New Wave: Painting in Britain Today

New Wave: Painting in Britain Today

Drawing a line from abstraction to figuration, Phillips highlights seven emerging artists featured in London’s New Now Fall Auction.

Drawing a line from abstraction to figuration, Phillips highlights seven emerging artists featured in London’s New Now Fall Auction.

Pam Evelyn, Evening Rain, 2020. New Now, London.

As one of the most dynamic centers of contemporary art on a global stage, London has tended to dominate discussions related to painting in Britain. Featuring work by some of the most exciting emerging artists from all over the UK, our Fall New Now sale highlights how much more varied and polyphonic these conversations are today. Read on to discover how these young artists are finding new horizons in the cultural landscape of twenty-first century Britain, exploring themes from nature to race and identity.



Pam Evelyn

For me, colour is indulgent. When I work outdoors, I am witness to the harmony and disharmony of nature, the sudden changes in mood throughout a day.

—Pam Evelyn

London-based artist Pam Evelyn’s highly intuitive compositions draw on the shifting patterns and raw power of the natural world. Through her interest in the effect of the passage of time and the changing of seasons on the visual qualities of light, Evelyn shares a robust dialog with pioneers of painterly abstraction. Her work recalls the vibrant palette and immediacy of Claude Monet’s late Nymphaeas and the gestural energy of Joan Mitchell’s compositions. Reinvigorating this language for our contemporary moment, Evelyn’s work also belongs to broader conversations taking place among a diverse group of British young female artists, including Francesca Mollett, Sarah Jones and Sarah Cunningham.

A vibrant testament to these generative conversations, Evening Rain was included alongside works by Cunningham and Mollett in the 2021 group exhibition Diaries of a Climate with Baert Gallery in Los Angeles. In addition to her participation in several group shows, the new-to auction Evelyn has received critical acclaim for her solo exhibitions Spectacle of a Wreck with Peres Projects in Berlin and Built on Clay at The Approach in London.

The artist is currently represented in the group exhibition Sabrina at Sim Smith Gallery in South London which also features works by Francesca Mollett and Michaela Yearwood-Dan.


Francesca Mollett, Untitled (Surfacing), 2021. New Now, London.

Francesca Mollett

[Francesca Mollett] is an artist whose work argues for her medium’s necessity, for painting’s unique ability to illuminate those delicate, often hidden aspects of the world that would otherwise remain dark.

—Tom Morton

Francesca Mollett's Untitled (Surfacing) is highly characteristic of the artist’s recent work, visually dissecting the complex interrelationship between nature, body, and mind. An oceanic entanglement of color, brushstroke, tone, and line is met with semi-naturalistic depictions of lush flora. More figurative trees coincide with larger, looser areas of abstract light and shadow. These parallels lend the work a collage-like quality, the thick paint adopting a range of textures which vitalize the composition and emphasize the work’s tactile qualities. This discernible abstraction transports us to a realm that nods to a perceivable reality, yet one that favors sensation. It forms a depth that makes the painting feel traversable, distorting our perception of scale.

After completing her MA in painting at the Royal College of Art in 2020, Fransesca Mollett has exhibited at a range of international galleries in both solo and group shows. In 2022, Mollett exhibited at Frieze London, marking the first public presentation of her work since the recent announcement of her representation with Grimm Gallery.


Michaela Yearwood-Dan, Love Letters to Siri no.2, 2018. New Now, London.

Michaela Yearwood-Dan

Curating and creating a space with my work, both physically and metaphorically, is something I’ve always been really conscious of.

—Michaela Yearwood-Dan

Michaela Yearwood-Dan’s work is deeply personal, operating as an open-book journal for her layered identities. Borrowing certain cultural signifiers of contemporary Black Britishness including carnival culture, acrylic nails, and hooped earrings, Yearwood-Dan avoids trite stereotype or reductive cliché by inflecting this collective visual language with her own, lived experience. Her paintings record her observations on key social issues, prompted by her reflections on race, class, gender, and environmentalism. Focusing on tensions between nature and culture, her paintings and sculptures incorporate botanical motifs and forms in the creation of lush, all-over environments that are as contemplative as they are visually compelling.

Born in London, Yearwood-Dan has been celebrated with four solo exhibitions between New York and London. This year, Tiwani Contemporary celebrated the artist with a solo exhibition, The Sweetest Taboo following their 2019 show, After Euphoria. In 2021 she was the subject of a solo exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery and in 2019 at The Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation.


Olivia Sterling, He's a Bit of a Tit, 2022. New Now, London.

Olivia Sterling

I believe the ambiguity created by the lack of facial expressions really enhances the paintings. That we can only assume if the tangled bodies are hurt or distressed, and this allows for the figures to become representatives of ideas rather than autonomous individuals.

—Olivia Sterling

Olivia Sterling’s work uses caricature with a nostalgic twist to counter established notions of taste and social nicety and reveal a racialized way of seeing. Her richly colorful and cartoon-like depiction of the mundane imagery of everyday life — food, pets, tables, and dishes, paired with close-cropped body parts — at first appear joyful, safe, and humorous. Yet upon closer look we realize these scenes are coded, the artist often tagging the skin of her subjects with signifiers of otherness. Creating a dialog with the outer world, Sterling’s distinctive zoomed-in frames remind us that the themes and ideas explored in her work reach beyond the canvas.

Born in Peterborough in 1996 and graduating from the RCA in 2020, Sterling has carved out a unique niche in using paint to address questions of blackness and whiteness in twenty-first century Britain. Her work has been included in exhibitions at Goldsmiths CCA, Sadie Coles, The Perimeter, Saatchi Gallery, and White Cube, among others.


Caroline Walker, Overnighter, 2016. New Now, London.

Caroline Walker

I am interested in challenging the position of the viewer, particularly in relation to my female subjects. […] I do not want the paintings to feel like pictures of something that is happening somewhere else. I want you to feel like you are involved or implicated in what is going on.

—Caroline Walker

Overnighter by Scottish artist Caroline Walker immediately transports the viewer into an interior and transitory space pervaded by an atmosphere of quiet solitude. Depicting a lone woman standing in a hotel room in the middle of the night, she is positioned just off-center with her arms crossed over her chest to maintain the warmth of a robe. As her blank gaze wanders toward the bed, the female protagonist leaves enough ambiguity and psychological space for intruders such as us to imagine multiple scenarios and outcomes to the scene. Striking in its scale, the painting leaves the impression that one could almost step into the scene. Asked to adopt a voyeuristic gaze, the spectator is drawn into this silent moment suspended in time, while Walker maintains a palpable sense of narrative tension through the more cinematic qualities of her composition.

Trained at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art, Walker has exhibited widely in both solo and group shows since 2006. Her work is held in institutional collections throughout the globe.


Sarah Ball, Marie, 2019. New Now, London.

Sarah Ball

I remove objects that tie the subject to a specific time or place, allowing me to reveal the human person in the present.

—Sarah Ball

In this strangely serene 2019 work by Sarah Ball, the titular Marie stares at the viewer with a deep and intense gaze. Enhanced by rosy cheeks and thin, tightly pressed lips, her pale skin is strikingly luminous, framed by a thick fur coat to insulate her from the cold. However, the muted brown backdrop leaves room for the viewer’s imagination; or, as the artist explains, ‘I like to think that removing any sense of figurative background or scene creates an emotional space.’ This emptiness allows Marie to exist beyond time and space and helps us envision the narrative hidden behind the features of her face.

By conveying an extraordinary humanity to her subjects, Ball creates a visual empathetic dialog between them and the viewers; as we observe these anonymous portraits, we are led to consider the many factors that affect our interactions in a socially constructed world. Included in the 2019 exhibition Themself at Anima Mundi Gallery, Marie is among the portraits in which Ball explores the links between the physical presentation of the self and traditional binary norms. The artist indicates that she is ‘interested in all aspects of the human condition, including sexuality and gender, which are intrinsic to our identity.’


Matthew Krishanu, Weapons, 2018. New Now, London.

Matthew Krishanu

I have always thought of that scene as being almost like a stage with figures that can be moved around. I’ve always liked the dynamic between the figures, it’s a bit like a mousetrap — you get things as taut as possible and then you leave it. It felt like a pregnant image.

—Matthew Krishanu

Matthew Krishanu’s Weapons illustrates two young boys, one with a bow and arrow in hand, which appears to be pointed in the direction of an adult figure who is tentatively holding a machete. Belonging to the artist’s Another Country series, in which he reflects upon his experiences growing up with his brother in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the style of the piece only reaffirms the dubious nature of this human interaction. Flattened perspective, softened lines and an equally pale, restrained palette, result in a vivid image. The insinuation of violence inherent in the work adds tension to the piece, which in turn alludes to further cross-cultural themes such as the legacy of colonialism and empire.

Since completing his MA at Central Saint Martins in 2009, Bradford-born Matthew Krishanu has exhibited globally, including at the Hayward Gallery, London; Birmingham Museum and Gallery; and the National Museum in Gdańsk, Poland; among others. Weapons featured as a central work in his 2018 solo exhibition, The Sun Never Sets, which took place at Huddersfield Gallery in 2018 before traveling to the Midlands Art Centre. The present work was also part of the group exhibition, And Beyond, at New Art Project, London, in 2019. Krishanu’s solo exhibition, Playground, is currently on view at Niru Ratnam gallery in London.


Ania Hobson, Leather Jacket, 2021. New Now, London.

Ania Hobson

In many paintings, I’m asking the observers to finish the story themselves, and everyone will have a different viewpoint and interpretation.

—Ania Hobson to Juxtapoz magazine

Ania Hobson’s paintings frequently portray millennial women pictured relaxed, lounging, often slouched in comfortable interiors with warm lighting. Regularly presenting her subjects from extreme angles, they appear empowered, almost regal. In depictions celebrating the art of living — fashion, socializing, drinking, smoking — her subjects appear unworried, yet tinged with a sense of ennui. Her work creates a palpable drama, as the artist tells Callo Gallery ‘I like to curate my paintings; it’s sort of like acting. I tell my subjects my idea and I get them to act out the scene — even down to the expressions I want them to portray.’

Since earning her BFA from Ipswich University Suffolk in 2011, she has exhibited widely in both solo and group shows, including at the Venice Biennale. She participated in the PLOP Residency, London, 2021 and the Fores Project Residency, London, 2020. In 2018, she was awarded the Young Artist Award of the BP Portrait Awards, National Portrait Gallery, London.



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