Make a single visit to an art fair, contemporary auction, or international gallery, and one thing is clear—abstract painting is very popular. Yet behind the wave of artists being flipped, there are numerous painters exploring paint as a medium and abstraction as an approach, who are smart, engaging, and visually arresting. Here are ten of them.
Karadi makes work by creating stencil-like compositions out of masking tape, cardboard, and other flotsam, and transferring compositions of black ink and paint onto linen, using glass. Her monochrome canvases are a perfect example of the process-led abstraction that resonates at the moment, brimming with visceral scrawled lines and the residue of fast actions and automatic drawing.
Nothing goes to waste in the practice of this New York artist’s work. He layers canvases with paint, then sands the thick objects down with an industrial sander to make worn abstract canvases. The detritus of the process also makes its way into crusty layered paintings and sculptures. These works are as informed by the rules of Dungeons and Dragons and Magic card games as the gestural, romantic legacy of abstraction.
A former assistant to Marina Abramović, Italian artist Davide Balliano’s abstract paintings have a sense of geometry that reflects his research into hidden structures, the architecture of ruins, and archetypes. The curves, arches, and swirls of his linear abstract pieces explore the concept of time and stillness in the physical world around us.
Chicago-based painter Molly Zuckerman-Hartung makes abstract paintings in which the surface of the canvas is only the beginning. Pieces of fabric, the frame, enamel, and other collaged elements are all part of her layered pieces. Here, the concept and approach to abstract painting is deconstructed, reinvented, and deeply refreshing.
Frank Ammerlaan’s iridescent paintings are made with chemicals fixed on canvas. The magical results of these frozen oil slicks can feel almost psychedelic. Even this Dutch artist’s more classical, nuanced color-waves of oil paint point to a contemporary abstract painter exploring the idea of the sublime.
Drawing on everyday motifs from interiors, cartoons, heraldry, and advertising, Anne Neukamp makes muted paintings in which cultural references are transformed into something contemplative and abstract. Her subtle use of colour, flatness, and trompe l’oeil depth is intelligent and technically brilliant.
There is a lyrical fluidity to Scott Treleaven’s paintings that fights against the current trends of abstraction. These works-on-paper—notably not on canvas—have marked a massive transition from his film and collage work toward works in which the figure still feels present, even if under layers of oil stick, UV scrawl, and freeform gesture.
It doesn’t get more abstract than the paintings of Robert Holyhead. His small-scale pieces often toy with the structure of the canvas, negative space, and simple geometry. From wiped paint to flowing strokes, the pieces reflect the artist’s hand, yet sometimes feel fragmentary or unfinished. This is work about painting itself.
Everett’s multimedia paintings, exploring ideas about the addition and removal of materials, are made with everything from acrylic to enamel, alcohol to salt. The San Francisco-based artist’s eroded swathes of colour on fabric are not motivated by concepts, but out of an emotive studio practise based on personally set, physical limitations.
Another artist from Chicago’s flourishing art scene, Holmquist’s abstract paintings play with form, material, and color, often to very vibrant results. Figurative elements, drips, and digital elements appear, then melt away, in his abstract compositions, which feel like representations of abstract sculptures on canvas.