London Art Fair kicked off on Wednesday evening, but unfortunately, I couldn’t attend as I spent the entire day in A&E (a story for another day). I heard it was packed and bustling with energy. However, I did manage to make it down on Thursday, and the atmosphere was considerably more relaxed, with a pleasant and steady flow of people. It turned out to be a much better setting for appreciating art. With a whopping 120 galleries to explore, the question arises: where do you even begin? To help you get started, I’ve highlighted six artists worth seeking out at the fair.
1 Zach Toppin – TIN MAN ART – P8
Zach’s work is in the Platform section of the fair at P8. Zach Toppin (b.1987) is a London-based multidisciplinary artist. Their work is rich in narrative, symbolism and cultural reference, weaving together important stories about emotion, gender, sex and love.
Working across painting, drawing and sculpture, Toppin archives and reimagines queer histories, in order to construct new pathways of understanding. Explorations into identity fantasy are borrowed from these ancestors, enhanced through dissecting the construction of masculinity. Desire and longing are actualised through the fetishisation of items, possessions, signifiers and relics. By investigating this collage of desire, Toppin navigates the dichotomy of trans unease and euphoria, exploring the strength and authenticity to be found via the armour of dress and signifiers.
Also worth checking out is TIN MAN ART in the main section of the fair at Stand 51 featuring Catherine Anholt, Malene Hartmann-Rasmussen and Marie Elisabeth Merlin.
2 Tom Woolner – 303 projects – E16
A mish-mash of a stand which I don’t actually mind but this work stands out (reminds me a bit of Philip Guston who has a great show at Tate Modern at the moment) from the artist Tom Woolner in the Encounters section of the fair.
Tom Woolner studied Sculpture at the RCA from 2001-3 and has exhibited widely in the UK and elsewhere, including projects in Japan, Romania and Denmark.
While known for an extensive body of work involving installations and performances, often made on-site, responding to specific contexts, his new work comes closer to what may be considered painting, allowing the time and space in the studio for essential trial and error. Made through an intuitive and playful process of pouring, piping and squidging, akin to cookery or amateur cake decorating, the work allows materials to take control at a molecular level, compressing and comingling into, rather than onto the surface. Made in reverse and partially blind, semi-viscous liquids slowly or rapidly congeal to agree upon a form that sits somewhere between painting, sculpture and fresco.
He currently has work in the John Moores Painting Prize at The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and is a Senior Tutor at The Ruskin School of Art.
3 Jonathan Yeo – Virginia Visual Arts -E12
Fresh from her amazing project with Peter Gabriel – Virginia Damsta presents a stand focussed on portraiture and the stand out for me is Jonathan Yeo.
Jonathan Yeo (b. London, 18 December 1970) is one of the world’s leading figurative artists. He has painted and worked with iconic and celebrated figures. His work has been exhibited widely in museums and galleries around the world and has been the subject of several major mid-career retrospectives in the UK and internationally. Yeo has emerged as one of the foremost pioneers of figurative painting in Britain. His career as a painter has seen him confront a multitude of different narratives and themes. Content ranges from how we consume and discuss imagery, the modern day obsession of social media, actor’s in character, the pervasiveness of pornography, cosmetic surgery and societal portraiture. The appropriate personality to use as subject is decisive and Yeo uses them as a vehicle to explore the study of physiognomy, whilst simultaneously tackling often complex narratives and ongoing themes. Mette Skougaard, Director, Museum of National History, Denmark, said Yeo is “a pivotal force in the revitalisation of figurative art in general and in the art of portraiture in particular. “
4 Vanesa Paz – Perve Galeria – E21
Brazilian artist Vanessa Paz (1980) is again in the Encounters section of the fair a mixture of paintings and these very cute small sculptures presented by Perve Galeria who are from Lisbon – I can’t find out much more on the artist- the gallery says ” Vanessa’s pieces encapsulate the exploration of diverse geographies, navigating the intersections of identity, space, and artistic discovery. Her creations serve as a conduit for profound reflection on societal dynamics, individual identities and contemporary relationships.”
5 Gül ILgaz – Galeri/Miz – E3
Gül Ilgaz is a Turkish artist (1962) presented by Istanbul-based Galeri/Miz. Gül graduated from the “Istanbul Mimar Sinan University Fine Arts Faculty” in 1989. In 2004 she attended “Banff Centre, Informal Architecture Residency Program” in Canada. She participated at the “50th Venice Biennale” as one of the artists at the pavilion of Turkey in 2003. She regularly exhibits at solo and group exhibitions in Istanbul as well as abroad. Her works have been shown at prestigious international events such as, “Akademie der Künste Parizer Platz”, Berlin,”Triennale di Milano, “White Nights” in Paris. Her recent works are part of the permanent collection of Istanbul Modern. In her works; she often uses manipulated photographic images to create personal and social metaphors. Photography, video and installations form the key medium of her creations.
6 Olivia Sterling Guts Gallery -Platform P7/P8
You can find Olivia Sterling(1996) in the Platform section – a firm FAD magazine favourite it’s great to see Olivia and Guts Gallery at London Art Fair.
Recent solo exhibitions include; ‘Dinner with a Show’ at Meyer Riegger in Berlin (2022); ‘Manslaughter’ at Guts Gallery in London (2022); ‘Yowl’ at Nevven in Gothenburg (2022). Recent group exhibitions include; ‘Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch Me’ at Berntson Bhattacharjee in London (2023); ‘Rage Comics’ at Huxley Parlour in London (2023); ‘Out Here’ at Steve Turner Gallery in Los Angeles (2023); ‘Saints and Sinners’ at Guts Gallery in London (2023); ‘The Object Stares Back’ at Tube Culture Hall in Milan (2023). Sterling graduated from the RCA in 2020, Sterling has carved out a distinctive niche in using paint to address questions of blackness and whiteness in twenty-first century Britain. Her paintings present scenes of colourful mayhem with a nostalgic twist and signature ‘slapstick’ style, combining joyous celebration with a subtle critique of racialised ways of seeing.
Blending pointed references like this into her depiction of ordinary scenes and subjects, Sterling’s work reflects on how we are confronted by racialised discourse everywhere in the everyday. Even happy or anodyne spaces are encoded with structures of othering and difference; every object, every skin tone, is assigned its place in a drama that continues beyond the edges of the canvas.
London Art Fair 2024, 17th-21st January at Business Design Centre, Islington.
Tickets can be purchased HERE *Use FAD20 for 20% discount