TOAF LONDON: 5 abstract artists


at The Other Art Fair London October 2017,
thoughts on why these are my personal favourite artists at this year’s London art fair…


the act of painting is always a sweet war between what you show and what you hide… I am interested in what resists.
Puisais engages with the aesthetics of the ruin, like many creatives he discovers and exposes the sublime in degradation. His works are large and highly polished, there is balance and a zen-like quality. Constructivist elements also, a nod to Malevich, and yet his work is distinctly his own. Antoine Puisais’s work is among my favourite contemporary abstract painting I have seen for many years.


Painting in one colour is a bold statement, to paint in black takes tremendous courage – a colour so misunderstood in Western culture. The ancient Egyptians believed that black represents the source from which all things come, the womb of creation itself. The scale of Ogaard’s paintings contrast beautifully with the intricate textures, a combination of linear and organic lines through a torn topographic surface – for me, these paintings feel like the hidden secrets of deep space. There is an undeniable presence when these works are hung together, church-like, a feeling I have only encountered with Mark Rothko’s work – Ogaard’s painting inspires inner contemplation, and too have a zen-like quality about them. I have to say I love them, they stopped me dead in my tracks, they are utterly compelling. Anne Sophie Ogaard’s painting is the work of a highly sophisticated conceptual aesthetic, beautiful and quite profoundly moving.


It takes extraordinary commitment to make the kind of works that Stuart (Blackie Swart) creates, an incredible labour of love, and I can’t even begin to imagine the state of his studio. Again, these are relatively large scale pieces, each weighing a considerable amount given the use of concrete among other media. What I love about his work, apart from its pure original conception, is their sensuality – a difficult achievement given the media. This kind of sensuality can only come from a mind and heart of an individual that knows the aspect of sensuality at its core. Stuart’s work, for me, is a working metaphor for the transmutation of the industrial landscape of our ordinary reality into something gentle, like a flower, breathing life into something seemingly inert, or perhaps revealing the living aspect of inert objects – a belief held by Eastern philosophies, Buddhism in particular, that everything has life force. From an aesthetic point of view, it’s easy to imagine Blackie Swart paintings hanging at Tate Modern in years to come – these works reflect something of our current reality, diarising an old industrial complex that may well be at the tail end of our new digital world that is also rapidly shifting into quantum scientific discovery.


Naoki Kawano is a young artist at the beginning of his journey as a painter, and still very much finding his way. Kawano’s work is a mixture of textural works and geometric paintings, both avenues exhibiting a mindful and considered approach. This particular piece, not unlike Ogaard’s unicolour textured paintings, also has a contemplative feel. Kawano’s texture paintings are closer to what we may see in nature, lichen, fallen leaves, bark, yet the colour is removed from these types of natural forms, instead drawing on the colour of other natural phenomena, perhaps the sky, celestite or blue clay.  There is a pure sensitivity to Kawano’s painting that is not untypical of the broader Japanese aesthetic.


The playful geometric nature of Onnury Oh’s work got my attention. Rooted in a type of minimalism – Oh’s work is deceptively simple. Applying mostly primary and secondary colours against neutral landscapes, each shape synchronises an event into motion. The space afforded is as much a part of the work as the geometry and mark-making, analogous of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. Oh combines inner-child innocence with a particular discipline that avoids overloading the piece, the result being a focused meditation on the composition at hand. Uninhibited and yet careful, the work is balanced and interesting, also inspiring contemplative thought.

Related article: TOAF BRISTOL 2016: When Push Comes to Shove 6 Love

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