure is a strong focus of my own practice I was immediately interested by the work of Alison Lambert and Tomas Watson. Alison is an established artist whose large-format charcoal portraits have become part of the canon of contemporary British drawing, having been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert museum, among other top venues. I found her technique, which combines cutting and layering of paper with highly expressive use of charcoal, very intriguing. Tomas Watson is a painter in the classical tradition who uses his obvious mastery of human anatomy to great effect in the pieces that I saw. Tomas won the BP National Portrait Competition in 1998 and his work is featured at the National Portrait Gallery.
Founded in 2012, Anise Gallery in Southeast London has made it its mission to explore the connecting territory between contemporary art and architecture. Besides painting, I have greatly enjoyed experimenting with printmaking and I was struck by the work of Scarlet Müller (whom I had the pleasure of meeting in person since she happened to be at the Fair when I visited). Scarlet produces abstract or semi-abstract woodblock prints and I was interested by her sense of colour (which tends to be muted, but carefully considered) and composition. Scarlet produces her prints in the traditional way and she has written about her enjoyment of the physicality of the process, including the unexpected (and often serendipitous) occurrences which are part and parcel of printmaking. The combination of such attention to detail and a nuanced sense of colour and composition makes Scarlet's work very compelling.
All in all, a very productive visit to the Fair and lots of ideas to incorporate into my own work in the future.