London-based art fair Art16 opens its fourth edition this Friday with booths from over 100 galleries hailing from 30 countries. Indeed, the artworks on view represent a wide array of mediums and styles, with an especially robust group of young, international artists—from Taiwan, Iran, Denmark, and more—emerging as standouts. Below, we’ve sifted through the fair’s vast selection to bring you our top picks.
Fan’s enticing paintings of swimming pools and the well-defined, dripping people that populate them recall David Hockney’s Los Angeles-inspired canvases, along with romantic psychological thrillers, like Jacques Deray’s cult film “La Piscine” (1970). The allure of Fan’s compositions doesn’t stop at their saturated, summery palette and glistening surfaces—they also uncover compulsions that pools and their rituals prompt, like escapism and voyeurism.
Iran’s Qajar dynasty was fascinated by photography from the moment they came to power in 1794, with members of the elite documenting themselves surrounded by the lush furnishings of their elaborate homes. Iranian photographer Ghadirian revisits these antiquated portraits in her “Qajar” series, subverting the rigid structures of Sharia law that still control the lives of women in modern-day Iran—the sepia tones and elegant attire at odds with her sitters’ defiant gazes and contemporary appliances (boom boxes and vacuums feature prominently in other photographs in the series).
Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude, The Wrong Conversation, 2016
First Floor Gallery Harare, Booth EM5
Young Zimbabwean painter Nyaude brings the complexity of the ghetto in Harare, where he was raised, into vibrant canvases featuring screaming, shrouded, or contorted figures that push through from bright, abstract backdrops. His pulsating compositions, like this one, capture the duality of the capital city—one rife with cultural vitality but also with violence and squalor, remnants of colonial-era segregation.
If Castell’s work looks too good to be true, that’s because it is—a combination of personal photographs, internet source material, and digital renderings come together to create hyper-realistic scenes plucked straight from the German artist’s mind. These “window paintings” (so named for their recurring motif) reject authenticity in favor of self-made virtual spaces like this concrete viewing room overlooking mossy boulders bathed in a murky turquoise light.
Across Synodis’s intriguing practice, materials aren’t what they appear to be. Here, a form seems to bend with the suppleness of rubber or foam but is in fact made from hard resin. The taut rope enhances the Greek, London-based sculptor’s trickery—without it, the piece would lose its compelling sense of tension. Like small, compact responses to Richard Serra’s giant minimalist sculptures, Synodis’s works upend the expectations of materials that we think we know the limitations of.
Evil eyes, magical vessels, and ethereal figures make up the psychedelic, apocalyptic scenes that fill Kvetny’s canvases. The Danish painter’s compositions call to mind the mystical, occult works of 1970s artists like Mary Beth Edelson and Nancy Spero. Like her predecessors, Kvetny combines ancient myths with the cultural preoccupations of her time—today, fear of nature’s destruction.
One in a series of black-and-white charcoal and acrylic works, Taiwanese painter Wei-Yu’s evocative café scene feels like a memory of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942)—one blurred and romanticized by the passage of time. Other works from “Petit Romances” offer up moments of everyday life: students in a classroom, a parade in progress, children practicing tai chi. They are a marked departure from Wei-Yu’s cartoonish, science-fiction-tinged pieces of years prior, in which King Kong battles robots or families at the beach shoot laser beams from their eyes.
Hu’s enigmatic paintings, where glimpses of foliage appear like mirages through apartment windows or in roadside mirrors, convey our nostalgia for nature. Many of the Taiwanese artist’s compositions, like Home - Private Paradise (2015), imagine a surreal world in which clean skies and lush forests coexist directly alongside hard-edged cement homes and highways—it’s a landscape that we acknowledge is impossible but continue to wish for.
In Austrian artist Mullan’s best-known series, quilts are painstakingly stitched from pieces of nylon bomber jackets, indicative of the Berlin-based artist’s fascination with material. This interest has further manifested in abstract works made using ceramic bathroom tile—a series titled “Popularis” that explores the dialogue between low-brow material and fine art. Mullan’s most recent pieces, including Ekaterina (2016), are three-dimensional extensions of the tile works, translating their geometric patterns into freestanding metal sculptures.
Childhood memories of displacement, whether as a result of the Lebanese Civil War or the Israeli occupation, figure heavily into the practice of Lebanese artist Baalbaki. Best known for his series of “Heap” paintings, which depict abstracted piles of belongings discarded by those escaping violence or conflict, Baalbaki foregrounds the sense of loss that saturates his work with bright colors and energetic brushstrokes.
—Abigail Cain and Alexxa Gotthardt