10 of the Best Emerging Australian Abstract Artists of 2020
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 2020’s biggest about how they developed their unique artistic style and where they seek inspiration.
An Iconic Abstract Artist: Ben Tankard
Ben Tankard is well known for his non-figurative 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.”
A Free-Flowing Abstract Artist: 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.”
An Abstract Artist’s Expressionism: Maggi McDonald
Maggi 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.” Maggi 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.”
Abstraction Meets Figurative: Sharon Monagle
How does a medical practitioner defeat the demands of a heavy workload? Sharon Monagle finds an ideal balance in her artistic practice. Best known for her portraits and abstract expressionist style, Sharon works predominantly with acrylic paint, occasionally experimenting with oils, pastels, ink and collage.
Human rights, social justice, feminism and mental illnesses are common themes explored in Sharon’s work, in turn nurturing self-inquiry and the experience of what it is to be human. “My work is influenced by many things across the personal, the political and the aesthetic. Whilst I paint landscapes, portraits and abstract paintings, I am most particularly interested in figurative works. Body language, story telling and the diversity of human experience are all themes you will find in my work.”
An Artist’s Message of 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.”
Browse the rest of Marnie’s abstracts here.
The Unconventional Abstract Artist: Brendan Kelly
Brendan Kelly’s awakening into the art world came years into life as an adult. His story is one with a heavy narrative and an air of inspiration, which ultimately aids the influence of his artistic practice.
With most of his work using acrylics, a noticeable recurrence of line creates shape and effective composition. The raw, simplified nature of Brendan’s style breaks down the concepts behind his work in a more palatable way that feels a little easier to digest.
Visit Brendan’s portfolio to view his currently available artworks.
An Abstract Artist 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.”
An Artist’s 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.”
An Abstract Artist Inspired by Environment and Heritage: Karen Lee
Karen Lee, like many other artists on Bluethumb, take inspiration from nature, which continuously is evident within her work. What sets Karen apart as an emerging abstract artist is her specific interest in the colour and patterns that show up in nature combined with symbols commonly found in Aboriginal art. A conceptual curiosity into the history of the landscape, as well as the scars and unseen remnants within spaces.
“My aim is to produce artworks that are vibrant and have an aesthetic beauty but are underpinned with ambiguous meaning and stories of the past. Historical stories,or peoples personal stories – I love the idea that past and present are inherently connected.”
Learn more of Karen’s narratives on her profile.
Australia Through Abstraction: Tulika Das
In the little over a year Tulika Das has been with Bluethumb, we’ve seen this emerging artist move from strength to strength. Having picked up educated technique and ability in India, Tulika notes that it has been her experience living in Australia, “this art-loving nation”, that has encouraged her to thrive in this ability.
“Australia is such an inspiration for artists and art lovers,” explains Tulika. “There’s art everywhere. Fascinating murals on walls of narrow side streets; gigantic iconic sculptures dispersed throughout the city; swathing landscapes of endless fields, glowing beaches, and green sheep-spotted hills, and the decorated suburbs of Victoria… They strike a chord; they make me pull out my paints and brushes and pour down a few thoughts on canvas. It’s my release and it’s my addiction.”
Tulika often moves between subjects in categories of nature, landscape and people. The subject matter at hand mainly comes in abstract, semi-abstract or illustrative forms, primarily using Acrylic on canvas. “Each piece is produced after day-dreaming and planning the layout in my head, deriving inspirations from the walks of life – nature itself, or a print on a bag, or cracks cutting across road markings, or something that catches the eye for a second and fleets away leaving only a blurry impression behind.”