Seven Buzzy Black British Artists You Need To Know Now
“Steal The Rum Cake From the Kitchen” (2023) by Ms Emma Prempeh. Courtesy of the artist and Tiwani Contemporary
Are Black British artists finally getting the attention that they deserve? This year alone, a host of major galleries across the UK have chosen to showcase the work of prominent artists who have long deserved their flowers, from the large-scale drawings of Ms Claudette Johnson at The Courtauld to the installations of Mr Isaac Julien at Tate Britain. Following in their footsteps is a bright new generation of innovative thinkers creating artworks that push boundaries and genres, and showcase the multiplicity of the Black British experience. Here, we’ve highlighted seven rising stars whose names you’d do well to have on your radar.
Ms Miranda Forrester
“Introspection I” (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Tiwani Contemporary
London-based figurative painter Ms Miranda Forrester explores the queer Black female gaze by probing the history of men depicting naked women. As she’s grown as an artist, she has become “more concerned with representing bodies as they are, without forceful poses or a cramming in of information”. Despite having only finishing her undergraduate degree in fine art in 2019, Forrester has already exhibited at some of the most prestigious galleries in London, such as the Saatchi and Tiwani Contemporary. Our bets are on her becoming a household name in the art world sooner rather than later.
Mr Kay Gasei
“Rhythm Of Maa” (2021). Courtesy of the artist
With his extensive use of symbolism and nondescript characters, haunting might be the best way to describe the British-Zambian mixed-media artist Mr Kay Gasei’s pieces. He takes inspiration from tales from across the globe, including Greek mythology, African folktales and stories from East and South Asia – which he mixes with other subject matters, including his research into history, psychology and philosophy. For example, in “Rhythm of Maa”, the two figures in the piece embody Enkai, a deity from the Maasai religion. The white line drawings in Gasei’s piece also depict details of Maasai religious rituals and practices. In 2021, his unique style saw him win the Soho House stamp of approval, becoming the first artist-in-residence at the interiors space on London’s King’s Road.
Mr Abdulrazaq Awofeso
“Peace, Love And Light” (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Ed Cross Fine Art
The Lagos-born, Birmingham-based artist Mr Abdulrazaq Awofeso is known for creating striking figurative sculptures out of discarded wooden shipping pallets as a metaphor for migration. His distinctive work ranges from vibrant small freestanding maquettes to large-scale human-size wall hangings on multiple wooden slabs. Most recently, Awofeso was included in Lagos, Peckham, Repeat: Pilgrimage To The Lakes, a major group exhibition at South London Gallery, exploring the connections between Lagos in Nigeria and Peckham in London. In his piece, Awofeso covered the floor with wooden figures as painted wooden clouds hung from the ceiling.
Mr Lee Simmonds
“An Ode To Artifice” (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery
Mr Lee Simmonds’ upbringing in the suburbs of Berkshire, a county in the southeast of England, has been a key point of inspiration for his paintings. So, too, has his interest in theatre: he’s not only earnt a BFA at Oxford’s Ruskin Art School, but this year he graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The artist endeavours to create uncanny pieces that explore practices of abstraction and figuration. Thus far, he’s shown in various group exhibitions across the UK, including at the National Portrait Gallery for its annual BP Portrait Award and was selected as one of 31 students worldwide for Saatchi’s Rising Art Stars in 2019.
Ms Christina Kimeze
“Interior II” (2022). Photograph by Mr Damien Griffiths, courtesy of the artist
Can an artist still be described as emerging after a solo show at one of the world’s most prestigious galleries? In the case of Ms Christina Kimeze, her work, inspired by her memories of visiting her father’s home country, Uganda, were given top billing at the White Cube in Paris earlier this year. Many of the Oxford graduate’s pieces include isolated female figures – not to represent loneliness but rather the power of choosing to be alone. Unusual materials and textures are an essential part of Kimeze’s practice and, consequently, she often opts for suede as the chosen canvas for her paintings.
Ms Anya Paintsil
“Annually” (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Ed Cross Fine Art
If the tastes of the Messrs Amoako Boafo and Mark Quinn are anything to go by, then Welsh-Ghanaian textile artist Ms Anya Paintsil is more than just one to watch. Her work is found in the private collections of these renowned artists. She is represented by Ed Cross in the UK and Ms Hannah Traore in the US, who showcased her pieces at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London earlier this month. Paintsil creates unique semi-sculptural wall hangings using rug hooking – a practice passed down through her family from generation to generation. Most intriguingly, she incorporates elements of Afro hairstyling into her pieces to explore aspects of her own identity, the politics of Black hair and womanhood.
Ms Emma Prempeh
“She’s Back A Yard” (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Tiwani Contemporary
Like many on our list, Ms Emma Prempeh has received no shortage of plaudits throughout her career. In 2019, she won the Ingram Young Contemporary Talent Purchase Prize and was shortlisted for Bloomberg New Contemporaries, whose judges included the renowned artist and professor Ms Sonia Boyce. Prempeh’s work includes large-scale paintings that focus on subjects surrounding Blackness, including selfhood and ancestry. Often embedded is Schlag metal, a brass alloy of copper and zinc reminiscent of gold leaf, which slowly deteriorates over time, creating distinctive visual changes to her pieces to explore the passing of time.