Head down to Saka Maka in Brockley on a Friday night and you may well run into sculpture star Jala Wahid, picking up an Indian takeaway.
Or painter — and Wahid’s fellow graduate of the Royal Academy — Lewis Hammond, who you might just see buying a samosa or two.
If you’re in Soho, keep an eye out for Joshua Gordon, film-maker to fashion’s finest. He’ll be tucking in to steak haché and chocolate mousse at Brasserie Zédel alongside his model girlfriend, Jess Maybury.
When it comes to artistic inspiration, you’ll find Somaya Critchlow checking out the Rubens at the National Gallery, also a favourite museum of Antonia Showering — when she’s not playing board games or working until the early hours in her Hackney studio, that is.
There’s no doubt about it: these young artists have the lowdown on what’s good in London, and they themselves are some of the city’s finest assets.
Catch them at galleries big and small over the coming months, from Maximillian William to TJ Boulting, and don’t forget to look out for their names at Frieze next week, where Hammond and Joy Miessi will be showing off their wares. But don’t expect their pieces to hang around for long — it’s safe to say this bunch, and their work, are going places.
Film-maker and photographer Joshua Gordon, 29, has a pretty impressive CV: he’s worked with Dazed on a film for Saint Laurent, with streetwear brand Aries and with rapper Yung Lean on a photoshoot for Kaleidoscope magazine. Pretty good going for a guy with no formal art education, who was expelled from school. ‘I got into watching films when I was about 13,’ he says, ‘and it made me really want to make them myself.’ Lately he’s been working on collage and painting along with his girlfriend, model and ES cover star Jess Maybury, with whom he lives in Dalston with their five-month-old puppy, Divine. ‘Jess has been doing a lot of art now as well. We do portraits of each other and sort of mash them up a bit,’ he tells me. ‘We’ve been together four years… I think. She always gets angry with me for forgetting!’
Your worst habit? Drinking and smoking, but I’m really trying to quit.
Fresh out of Central Saint Martins, Rhea Dillon, 23, is knuckling down. ‘I’m about to become a hermit — well, hibernate is the word for it I guess,’ she says, ‘getting a studio and establishing myself in London.’ But the south London native, who lives with her family in Croydon, is already well on her way: earlier this year, she showed a three-day installation dubbed The Name I Called Myself, which explored queer black British lives through video and… scent.
Dillon worked with chic perfumer Byredo, which provided its Bal d’Afrique fragrance for the installation. ‘I work within video, installation, photography and scent, which is the random one I guess,’ she laughs, ‘but our strongest sense of memory is through our sense of smell.’ The sweet smell of success, perhaps?
Proudest achievement? Being able to acknowledge my achievements.
It’s been a busy year for Lewis Hammond, 31. On top of an exhibition of his dark, moody oil paintings at Arcadia Missa in Soho earlier this year, he has a solo show in 2020 to prepare for and his first appearance at Frieze next week. In his (admittedly limited) downtime, Hammond kicks back with a book by Ottessa Moshfegh, or heads down to Brockley institution Saka Maka for an Indian — also a favourite haunt of Jala Wahid, who lives just down the road. ‘We were at the RA together and we’re always crossing paths.’ What’s in store once his schedule has calmed down? ‘Berlin has been on the cards for a while — my girlfriend is from there so we have a semi plan to go back there together.’
What could London do better for young artists? More partially funded studio space.
For Somaya Critchlow, 26, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Her tiny paintings, some of which are small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, were ‘meant to be just studies, but I got really involved in it — the scale just suited me.’
Critchlow, who grew up in south London and now lives in Acton, went to the University of Brighton and then the Royal Drawing School; now, she’s represented by Maximillian William, where she’ll have a solo show next year. But her artistic education began much earlier in life: ‘My mum was studying at Wimbledon College of Arts when I was really little. On days when she couldn’t find childcare, she’d take me with her, so I literally went to university and joined in when I was seven.’
Favourite London restaurant? Rochelle Canteen — I love their simple dishes, like the cabbage and butter.
‘It’s really flattering,’ says Maisie Cousins, 27, of the hype surrounding her close-up, textured and vivid photographs. ‘I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m here for the ride!’ And what a ride it’s been: Cousins has experienced serious success since her solo show, Dipping Sauce, at Elephant West last year and now has projects with Hermès, Cartier and Revlon to her name. She’s now with TJ Boulting gallery in Fitzrovia, which, she says, has ‘changed everything. I like it when someone gets me.’ Recently, Cousins’ focus has been on a different project: she’s seven months pregnant with boyfriend and artist, Tim Smyth. But art is imitating life: ‘I’ve got a group show coming up on birth, which opens next week, and also features Tracey Emin and Paula Rego,’ she says. ‘It’s conveniently timed!’
Best fancy dress outfit? I did a flamingo once, that was cool.
‘A lot of the work that I do is on Tumblr and Instagram, otherwise people just wouldn’t know about it,’ says Joy Miessi, 26, whose energetic, Basquiat-style pieces respond to issues surrounding race, sexuality and gender. Miessi uses gender-neutral pronouns, which they feel ‘sum up my identity perfectly. I see myself as in between masculine and feminine.’ The north Londoner, who lives in Kentish Town, has impressive credits, from a film project with gal-dem, Levi’s and Queer Britain to exhibitions at 198 Gallery and Beers London. Last year Miessi made art for Gucci’s Acqua di Fiori fragrance. ‘I just created artwork in my own style. It was quite surreal!’
Top of your bucket list? I really want to have an exhibition in New York.
There’s lots of love out there for film-maker Stephen Isaac-Wilson, 28, who grew up in Nunhead and began his career on the BBC Production Trainee Scheme. After stints at Radio 4, Vice, and i-D, he went solo — ‘I wanted a space to make my own stuff’ — and the offers flooded in. There have been shows at the Barbican, Serpentine and Tate Britain; music videos with Jorja Smith and Sampha; and a collaboration on Channel 4’s short film series, Random Acts, with Zawe Ashton. ‘[Ashton] saw my work at Tate and she really loved it. What’s interesting now is the shift in young directors being asked to do stuff; I think that’s cool,’ he smiles. We’ll second that.
Who is your hero? Whitney Houston, definitely.
George Rouy is a multi-talented man. The Brixton-based painter, 25, has already had solo shows of his hazy, colourful nudes at J Hammond Projects and Hannah Barry Gallery since graduating from Camberwell College of Arts in 2015. But his girlfriend, photographer Harley Weir, rates his cooking. ‘She says I make a really good paella,’ he laughs. The pair are working on a group show, curated by Jefferson Hack, opening at 180 Strand next month. ‘It’s actually worked really well — we’re very similar.’
Best piece of advice for those starting out? Don’t compromise yourself or your vision.
‘My work deals a lot with being Kurdish and my diasporic identity, and it’s really materially led,’ says Brockley resident and sculptor Jala Wahid, 31. The Goldsmiths and RA grad’s parents came to London from Kurdistan in 1985 and Wahid travels there every year, but she has a soft spot for London. ‘I was born here and grew up here. There are constantly shows going on, people to see and work with.’ While at Goldsmiths she co-founded the art and feminism journal, Salt Magazine. ‘It was a really amazing way of creating a network of like-minded people,’ she says. ‘By the time I left university, I felt like I was part of something already.’
How do you relax? Swimming — but not in London Fields Lido, it’s too cold!
When Tristan Pigott, 29, isn’t painting in his studio, he’s creating playlists for Olive, with whom he shares a flat in Dalston. That’s Olive the budgie, by the way. ‘I just leave her cage open when I’m out, so she can fly about in the day, and I put on some music for her. She chirps more when I play Rammstein, but that might be because she hates it!’ Masterminding playlists aside, Pigott was shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award in 2015, has a solo show coming up at Alice Black in December and has recently finished an MA in sculpture at the Royal College of Art. ‘I was kind of starting to feel limited by painting,’ he says. ‘The idea was to go and study something where I’d feel super uncomfortable.’
Favourite cocktail? Anything tequila-based.
Things are hotting up for Antonia Showering, 27, whose dreamy paintings have seen her net a New Contemporaries Studio Bursary with Space and an upcoming show at Chalton Gallery. Since graduating from Chelsea College of Arts, City & Guilds and Slade, Showering has had exhibitions at Hauser and Wirth and Stephen Friedman Gallery, plus residencies in London and Italy. Along the way she’s made friends in the industry, from artist Max Prus to founder of @thegreatwomenartists, Katy Hessel. ‘Katy has been so incredible for me,’ she says. ‘We’ve worked on so many different projects; it’s useful to be able to discuss your new ideas. I work so late in the studio that if I didn’t have that interaction with people, I’d just turn into a mushroom!’
Favourite hobby? I love board games, like Articulate! I get very competitive.