Masters of paint: new contemporary painters

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Nicky Nodjoumi

top contemporary painters: Nicky Nodjoumi

US/Iran: born 1942

New York-based painter Nodjoumi depicts situations of oppressive power in which anonymous figures, often in business suits, represent indistinct hierarchical structures and political force.

These protagonists are frequently shown sliced through the body, a device that hints at violence as well as schism and ambiguity on the part of the figures themselves.

'Erotic' elements, such as nude women, are ironic, emblematic of patriarchal society and subjugation.

Although fairly bleak in terms of their overall message, motifs such as cartoon-like animals provide a more light-hearted irony, while Nodjoumi's assured paintwork and shifts of colour make his images as seductive as their content is salutory.


Great American contemporary painters
images © Nicky Nodjoumi

Ulf Puder

Top contemporary painters: Ulf Puder

Germany: born 1958

One of the first generation of Leipzig artists, Puder's work has always been slightly overshadowed by the better known painting of fellow academician, Neo Rauch.

While both artists share unmistakeable characteristics - a surreal edge, muted palettes and, of course, the superlative technique for which the Leipzig school is acclaimed - Puder's work is far more sombre in tone.

His uninhabited environments appear to have been struck by some kind of calamity: buildings and motorways collapse into near-abstraction, or motorhomes and caravans float amid debris.

Puder's worlds are enigmatically eerie spaces in which the clean, hard edges of his meticulously ravaged architecture contrast starkly with the sense of unknown catastrophe.


Best contemporary painters: Ulf Puder
images © Ulf Puder

Jonathan Wateridge

great contemporary painters: Jonathan Wateridge


UK: born 1979

Jonathan Wateridge, portrait detail

If technical brio and Old Master-style mastery impress, then Jonathan Wateridge is a painter likely to please.

His subject matter, however, is not standard fare - scenes of disaster such as plane crashes or shipwrecks are juxtaposed against sublime landscapes, or massive group portraits focus on unlikely ensembles; historical re-enactment societies, space programme personnel, school plays or even Sandanistas (below).

Wateridge's eye for detail is certainly breathtaking, his grand compositions a nod, amongst many influences, towards the romanticised High Victorian mise en scène.


new contemporary painting - Jonathan Wateridge
images © Jonathan Wateridge

Michaël Borremans

Michael Borremans

Belgium: born 1963

Michaël Borremans is not a virtuoso figure painter - at least not uniformly so. His work can be a little heavy-handed, his drawing off-key. He has problems depicting flesh.

He is, however, a master at capturing the enigmatic, and the sense of quiet mystery with which he imbues his (mainly) portraits is indeed exceptional.

Despite frequent reference to the classical canon - particularly that of the Flemish schools - Borremans' use of composition is far from traditional, often cropping his subjects or turning them away from the viewer.

In more recent works, Borremans has quite literally erased parts of his figures to create eerily surreal, disembodied portraits.


Michael Borremans: contemporary painting
images © Michaël Borremans
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