Whether it be through material, imagery or narrative, many contemporary artists that work at the forefront of the industry often pay homage to the old and historic. From Jeff Koons’ ultra-modern sculptures to Sebastian Chaumeton’s unapologetic examination of internet culture, we look at the artists you never knew were inspired by the past.
A kaleidoscopic combination of cartoon characters and internet memes, at first glance, Sebastian Chaumeton’s latest body of work appears to be a sole reflection of modern culture. Yet, with each new layer of context and understanding, ancient myths reveal themselves. Inspired by the Twelve Labours of Hercules, Chaumeton has created thirteen mixed media canvases that tell the infamous tale of the ancient Greek hero using a modern vocabulary that features everything from Looney Tune characters and video game mascots to specific cyber culture personalities and recognisable brands. With the artist’s latest body of work available to view at our Westbourne Grove gallery from the 6th May, we recommend a visit to discover in-person just how Chaumeton translates old legends into tales relevant for a contemporary audience.
As bright and bold as he is brilliant, Theodore’s street and pop art infused style champions vivid pigment and dynamic brushstrokes. Taking inspiration from the lavish courts of Marie Antoinette, Theodore reimagines the pastel palettes of the French neoclassical period, updating them with flamboyant pinks and purples and striking yellows and greens. His loose brushwork is at odds with his historic subject matter, juxtaposing wild colours and dynamic strokes with the stifling restraint of social etiquettes in 18th century France.
Fascinated by the fusion of identity and technology, Justin Bower’s revolutionary paintings exist in an atemporal realm. Although depicting futuristic quasi-human cyborgs, Bower’s virtuosic brushstrokes root his practice in historic techniques, mirroring the skill and precision of the Old Masters. In his latest body of work, being shown at Maddox Gallery later this year, Bower further explores the possibility of the past and present colliding, using classical architecture and Baroque symbolism to conflate dimensions of time and space.
Creating hazy portraits and still life paintings of objects and people both past and present, the Miaz Brothers’ style is ground-breaking. Rendered in spray paint alone, their foggy reinterpretations prompt the viewer to complete the picture by engaging their faculties of comprehension and interpretation. Although as a medium, cans of aerosol paint are associated with modern and street art, the Miaz Brothers’ latest body of work, available to view from the 20th of May at Maddox Street, reimagine Old Master paintings, blending the historic with the contemporary.
Known as a disruptor and innovator, Jeff Koons has come to define the contemporary art world with his boundary-breaking art. On closer inspection, however, much of the artist’s work takes notable inspiration from art history. From the swirling paintings of Vincent van Gogh to the feminine forms of Venus of Lespugues, Koons reappropriates existing artwork in order to challenge traditional notions of perception and interpretation. Most notably, his introduction of hyper-reflective material encourages the viewer to actively look at the artwork, as they become at one with the subject matter.
Although examining a more recent history of America, Russell Young is undoubtedly fascinated by the past. Adopting pre-existing imagery from the late 20th and early 21st century, Young’s artwork investigates the glamour and excess of Western celebrity culture. Paying homage to the great pop artists of the past, Young reinvents iconic imagery that has often had its meaning altered by consequent events. From recreating Marilyn Monroe’s iconic trip to Korea in ‘suicide pink’ to depicting Kurt Cobain in faded gold brushed with diamond dust, Young’s use of materials act as a signifier for events to come.