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Dark Arts

I have a new art obsession, a movement that doesn’t yet have a name (but I’m sure it will soon) so I’m toying between dubbing it millennial renaissance or noir-baroque. The leading lights are usually female, or should that be femme fatale? Captured, or caught, in a series of compromising positions: girl-on-girl-on-girl, fires blaze in infernos of hedonistic grotesquery, slatterns drool over rhetsina as the sun blazes in Rhodes… Tableaux depict dark mise-en-scenes daubed with primary colour screams, in cartoons of baroque excess, performed as subversive acts in front of cats.

“The art world is pining for in-person communication and a change of scenery,” state Sotheby’s trend predictors, perhaps due to our isolation and forced introversion in preceding months. What we’re all craving after our period of incarceration – if the record prices, bright new personalities and dearth of availability are any indication of – are highly sociable and voyeuristic paintings, preferably injected with a dose of the macabre.

“Recently the vulnerability of bodies has been brought into sharp focus for us all. As we step back into the physical and social world after an enforced period of separation, how might we have changed?” asks The Stand Ins, the Zabludowicz Collection’s first post-pandemic large scale group show. The subject matter? Figurative paintings from their archives – and in true Zabludowicz zeitgeist wow, many of the moods – from the works of pioneers of this field such as Dorothea Tanning and Maria Lassnig , in the paintings are enthrallingly noir.

Vogue darling Oh De Laval was only discovered a couple of years ago and is now attracting commissions, collectors and collaborations from some of the art and fashion worlds’ most lauded names. A few weeks ago, HOFA Gallery opened their private view with the most valuable collection of NFTs ever shown. While the ingenuity of the video art and QR codes – not to mention reopening of London – felt like something new and unseen before, it was the oversized oil paintings by the Irish painter Mary Ronayne – pictured above – that garnered the most gallery inches – and chatter – at the show. Just as with Oh de Laval’s paintings, the primal, cartoon-like qualities of the expressionist art work so effectively when juxtaposed against hedonism and farce.


Of the ten up-and-coming painters I contacted to purchase one of only three who replied – the 22-year-old recent graduate Ming Yang – let me know that all her work had already been snapped up by galleries. So I’m taking it back to where portraiture all began – and commissioning a painting myself…

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