10 of the Best Emerging Australian Abstract Artists
From painstaking geometric lines to bold, expressive strokes, here at Bluethumb we’re proud to host a variety of talented abstract artists.
We chatted to ten of them to about how they developed their unique artistic style and where they seek inspiration.
Iconic Abstraction: Ben Tankard
Ben Tankard is well known for his abstract pieces inspired by the classic Penguin covers and other pop-culture icons. “I produce my abstract art by building up multiple layers of acrylic paint. I start with an image in mind, and usually achieve it with 5 or 6 coats of paint, though there’s always a degree of accident, with drips and spatters. I think the more textured the finished surface is, the better. Sometimes my paintings are relatively neat and tidy, and sometimes they’re quite distorted and chaotic, but because of the subject matter they’re all recognisable as part of the same series of works.
“For the last few years I’ve been inspired by Penguin paperback books, and retro and classic boardgames like Monopoly. The impetus came from the work of famous 20th century artist Jasper Johns, who took everyday imagery and then transformed it into gigantic, rich, textured abstract art. In future I’d like to create paintings based on tarot cards, poker cards, old paint tubes, 80s video games… there’s really no end to it.”
Free Flowing: Dinah Wakefield
Dinah Wakefield is another artist with a very distinctive style. She tends to paint in cool tones such as olive greens and teals. “I work with a lot of water in the paint,” says Dinah, “so that it moves and flows across the canvas. I like to paint on a large scale as this gives me complete freedom to express as I choose. Even with this freedom there is a sensitivity that evolves with fine lines indicating subtle edges and contours. The reason that I work in abstract is that I am more interested in creating an experience for the viewer than I am in representing a landscape itself.”
Dinah says that her recent move from Sydney to Noosa was “very stimulating to my art practice. The beauty of this region has become an integral part of my painting. I am constantly inspired and uplifted by the landscape around me and how I experience its ever-changing nature, particularly the way that the light plays on different elements such as the ocean, trees and stones.”
I paint instinctively,” says Dinah. “I have been meditating for many years and my paintings are a direct expression of what appears to me in my meditation. Every painting starts as a leap of faith, a jump into the unknown, a feeling for a colour and a form, which gradually develops into a finished work. Every step is instinctively guided by an inner seeing. Each painting then becomes a reference point for what I am experiencing in my life.”
Abstract Expressionist: Maggie McDonald
Abstract artist Maggie McDonald describes her style of painting as “abstract expressionist with a strong gestural feel. My artworks are intuitive and very much a reflection of my emotions and perceptions of the world and my place in it. I am equally drawn to black and white and brightly coloured palettes.”
“My style has developed from simple mark making in a surface design class to a more layered and textured style. I am constantly experimenting with different mediums and paint effects and I love seeing what the paint can do and where it wants me to go.
“I am inspired by everything around me.” Maggie continues. “Colour is a constant source of inspiration in my work and I am forever in awe of nature, especially the ocean. We are surrounded by such natural beauty in Australia, it’s hard not to be inspired by it on a daily basis. I love to travel and I’m fascinated by tribal art that is passed on through generations. My black and white artworks are very much a nod to the lines and shapes of African and Peruvian art and structures as I’m originally from South Africa and my husband is of Peruvian descent.”
A Harmonious Palette: Ella Baudinet
Ella Baudinet primarily favours a palette of black, brown and white. “My style is a harmonious balance between light and dark, calm and chaotic. There are many contrasting elements that meet at a middle ground in my abstract paintings. They are mostly monochromatic, while the subtlety of the undertones become more dramatic. The paintings are pseudo-surreal, stimulating the viewers imagination.”
“I began making art as a photorealist, studying the landscape, portraiture and surrealism. It came to a point where I questioned the authenticity of what I was creating. Copying even the smallest of elements into my works didn’t seem right anymore. So I wondered what kind of aesthetic would emerge if I were to paint with no references. I experimented with this, and after a while I saw a pattern emerging. I had developed my style.”
“The inspiration behind my work is simply this – an internal journey, channelling my subconscious in the most raw form possible. The paintings are self portraits, in an unconventional way. In turn, the paintings speak to the viewer’s subconscious. They become a psychoanalysis, provoking the viewer to feel or envision certain things.”
Happiness and Peace: Marnie McKnight
Marnie McKnight‘s artwork is intended as a positive, playful interpretation of natural elements.
“I started with a handful of acrylic paints and a need to splash some paint around, and have developed my style by experimenting with brushstrokes, challenging myself with new colours and often incorporating minimalist figurative work.”
“I am inspired by mood, light and nature,” says Marnie, “trying to convey happiness and peace through each painting so that while it may be striking in colour, it is calming in its brushstrokes. I also enjoy playing with the contrast between light and dark to create the drama in the artwork, and I draw colours and shapes from nature. My collections so far have been based on the sky, the sea and the outback. My new series is inspired by Australian coral reefs.”
Looking Up: Ingrid Russel
Ingrid Russel tends to work in a fragmented style, reminiscent of puzzle pieces. She paints scenery from the natural landscape, as well as some floral still lifes.
“I work mostly in acrylics on canvas or board,” says Ingrid. “I usually start with a black background, and initially build my subject in pastel chalks. This helps me keep track of the many tiny facets of colour. When happy with that, I mask off the areas which need to stay black, then I paint layers of colour, adjusting tone and hue as needed. When I am happy with the work I remove the masking. That is when the magic really happens and the facets of colour are revealed with their encapsulating black.”
Ingrid says that her inspiration mainly comes from nature. “I find inspiration outdoors, in the garden, when touring and on walks through the bush. My present body of work is based on the theme of ‘Looking Up.’ I appreciate the magnificence of the Australian gum tree. We have so many beautiful specimens around the mountains. Their variegated trunks, gnarled branches and spreading canopies are truly amazing, and when standing directly at the base and looking up you can see the canopy and the way the branches grow out to the sun, creating shapes, lines and contours in natural, random patterns. Other subjects I have painted recently include birds, outback landscapes and waterfalls.”
Learning to Let Go: Cameron Holmes
“If I had to give it a label, I would call my work contemporary abstract expression,” says abstract artist Cameron Holmes. “My style has mostly developed through gaining a grasp on colour and different techniques and aesthetics over time. The other key development has been ‘letting go’ during the process of making work. I don’t rely on a rigid ‘plan’ when creating, so letting go of a more ‘logical’ mindset has been a development in and of itself.”
“My inspiration comes from all around me. The form doesn’t really matter. It can range from different types of media (art, music, film and literature) to experiences or conversations. My biggest inspiration though is my own personal human experience, and figuring out how to be objective enough to make the artwork relatable to others.”
Organic Psychedelia: Amanda Krantz
Amanda Krantz refers to her intricate, free flowing art as ‘Organic Abstract’ or ‘Organic Psychedelia’, and says that “it developed out of a love for the varying physical properties of paint, and the way, when left to nature and exposed to gravity and heat, they flow and mix and create effects that mimic elements of nature.”
As per her painting technique, Amanda seeks her inspiration from the natural world, but also from the act of painting itself. She says that “paint, as a medium, is a never ending source of inspiration.”
Inspired by MOMA: Bradley Kickett
Indigenous artist Bradley Kickett has developed his artistic style over the last three or four years. “The first time I really saw abstract art was when it came to Perth, when the Art Gallery of Western Australia exhibited artwork from New York’s MOMA.”
“At the time I was doing more traditional dot paintings, and didn’t even know who Jackson Pollock was, but when I went along and saw some of his abstract work I absolutely loved him. So I started looking at some abstract Aboriginal art, and the artist who really spoke to me was Shayne Pickett. He did some really cool, abstract Nunga art and made me realise what I could do myself. At first I started experimenting with my hands and things, but gradually that developed into my current style.”
In terms of Bradley’s inspiration, he says “you’ve got to go outside, there’s no other way. Take a lot of photos, take some photos with drones. Go outside at different times of the day and different times of the year, that’ll give you different colours.” Next, Bradley would like to explore more of the South and South West coast of Western Australia.
Bradley is currently working on an exhibition that opens this Friday the 16th, however all of the works in the show will be available to purchase on Bluethumb from the 17th onwards, pending a two week wait.