Six new artists to watch at The 2020 London Art Fair

The London Art Fair has become a real highlight of the art world each year. James Elwes picks out half a dozen of the artists on display for whom he sees a bright future.

It’s back to school time for the art world as dealers, collectors and artists depart the Christmas cocoon and descend on the London Art Fair in Islington. Art fairs come and go, but this one is considered a veteran at over 30 years old.

Beyond the main hall the fair is quite warren-like and there can be quite a mixed output depending on where you look. But this year’s crop is, for the most part, encouraging and indicates where everyone’s heads are at — enough to leave me feeling cautiously optimistic. Here are five artists whose work is on show this week who are worth looking out for in the new decade.

The 2019 London Art Fair runs until 26 January at the Business Design Centre in Islington — you can buy tickets on the website at londonartfair.com.


Tom Down

Tom Down’s solo exhibition at Mint Art considers how the natural world has consistently been idealised, from the classical havens of Claude and Poussin, to the breathtaking, romantic epics of Turner and Constable through to landscape imagery of modern day media.

Tom Down, 'Hollow', 2017. Oil On Linen, 16x2. Courtesy of Mint Art Gallery.

Tom Down, ‘Hollow’, 2017. Oil On Linen, 16×2. Courtesy of Mint Art Gallery.

Tom uproots and re-purposes traditional aspects of landscape representation and throws it into profound perspective – breaking the various components of an image down into simple 3D maquettes within empty space that he captures in isolation in space.


Freya Douglas-Morris

Prominently positioned at the front of the fair on Lychee One’s stand, Freya’s work is completely compelling. Landscapes and figures appear to float on her canvas and gently hint at stories full of sensuality and mystery.

Freya Douglas-Morris, 'In the shade of their trees', 2018. Oil on Linen, 40x30cm. Courtesy of Lychee One.

Freya Douglas-Morris, ‘In the shade of their trees’, 2018. Oil on Linen, 40x30cm. Courtesy of Lychee One.

She is a great painter with a very fine CV. She did her masters at the Royal College and has already shown in China, the US, Vienna and Paris.


Robyn Litchfield

Robyn’s work is inspired by her native New Zealand in its primeval state. She uses historic archival images (much of which comes from the archive of her grandfather, Harold, a New Zealand photographer of some repute) to immortalise its raw natural beauty in thickly applied paint.

Ship Creek by Robyn Litchfield. 41x41cm, oil on canvas.

Ship Creek by Robyn Litchfield. 41x41cm, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Nunnery Gallery.

Robyn’s work celebrates a lost world of beauty and biodiversity captured through generations and feels highly prescient in 2020. Visit her in the Project spaces and at Nunnery gallery.


Suzanne Moxhay and Eleanor Watson

They aren’t a duo, but their works are showing alongside each other at The Contemporary London stand, where their pieces work well together. Suzanne (whose work ‘Hothouse’ is pictured at the top of the page) and Eleanor tackle what feel like very current environmental concerns in their work.

Eleanor Watson, 'Indoor Silences. Distant Noise.', 2019, installation view 3, monoprint on Japanese paper and oil on wood. Courtesy of The Contemporary London

Eleanor Watson, ‘Indoor Silences. Distant Noise.’, 2019, installation view 3, monoprint on Japanese paper and oil on wood. Courtesy of The Contemporary London.

Working with large-scale prints, Suzanne’s work complements Eleanor’s mixed media paintings splendidly and ask some very vital questions about where we are going.


Alice Kettle

Once overlooked, textile artwork has finally been acknowledged as a key part of the artistic canon. Alice Kettle’s work in particular illustrates the potential of thread to be utterly expressive and (without wishing to be contradictory) painterly.

Alice Kettle, ‘Portrait of Nel’, 2019, Hand and machine stitch on printed fabric, 84 x 60 cm. Photograph: Dan Stevens

Each tiny and patient stitch contributes to a huge, holistic surge of energy in her work, which is more often than not large in scale. An established artist of some repute in the UK, Alice is one to watch out for on the global art scene. Her work is displayed at Threading Forms, curated by Candida Stevens.


James Elwes is gallery director at McKay Williamson Fine Art (@mkwfineart). He advises on affordable and emerging contemporary art acquisitions and commissions. You can follow him on Instagram @james.elwes.