London has always been the other art-world capital. But unlike New York's commerce and cliques, the vast, polyphonic, British metropolis allows for a disparate range of voices, platforms, mediums, and displays of that signature English eccentricity. The art scene has come a long way since the days of YBA, and the group of artists included in these pages represent a new creative surge flowing everywhere from Hackney to Bloomsbury. God save the artists.
Much has been made of the way in which Gillian Wearing's work anticipated social media. A renowned artist who was aligned with the YBAs in the '90s, but whose work was more socially directed, the 48-year-old Wearing makes portraits through fragmentary imagery and texts that test the emancipatory potential of public address.
Jeremy Deller has been tapped to take over the British Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, but that doesn't mean the 46-year-old London-born artist is the embodiment of British contemporary art.
Ed Atkins puts the horror in horror vacui. Working primarily in video and text although his installations can include works on paper that function as treatments or prologues-the 30-year-old Oxford-born artist makes compositions saturated with sensual information that paradoxically expresses the impossibility of representing the complexity of flesh.
"I'm not a blond on a bum trip," 54-year-old Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans says. "I'm a bum on a blond trip." If human beings can be national landmarks, Wyn Evans should file for status.
In the past few years, photo artist John Stezaker has had something of an art-world zeitgeist moment—which is both deserved and a bit belated, as the 63-year-old artist's career has spanned more than four decades. Stezaker's most notable works involve the manipulation of archival film stock images—particularly black-and-white actor headshots circa the 1940s.
Eddie Peake had a busy week during London's Frieze Art Fair last October. Not only was his Italian gallery showing one of his spray-paint-on-stainless-steel paintings at the Regent's Park fair, but 31-year-old Peake also opened a collaborative show with artist Prem Sahib at Southard Reid that had a reflective golden wall bisecting the gallery, equipped with speakers playing electronic music and human laughing, spitting, and respiratory noises.
Usually transmission and interference are treated as antonyms, but in the disorientating audio-visual environments of 35-year-old London-born Haroon Mirza, the two are inextricably combined. Mirza's pulsating sound sculptures—which often involve rewired electronics such as turntables, speakers, radios, keyboards, and televisions, and sometimes incorporate household items like lamps, dressers, and even buckets of water—can resemble three-dimensional sci-fi dada collages.
One of the most compelling artists to emerge out of London in the past few years is 26-year-old sculptor and video artist Helen Marten.
At one point in James Richards's video collage series The Misty Suite (2009), the footage cuts back and forth between a scene of a young, bored Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) sketching and nodding off, an instructional film about drawing, and a sci-fi outer-space scene. Many of the 29-year-old Welsh-born artist's videos have a theme of school or instruction as if Richards is playing with the notion of appropriation as always pedantic or abstract.
In the cramped Hackney studio of 35-year-old painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, there would be just enough room for a model to stand for the artist's figurative oil works. Only Yiadom-Boakye doesn't use a model. For the past decade, her growing cast of characters—predominantly black men and women rendered in a deft gestural realism so softly applied that the figures seem to materialize out of their muddy, color-field backgrounds—have sprung from her own imagination.
Jake and Dinos Chapman have, in their brotherly two-decade-long career, envisioned many incarnations of hell—Nazi, Freudian, apocalyptic, fast-food chain, Biblical hell with plenty of violence and limbs. That makes their studio, a former iron factory in Hackney Wick, a sort of artistic limbo—a place where two rather Herculean men, with the help of a team of assistants, go about creating new hells in toy-figurine form.