Art advisor James Elwes selects six artists to look for at the 2021 Affordable Art Fair, which runs in Battersea Park from July 8-11.
Fast approaching its 25th anniversary, the Affordable Art Fair has grown and grown since its 1999 debut in Battersea Park. It now operates globally under the charismatic care of founder Will Ramsay, with events annually in New York, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Singapore among others.
It’s easy to be sniffy about the term ‘affordable art’, but it has become more freely used art-market parlance in recent times and I think that’s a good thing. Old school dealers might suggest that it cheapens or commodifies the product too much and while there’s a grain of truth to this, it is a term that allows for greater accessibility. If you lack confidence, you could do worse than head to the Affordable Art Fair.
That said, good guidance is needed. There is always art to be avoided at these fairs, and those thinking they are buying for investment will be sorely disappointed. This fair specialises in exactly what it says it does — cheery, unchallenging, inexpensive pictures and sculptures. If you’re inexperienced in art, have blank walls to fill and a small budget, you can also speak to a friendly art advisor, or start checking out degree shows. However, the Affordable Art Fair is definitely worth a visit as there are always gems to be found, especially in the realm of printmaking. Here are my six to look out for…
Norfolk-based printmaker Guy Allen is a master of his craft. It takes utter focus and dedication to perfect an exacting and detailed technique that dates back to around 1500. You can smell the inks and acids used to make his highly detailed prints on rich, thick papers.
Guy specialises in natural subject matter (always a winner with me) and is showing with Capital Culture Gallery who specialise in Norfolk-based artists. Guy’s animals are awesome; so few artists can depict animals successfully but he is one of them. I like his moon series too, very reflective and thoughtful.
I’ve had my eye on Harry’s work for a while. It recalls that of fellow Bristol native Banksy, infused with a little Beatrix Potter. It is gentle and beautifully drawn, with doses of wit and good colours. I’d like buy one for my baby daughter – she’d appreciate it when she’s older.
I enjoy the environmental theme in Harry’s work too and the price point makes it very accessible. A fun and talented artist whose work can be found on Bristol gallery Clifton Fine Art’s stand.
Julie was born and raised a stone’s throw from the Battersea Fair in Clapham, South London. Her work is inspired by London’s unique skyline as well as views of Wales, Dorset and the south of France, but you’d be forgiven for considering it pure abstraction. There’s a joy and zest to her printmaking, which we all need right now.
I also like the way her colours and soft, blurry mark-making recall some of the greats of Modern British painting; there are nods to John Piper, Howard Hodgkin and Ivon Hitchens in her work which feel rich and comforting. One to watch on North London Printmakers’ stand.
The second of two artists on this list with North London Printmakers is Heather Graham. A versatile and multi-talented artist, Heather specialises in an array of manual printmaking processes including etching, collagraphs, lino-cutting and screen printing and also works in textiles and paint.
All her work is based in drawing and, like more than one other artist on this list, Heather is inspired by natural materials and nature as well as art history. I love her little Venus, inspired by Cranach’s painting of the same name, dancing out of assorted holly leaves and dandelion heads.
Perhaps better known as a ceramicist, Clare Packer has more recently turned her hand to collage with a series of Grecian antique heads in profile. These are really fun little things with a Mod Brit sensibility to them. They remind me a bit of the pleasing posters for the Festival of Britain from 1951 depicting Britannia as a sort of goddess in profile.
The posters and associated artistic projects brought together an eclectic array of British artists working in Britain at that time including Ben Nicholson. Eduardo Paolozzi and Lynn Chadwick, more than one of whose influence can be seen in Clare’s work. You can find Clare’s very reasonably priced art on Kittoe Contemporary’s stand.
Possibly the punchiest choice on this list is Valeria Duca whose work you can find on Panter & Hall’s stand. To my mind, she’s one of the most accomplished painters exhibiting in this year’s fair and with a market focussed more or less entirely on female painters (about bloody time, too) you could do worse than consider one of Valeria’s intimate yet powerful portraits.
Born in Moldova, now living and working in the UK, via Oslo and Washington, Valeria has a mature painting style for such a young artist (she was born four years before the AAF was founded). She has already exhibited at the Venice Biennale and I will be watching her career with interest.