For our latest line up of exceptional artists to watch, we are shedding a light on a new collecting trend that we witnessed emerge in 2020: a longing for open air landscapes and the natural world. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown, people around the world escaped the ceaseless anxieties of crowded cities to discover refugee in the great outdoors. This urge to seek comfort and spiritual reverie in nature can be seen in the work of 5 contemporary artists whose depiction of meditative natural scenes somehow mirrors this collective impulse, offering a calming antidote to the tumultuous unpredictability of the times whilst adding a contemporary spin to the centuries old tradition of landscape painting.
Each of these five artists has earned critical recognition over the last few years, with worldwide representation from galleries, institutions and dealers. In their own style, whether more figurative or abstract, they all share a deep desire to convey the beauty of the natural world in ways that provide the viewer with a liberating space for reflection; and we believe their works to be prime examples of what we expect to be a growing trend in 2021.
B. 1980 in Belgium.
Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Clouds, fires, icebergs, and imposing flora are the identifiable shapes that the Belgian artist Harold Ancart uses to strip landscape painting down to its rudiments. The irreducible qualities of painting, and of drawing, have long been Ancart’s driving concern. He fuses the techniques of both, creating radiant compositions that recall the most animate works of the Color Field painters, while extending their delicate minimalism into an exuberant vision.
His horizon line is limitless, and it extends through numerous paintings, photographs, sculptures, and drawings. Ancart recognizes an unquenchable search for a kind of Eden, or escape, as a constant feature of our imaginations. This vast collective ideal is the setting for Harold’s new paintings, in which he discovers the possibilities for transformative experience are not just out “there”, but here, in the arena of painting. His paintings reveal a series of images that are connected to a delirious longing for escape, or connectivity to one’s place. In his latest exhibition at David Zwirner New York in 2020, the gallery described his body of work to offer an “immersive landscape experience”. Indeed, the works on the show were inspired by the artist’s encounter with the modernist landscape murals of the late American painter Gottardo Piazzoni, which are permanently displayed at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.
B. 1983 in Brazil.
Lives and works in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Through his intimately sized oil on canvases, São Paulo-based Lucas Arruda transports his viewers to another world. At first glance, one may think that the paintings by Lucas Arruda were created in the 19th century. Recalling the Romantic notion of the sublime, the striking landscapes and seascapes, often marked only by a faint horizon line, seem to radiate an intense, transcendent light from within. Painted from memory, they are devoid of specific reference points, achieving instead their variety through the depiction of atmospheric conditions. Verging on abstraction, the atmosphere hangs heavy over seas and in dense forests, and any perceived calm is only the signal of an approaching storm.
When asked about his work, Arruda says: “I identify more with Morandi, in the sense that I always use the same structure – a landscape with a horizon line. There’s a combination of mathematical and metaphysical impulses in my work. In a way, the only reason to call my works landscapes is cultural: it’s simply that viewers automatically register my format as a landscape, although none of the images can be traced to a geographic location. It’s the idea of a landscape rather than a real place, perhaps in that sense there’s a similarity with the late Turners.”
B. 1978 in Australia.
Lives and works between Ibiza, the UK and Australia.
William Mackinnon’s landscape paintings portray the world he inhabits with ebullience, wonder and whispers, perhaps, of terror. Mackinnon’s vision captures the vastness of his domain in manners both terrestrial and emotional. Movement and displacement abound in his pictures too with dazzling painterly invention and compositional risk, Mackinnon suggests the notion that the extraordinary abounds in the mundane. Conflicting, loaded messages give Mackinnon’s landscapes charge and depth: is this a place to rest? Is this a place to die? Menace and welcome in equal measure; light and darkness showing and obscuring in equal measure.
When asked about his work, the artist says: "I call my work psychological landscapes. In a way, the roads and houses are always something more than just roads and houses. The cracks, drains, shadows, rips and glitter are stand-ins for emotional states, or symbolic of greater themes of life."
In his latest exhibition at Simon Lee gallery in London, “Strive for the light”, the artist presented his latest body of work, reflecting on memories of trees in and around his family farm in western Victoria, and on formative experiences living in remote indigenous communities in the Kimberley region. Painted during a period of prolonged isolation as a result of lockdown, the symbol of the tree is imbued with a deep sense of longing for home, family, regrowth and regeneration.
B. 1972 in Redondo Beach, CA.
Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.
From a distance, Jennifer Guidi’s mandala like paintings offer oblique references to natural phenomena—sunrises and sunsets, swirling wind and rippling water. Upon closer inspection, the pictures begin to breathe and pulse, drawing viewers into a realm of intensified sensory perception, distinguished by Turneresque washes of light through which the connection between landscape and abstraction is made directly tangible.
Many of Jennifer Guidi's paintings, through their rich combination of colours, echo the atmosphere of something like a coastal Californian sunset. Kurt Mueller, a director at L.A.’s David Kordansky Gallery, which represents Guidi in her hometown, asserts. “You look at these paintings and you start thinking about the rigor of an Agnes Martin and the atmospheric, open-ended landscapes of Georgia O’Keeffe,” he says. “They represent both literal space and the spaces of the mind.”
Each element of Guidi’s pictorial vocabulary–foreground, background, representation, and abstraction–is completely porous to the others, just as the external world one sees is inseparable from the internal structures of the eye that translate light to the brain. She engenders an altogether contemporary version of the sublime, one in which the tiniest details are of no less consequence than the overarching totality of the big picture.
B. 1974 in Germany.
Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.
Describing his works as a combination of “sunshine and noir,” Friedrich Kunath creates paintings that contrast the sublime beauty of nature with stark text. German Romanticism is the most German of all German art ideas. It is the expression of, and opposition to, emergent modernism, and the deep connection between the art of painting and seemingly harmonious cultural landscapes at imminent risk of destruction from the ‘blessing’ of progress. In his work, Friedrich Kunath cites German Romanticism as he sees it in his Californian rear-view mirror: having left his homeland for the far, far west, he views it from a place where only a surrogate Romanticism exists.
With Kunath, a sequential transmission of emotional samples rattles through his pictures at breakneck speed. There is no straight route conveying what is real and/or real feelings any more. Our global visual culture has boiled almost every visual signal down to an emoji, and it’s into this tornado of representations that Kunath flees. He drifts — with paradoxes, sarcasm, and bar humour — from the sublime into the void. And yet every single painting, drawing and installation suggests a pathway that began with the longing for a Romantic feeling.