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Artists of the month: February

Artists of the month: February

Richard's pick

Jeremy Philip Knowles

"You could say that Jeremy Philip Knowles has an obsession with shape and colour. Since 2016, he has been based in Berlin, where he has set about exploring its identity on the ground. As he winds his way through this vibrant city, he discovers the everyday things that we overlook, and injects them with new life.

Impossibly bright colours and dynamic shapes punch their way into our vision: a vivid orange wall is cut into zigzags of light and shadow; a powder-blue umbrella lies inverted like a spider on its back; a bright yellow balloon is trapped underneath a van. Knowles captures those bizarre and wonderful everyday things that we see but don’t really see as we rush through our lives. His precisely structured composition casts his subject matter in an abstract light, causing us to pause in our visual consumption of these highly polished images.

Through his lens, these seemingly mundane objects and buildings become elevated. Knowles plants the viewer firmly in his camera, to see what he sees, and how he sees it. His adventurous contrast of light and shadow, usual and unusual, known and unknown asks us to take a minute to reflect on the ordinary marvels that exist around us."

Alice's pick

Melissa Launay

"Melissa Launay is an artist and illustrator who I have admired for many years. Her paintings - in gouache, watercolour and oil - are a feast for the eyes. Playful and dream-like, they combine sumptuous, jewel-like colours with intricate designs and patterns to create a style, which is very much her own. Melissa’s paintings have that wonderful ability to transport you. Through enchanting forests and gardens, across calming seas, to dolls houses brimming with colour, where the animals and dolls come to life. These are works to let yourself get lost in and find your inner child, and right now, I think we all need a bit of that. "

Dr. Matthew Eve's pick

Oleksandr Balbyshev

"As a way of celebrating the UK’s LGBTQ History Month, my chosen artist for February is Ukrainian-born artist Oleksandr Balbyshev whose uncompromising paintings of the male nude are deeply-layered, sensuous and erotically-charged political messages. As a consequence of what Oleksandr sees as “art history’s ‘white straight men only’ club”, and “its creators” using “mechanisms of suppression of rights and [the] marginalisation of minorities” this has led to a continuous “patriarchal dominance in culture” influenced by “heterosexual discourses.” Little artwork in the historical and contemporary art worlds celebrates the male nude and masculine beauty and to this end Oleksandr’s paintings are an attempt to help redress the balance and remove the taboo that surrounds such imagery. And this he does with great skill and dexterity.

These are beautifully rendered paintings of contemporary, young, athletic men in all manner of coquettish poses who turn and twist, are seen from the front and back, lying down and standing up, naked and semi-naked, and sometimes, even dressed in 16th century ruffs. As Oleksandr says: “I constantly get inspired by the young male face. I especially love interesting light situations and especially skin colours. I like a sensually opened mouth, dreamy eyes, a gentle neck bend, a careless forelock, a bashful colour in cheeks …/ Picturing something on my canvas, I take it into my soul. Therefore, I draw only what I consider very beautiful, what I want to possess. Once I took a piece of something beautiful for myself, I could not stop. I’m not sure I’ll ever get enough.” But these are not just paintings of the beautiful, the ideal. Layered into the backgrounds and across the picture surface Oleksandr cleverly juxtaposes his figures against backgrounds appropriated from paintings by the great modern masters: Monet, Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezanne, Modigliani, Manet, Warhol and Hockney as a “kind of reflection on how the art of the last centuries could have been if the male body had not been discriminated against.” Sometimes Damien Hirst-like spots punctuate the picture surface creating tension with what and how the viewer perceives the work. Inspiration is often found via the virtual, bright, unreal dream Wonderland “on the other side of my phone screen” which finds a space in his canvasses. And each painting is built-up using a bubble-gum, candy-coloured palette that zings and shimmers like the best Pop Art. It’s almost as if Oleksandr has swallowed the best art from the over-arching rainbow of the last one hundred and fifty years and revitalised and made it new, fresh and exciting. He’s also putting two fingers up at the Art Establishment and saying “we’re here and we’re queer.” And quite right too.

Alongside these gem-like paintings, Oleksandr’s polemical work also includes found propaganda artefacts from the former USSR - mainly portraits and busts of Lenin - which he subordinates by covering them in spots and splashes, redefining them by combining them with works by famous Western artists. As he says: “All forms of art were forcibly subordinated to the advancement of the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Everything that did not fit into this paradigm was eradicated.” And thus, he eradicates the past by covering it with the artwork of the free world.

Oleksandr Balbyshev’s paintings are a riotous and brave celebration of strength and freedom and I strongly recommend his work to any with a discerning eye. As he notes: “I create works that are designed to please the eye and heat the imagination. For me, more important is the variety of thoughts arising from the viewer in the process of contemplation than the clarity and certainty of these thoughts.” "

Julia's pick

Melissa Mcgill

"Each of Melissa McGill’s abstract works creates its own dynamic through great use of colour, movement and brushstrokes. They feel both natural and contemporary, adding abstract flair to any interior."

Alex's pick

Anna Styrc

"Anna’s large, bold and colourful landscapes give off a joyous energy drawn from the nature she portrays and would liven up any room they are hung in. Her use of iridescent paint reminds me of the likes of Klimt painting over a century ago in Vienna. Maybe Anna should try some portraits as well?"

Dario's pick

Beata Podwysocka

"Buongiorno my little covid bunnies, Dario from Jealous here with another Artfinder delectation to feast your eyes upon before the drink makes them a bit too blurry. So without further ado may I introduce to you Beata Podwysocka. Beata means The blessed one in Italian…irrelevant I know, but just thought I’d get that out there.

Looking through Beata’s work I can see that has explored quite a few ideas. So I have decided to focus on her latest beautiful investigation which is based on the interaction between colour and architectural forms. Beata’s has cropped/zoomed/framed these photographs to blur the lines (metaphorically speaking) between abstraction and reality. These choices are not haphazard, nor are they ‘happy accidents’. They colours, the saturation, the placement, the details are all there for a reason. These are cognisant choices from an artist/photographer who’s practice is not merely about making a finished product. These are studies, obsessions, experiments that are looking further than what you see. (I know I can get carried away…soz).

I guess what I’m saying is that Beata’s work seems to be continually developing, thoughtfully and intelligently with her very well honed eyes inquisitively looking as to what is next. The work is brilliant. Anyway, until next time. Dario x"

Aindrea's pick

Vé Boisvert

"A panicked frenzy of dancing flowers hover in a serene pastel abyss. Feverish frivolity for the dreamers."

Helen's pick

Corinne Natel

"London-based artist Corinne creates exuberant, expressive canvases that are bursting with colour. Textures, different mediums and pops of hues combine to create joyful abstract artworks that are full of movement.

Loved by interior designers and home-furnishers alike, her works create impact with their larger scale and her circular pieces create an extra layer of intrigue and visual impact.

Corinne’s work is clearly inspired by landscapes and nature and the works seek to investigate colour, form, space and texture. She often works on seasons or nature based environments with colour, exploring how colours work with one another and the colour relationship with the season or environment."

Shop all artists of the month

Cover image via Vé Boisvert

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