Artists of the month: January

Artists of the month: January

Richard's pick

Gabriel Isak

"Gabriel Isak creates dreams. A young photographer, his work blends the tenets of the Surrealist movement of the early 20th century with the contemporary technologies that bring his vision to life.

Isak’s work is surreal. Abundant with symbolism and emotion, he conjures up recollections of dreamlike states and the human mind’s boundless imagination. Isak explores these facets of the human experience through the use of anonymous sitters, allowing the viewer to place themself in the scenario before them and let their mind take them away on a journey. Each image is carefully prepared, the result of weeks of preparation and finessing, which culminates in a peaceful, quiet vision.

The cool, mellow colours and neutral subject matter give this body of work a fluid,subdued tone. Isak invites the viewer to step out of normality, to escape the pressures of life, and to stay undisturbed in this tranquil dreamworld."

Alice's pick

Ishai Rimmer

"This month’s pick is a bit of a special one for me. Ishai Rimmer is the first artist I bought original artwork from when I was first starting out in the art industry. I still get so much joy from the painting all these years later and have been hooked on buying art ever since. So obviously I was delighted when I saw that Ishai had joined Artfinder and I could start sharing his work with our customers.

What I particularly love about Ishai’s work is the ambiguity of his imagery and the space that creates for you to question and create your own narrative. He uses his own everyday observations and experiences and elevates these, piecing together new stories to create unsettling places and atmospheres which have unclear meanings. Ishai wants to foster this sense of doubt in the experience of viewing the works, something he finds fascinating in the human condition. Ishai’s heightened use of colour and unusual colour combinations only enhance the drama and intrigue within the works.

Ishai studied at Goldsmiths and Slade School of Art and has exhibited widely. He is included in numerous private and corporate collections."

Dr. Matthew Eve's pick

Rob van Hoek

"As a tonic to this decidedly depressed new year, my choice for January is self-taught Dutch artist Rob van Hoek whose sublime, semi-abstract paintings celebrate man’s cultivating influence on the landscape and are a shout to the joys of the natural world.

Using a host of playful visual perspectival tricks to flatten, stretch, open and broaden his landscapes from the ground to the sky, Rob’s paintings are full of segmented, irregularly-shaped strips, squares and rectangular shapes representing harvested fields, gently undulating hills and forked worming roads that are lined and dotted with puffy lollipop-like trees. Above, dusky, atmospheric sun-haloed skies provide space and atmosphere. Occasional flocks of white birds and trim houses also enliven his paintings, the latter of which, he notes “makes the cultivated landscape so inspiring to me”. Texture and patterns are added using sgraffito (‘“drawing” into the wet paint with a brush, the end of a brush, a cloth, a tissue, or a Q-tip’) to create outlines, hatching and dots delineating the fields, trees, and sky. Seemingly naive at first glance, these are intelligent and poetic pictures painted in soft, complementary colours that perfectly reflect the changing seasons and the times of the day with a rhythmic elan that is wholly unique. And, while somewhat akin to the visionary, intense landscape artists Samuel Palmer and Paul Klee - who seem to be Rob’s artistic forebears - these landscape paintings also remind me of the best embroidered or freely-sewn landscapes and tapestries. Additionally, and somewhat unusually, all the titles for Rob’s paintings are: “lines (or parts of lines) from song lyrics. Mostly from pop music, sometimes a title of a jazz song. There are so many references to the landscape to be found, (and the sky, the weather, the time of day, the time of year, and so on) which I thankfully use.” This, in itself, is a concept inspired by the novel “The Songlines”, by Bruce Chatwin and thus a case of nature reflecting art reflecting art.

In describing his painting technique Rob’s initial pre-painting preparation is as important as the painting itself, saying: “On the canvas I put at least 5 or 6 layers of white, gesso-like paint. The brushstrokes of these layers give a nice structure. Because I use transparent oil paint in several very thin layers, the structure remains visible, adding much atmosphere to the painting.” Additionally, instead of painting precisely with a brush, Rob works using a reductionist technique, initially applying a “lot of paint” which he then carefully removes using a dry brush. The resulting paintings are calming and gentle and reflect an imagined natural world that is both familiar and other-worldly. And perhaps that’s what we all need right now.. a calm world that is reassuringly familiar."

Julia's pick

Tracy Nicholls

"Tracy Nicholls creates glass works that are beautifully presented and crafted. Glass is used in such different ways, from solid, to organic combining these with materials such as aluminium, copper & copper leaf and wood. They interplay with nature, craft and design in an elegant & timeless way."

Alex's pick

Serena Smith

"Serena Smith’s fascinating lithographs show her mastery of the medium and her delight in the nature she portrays. Her delicate woodland scenes become lyrical and multi-dimensional diptychs when spread across stones of varying dimensions, with contrasting areas of light and shade adding extra dynamism and interest."

Dario's pick

Sylvia Batycka

"A wonderful wonderful painter. These potent and laden little portraits may seem at first, unnerving and uncomfortable and yet it is for other reasons they drew me in.

Ms.Batycka’s paintings take me back to my grandparents' house in Italy whom we used to visit every summer when I was a child many years ago. In their seldom-used front parlour or ‘best room’ as it was called, was where our family history was on display. Every surface adorned with small framed family photographs. Every sideboard, table and mantlepiece told stories of weddings, christenings, funerals, friendships and anniversaries. There I saw uncles that had died in the war, brothers that had moved to America, my grandfather on his first tractor, older generations that were no longer with us and so many cousins that I had to be constantly reminded of their names whom I would invariably see perhaps once a year if that. That was my family history.

These paintings tell the same story of family. The portraits are of ordinary folk used to working with their hands, perhaps rural judging by the attire, with wisdom apparent in their eyes. There is sadness and there is truth yet there is also friendship and joy. I think Ms. Batycka is keeping them close by making these paintings. They are personal. Even more so I feel she wants us to know them, to understand them, to join her in keeping them alive and to accept them as people no different from ourselves. Yes, perhaps we may find these painting uncomfortable. These sons, these daughters, mothers and sisters want to be addressed, they return our gaze demanding your acknowledgement. The truth these paintings radiate can be a touch daunting but that’s no bad thing, we can allow ourselves to be moved by them or not, after all, they are just paintings of people. I found them very moving and in an odd way comforting."

Juliana and Debra's pick

Chandler McLellan

"In 2021 whilst living through a global pandemic in a time of mass consumption and throwaway culture, it feels significant to look back on slow crafts - techniques in craftsmanship, that sources and uses natural materials. American artist Chandler McLellan creates beautiful wood sculptures using a variety of wood on hand around him. Sculpting from maple and walnut woods, he creates abstract sculpture that references both the past and the future. He looks back at artefacts and ruins as well as modern architecture and science fiction to create unique forms that merge references from all these inspirations. He says he wants to create sculpture work that will last forever. There is a midcentury feel to his work. In the 1930’s British sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth incorporated ‘holes’ into their sculptures. Hepworth made her first pierced form in 1931, saying 'Holes were not gaps they were connections’. The piercings also work as apertures, letting light in. For Hepworth and Henry Moore, touch was a pivotal part of their practice. We love how Chandler incorporates these piercings into his simple wooden forms. The surface is beautifully smoothed down around the holes urging us to touch and feel the tactile wooden forms. This desire to touch is enhanced too by the natural grains visible in the wood, revealing a former life story. Within these sculptural forms, there is a beautiful merging of ancient and new - ancient woodlands transformed into contemporary art to outlast our lifetimes."

Shop all artists of the month

Cover image via Sylvia Batycka

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