Whether they’re preserving sharks in formaldehyde, painting with elephant dung or extolling the virtues of smoking, Britain’s contemporary artists are rarely strangers to controversy. Here’s five whose work will challenge and inspire you.
Since his arrival on the contemporary art scene in the 1960s, Hockney has become one of Britain’s most successful and innovative artists. From portraiture to landscapes, his work is vibrant, bold and evocative. His ongoing experimentation with new technology has resulted in a diverse body of work across a range of media.
Hockney’s latest exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art, London, focuses on his ongoing love-affair with the East Yorkshire landscape, showcasing his works from the last seven years, including paintings produced on his iPad and his first foray into film.
Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George started working together after meeting at St Martins College of Art and their collaborative career now spans over 40 years. Their bold, large-scale photo-graphic pieces use imagery and motifs from London’s East End and explore the themes of religion, patriotism, sex and violence. The duo regard themselves not just as artists, but as living sculptures and their own images feature heavily in their work. One is rarely seen in public without the other and their immaculate, daily uniform of tweed suits has made them iconic British art world figures.
While Grayson Perry works with a range of media, including print-making, metalwork and tapestry, he is most widely known for his ceramics, using traditional techniques such as coiling to create his classically shaped pots. From a distance, his pottery appears brightly and beautifully decorated, but on closer inspection the detailed imagery, photo transfers and sprigs depict scenes of a darker nature and are often sexually explicit.
In 2011 Perry curated Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum with 30 pieces of his own work displayed alongside 170 of the museum’s artefacts, which he hand-selected over two years. The exhibition serves as a memorial, paying tribute to the anonymous artisans and craftsmen of history.
Sculptor and installation artist Cornelia Parker takes everyday objects, ephemera and debris and transforms them into beautiful and captivating pieces. The methodology she uses to create her work is rather non-conventional. With the assistance of the British Army, Parker famously exploded a garden shed and all its contents for her piece Cold, Dark Matter: Exploded. The remains were collected and hung from the ceiling of the Tate Modern, the single moment of the explosion recreated and suspended in time.
The Chapman Brothers
Jake and Dinos Chapman’s oeuvre is subversive, grotesque and violent. They’ve grafted genitalia onto the faces of mannequin children, created models depicting extreme torture and disfigurement and, much to the ire of the art establishment, purchased a series of Goya’s prints only to deface them. They polarise both critics and audiences, with detractors often dismissing their work as puerile and offensive. But beyond the initial shock value, the deeper themes of brutality and morality that underpin the work become more obvious and intriguing.
David Hockney: A Bigger Picture is now showing until 9 April at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman continues until 26 February at the British Museum, London .