Without art, Earth is just “eh”, and without these famous young artists born after 1980, the present-day art world wouldn’t be half as tantalising (or as lucrative, in some cases).
From the unassuming painter who outsold Banksy at auction, to a living, breathing prodigy who had their first solo exhibition at just two years old, we’ve curated the influential artists reimagining the contemporary, abstract, street art and illustrative niches.
YOUNG CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS
These young contemporary artists are eclectic – miscellaneous even. They don’t fit into a neat package or category, and that’s part of their brilliance.
Welcome to a little bit of everything that's right with the art world today.
JULIEN CALOT, BORN 1982
Julien Calot is a bold creative whose vibrant art has managed to attract him a sizable following of 17.1k on Instagram. The French artist’s work is between graphic and fine art with some abstract elements.
Calot creates large-scale immersive worlds full of symbolism. He packs each piece with imagery that captures the powerful escapism provided by nature alongside more whimsical moments of urban life.
Common themes include representations of surf culture, bodies of water and intimacy.
Examples of his work include Joshua Trip (2020) and Zanzibar (2020), which have a Basquiat-like quality but are more colourful with crisper lines.
Other pieces like Le Ruisseau (2020), possess the signature multi-coloured dots Calot uses to build detailed elements and textured layers into his compositions.
Calot experiments with acrylics, watercolours and even digital collage in a way that makes his work seem fluid and ever-changing.
Julien refers to his works as “new and rich pictorial spaces” and his process as creating “assemblages, similar to electronic music mixes”.
CHLOE WISE, BORN 1990&
Montreal-born artist Chloe Wise boasts an impressive Instagram following (208k) and has notable fashion-house collaborations with Jacquemus and Etudes Studio to her name.
Wise has previously been a highlight of the NADA New York fair with her works Ain't No Challah Back(pack) (2014) and In Life's Rough, But Not Rough Enough (2016).
Wise explores themes of desire, luxury and food trends with a fun satirical twist. She has a multimedia approach with sculpture, drawing, painting and video art in her arsenal.
During an interview with Elle Canada, Chloe was asked about the role comedy plays in her work.
“Like food, comedy plays a huge role in life! I mean, laughter – what even is that?” she replied.
“It’s uncontrollable, like yawning. Both of those human actions are evolutionarily necessary and serve a purpose: to unite us and to dissipate tension, violence and abjection.”
HAN BING, BORN 1986
Chinese contemporary artist Han Bing has a distinct style that appears abstract at first glance, though Han’s multi-faceted approach makes it hard to place them in the abstract box. Her work has been exhibited worldwide in Paris, Los Angeles, New York and Beijing.
Han’s art is full of depth, both visually and metaphorically.
There’s a story in each of her works if you peel back the layers, isolate the elements and look closely enough.
However, it's a subtle illusion of narrative that creates intrigue: the most exciting part of Han’s work is not what’s said, but the aspects left unsaid that lend space for the viewer to assign meaning.
Her creations seem to move between rich and thickly-layered colour combinations (that aren’t aesthetically pleasing yet beautiful nonetheless) and lighter colours featuring delicate mark-making.
These different approaches seem to have one thing in common, they allude to aspects of urban living, be those subway station posters, city streets at night, or washing hung between apartments elegantly blowing in the wind.
Bing describes the urban motifs within her work as “poems with authors unknown” and sees painting as 'a way of resisting the information that is forced on us.'
KHARI TURNER, BORN 1991
American-born artist Khari Turner made waves in 2021 with sold-out shows at Frevo and Ross-Sutton Gallery.
More recently, his work Sleeves Of Magic fetched an impressive HKD 189,000 at Christie's auction house.
Turner’s work centres on themes reflecting his heritage – namely, Black history, culture and the symbolic nature that water holds in the Black experience.
He even collects samples from bodies of water closely associated with Black history to use in his colour mixing, Turner has offered an explanation of what inspires him in a past interview.
“It helps me to be able to create work with this material because I can handle having all of that information, all of the atrocities of slavery and also all of the ideas around migration and travel, but I don’t have to make imagery that displays that because the material does it already, you know where these materials came from.”
More common threads flowing through his fluid works is the contrast between realistic detail serving to highlight specific facial features, with abstract elements like whitespace and layered textures that provide ambiguity.
These stark contrasts give the illusion that aspects of his figurative paintings are almost trying to escape the canvas.
YOUNG ABSTRACT ARTISTS
In abstract art, anything’s possible. The final piece isn't a play-by-play account of the creator's thoughts and feelings or even realistic in many senses. So, as the viewer, you can immerse yourself and create your own narrative.
These best young painters will transport you to an abstract world like no other.
ALPHEE, BORN 1981
French artist Alphee brings abstract art to new heights with an exciting mixed-media approach. A piece like Orage (2021) boasts a range of materials anywhere from acrylic, pencil, paper, and collage to Posca and oil stick.
He opts to fuse colour, texture and mark-making techniques that should be jarring but instead create a visual feast of balance and movement reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s abstract expressionism.
Alphee uses his art to question timely issues affecting all of humanity like AI (artificial intelligence), globalisation, robotisation and the shrinking human experience – making him one to follow if you like to think and feel.
His works ask the viewers, “Is there still a place today for feeling, doubt, confusion, emotion, for everything that makes us unique, alive and human?”
AELITA ANDRE, BORN 2007
Melbourne abstract painter Aelita Andre is the youngest artist featured here by a significant margin. She began painting at nine months old, and by two years old, she had her first solo exhibit.
However, the official title of youngest artist in the world goes to Arushi Bhatnagar, who had her first solo exhibition when she was just 11 months old.
Aptly labelled a prodigy, Andre’s magical abstractions display a level of insight and natural affinity for colour that many artists take years to develop.
This young famous painter has already had solo exhibitions in New York, Russia, Hong Kong, China and her home country, Australia.
According to Andre, she takes inspiration “directly from nature”.
“I love everything about it – trees, animals, space, the cosmos – and also how we talk about atoms and the molecular level of it all,” she said in an interview.
“I also like the innocence of nature. Of course, nature is not totally innocent, but its overall beauty inspires me. I just think it's all amazing.”
HAROLD ANCART, BORN 1980
Belgian artist Harold Ancart’s “expansive multimedia practice” ranges from sculpture to installations, though his art is most commonly expressed through bold abstract paintings.
Still, even his paintings are a veritable cornucopia of styles, ranging from abstract expressionism comparable with Clyfford Still and evocative, loosely figurative works like Egon Schiele.
In 2016, his work Triptych: Untitled fetched a handsome US$751,500 with an estimated value of US$80,000-120,000 at Christie’s auction.
Ancart's work has a laid-back, sensual vibe with subtle use of colour and texture that says enough but not too much.
EMMA MCINTYRE, BORN 1990
The New Zealand abstract artist, Emma McIntyre, was hailed as a young artist to watch after being featured in 2021’s Frieze NYC Art Fair.
McIntyre’s work is bold and expressive. Don't let the child-like whimsy of some of her pieces fool you though, she explores meaningful themes – ranging from the environment and changing seasons to memory.
Like the best abstract work, McIntyre’s art transports you to another world.
Polka dots recur in her compositions, although unlike aboriginal art, this motif appears sporadically within a piece rather than being used to create structured patterns.
She also uses a fluorescent palette. These recurring aspects make each piece seem comfortingly familiar while remaining unique.
YOUNG STREET ARTISTS
Street art often attracts the most cutting-edge creative spirits. That’s in part because the art form is associated with danger.
For most of graffiti’s existence, artists had to sneak out and create masterpieces under cover of darkness.
Be that to challenge and subvert societal narratives, or to create something beautiful in a public space – just because.
These young street artists are changing the game, elevating the artform and honouring graffiti's roots.
JR, BORN 1983
French artist, JR, blends street art with photography. His famous street installations use large-scale photos of everyday people and have been pasted on walls and floors across the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America.
J.R. started as a graffiti artist during his teenage years under the alias Face 3. But the direction of his work evolved when he introduced photography into his repertoire.
In 2004, the budding street artist earned worldwide recognition after capturing the Paris riots and pasting blown-up photographic prints of the rioters throughout the city.
Through his street art, he hopes to bring people together and raise awareness of “heavy social issues” in a way that the “advertising and the media” world doesn't.
CONOR HARRINGTON, BORN 1980
Irish painter Conor Harrington specialises in urban and figurative art. His dramatic large-scale murals have been featured worldwide, even on the Bethlehem Wall.
In 2015, his canvas Dance With The Devil sold for US$116,413 after receiving a pre-sale estimate of US$45,000 and US$75,000. Banksy’s piece Rude Copper fetched US$48,800 at the same auction.
Harrington earned his street art stripes as a graffiti writer. It was only later that he developed a signature style combining impressive figurative realism with street art motifs and flourishes.
The classic masculine archetype and how it’s expressed within specific historical contexts is a common theme Harrington explores through his work. He also contrasts realistic figures alongside abstract elements.
This style invokes a sense of movement within the piece and makes you feel like his work could be hung in a gallery alongside Renaissance masters like Botticelli.
SHAMSIA HASSANI, BORN 1988
Shamsia Hassani is a contemporary pioneer in recognition of female creativity, gaining notoriety as the “the first female graffiti artist of Afghanistan”.
Outside of Afghanistan, Shamsia’s street art has appeared in the U.S., Europe, and Vietnam. She also teaches at Kabul University.
Through her murals, Shamsia tells the story of what it's like to be an Afghan woman in a male-dominated culture. The central character and motif that runs through most of her work is a bold and colourful female who's “proud, loud” and possesses interests, hopes, dreams and goals.
Hassani hopes to empower women to take up space in a society that encourages them to shrink or limit their ambitions, stating, “Art changes people's minds, and people change the world.”
FRANCO FASOLI (JAZ), BORN 1981
Franco Fasoli, also known by his moniker JAZ is an Argentinian street artist extraordinaire. His style is bold, moody and painterly, creating dramatic scenes in which the viewer cannot help but become immersed.
Through his work, he’s helped to make Buenos Aires a cutting-edge and colourful hub of the street art world. Fasoli’s fileteado porteno-inspired works have featured on the global street art scene, including in the US, Norway and Italy.
According to Fasoli, his large-scale murals are characterised by “popular symbols and rituals from the countries I visit to create a specific mythology”.
He also explores counterculture and the formation of individual and collective identities. Fasoli depicts these themes in dramatic fighting scenes in which human-animal hybrids struggle in “wars and celebrations”.
YOUNG ILLUSTRATIVE ARTISTS
These young artists take illustration beyond technical mastery and graphic presentation into a new realm of mixed-media and self-expression.
From impressive auction sales to commercial work that shaped the snowboarding aesthetic, meet the contemporary visual artists with an illustrative flair.
TSCHABALALA SELF, BORN 1990
Harlem-born American artist Tschabalala Self specialises in figurative collages that illustrate feminist themes – specifically, “the iconographic significance of the Black female body in contemporary culture”.
In 2019 Self’s quilted fabric painting Sapphire sold for just shy of £400,000 at Christie's London, and she has an impressive 63.8k followers on Instagram. She’s also been featured in major publications like The Guardian, The New York Times and Vogue.
Self has a mixed media approach working with paint, printmaking, pieces from her previous art and fabric. She consciously uses materials in non-traditional ways to subvert societal narratives and promote a message that change is possible.
CALEB HAHNE, Born 1993
American illustrator-come-artist Caleb Hahne’s art pairs classic draughtsmanship with a distinct artistic flavour that’s both graphic and painterly. He’s known for moving between traditional and digital techniques or embracing both within a single piece.
Hahne’s style is evocative at times, with a sophisticated use of colour that invokes warmth and emotion.
He also has compositions with little to no colour, highlighting his technical proficiency with pure pen or pencil. Both approaches create beautifully calming and atmospheric results.
According to Hahne, he uses the word vulnerability a lot in his work.
“What I mean by this is allowing things to happen in the process and to avoid complete control. It’s nice to leave things unfinished, throw some paper on it, cut things out, so-on-and-so- forth.”
HANNAH STOUFFER, BORN 1981
Hannah Stouffer is an American visual artist with an approach that balances fine art and commercial illustration.
Stouffer has worked with notable clients like Coca-Cola, New York Times, Nike, Levi’s and Vans. Her work notably helped shape the aesthetic of snowboarding and skateboarding clothing and equipment, but you can also find her creations adorned on walls, apparel and in print.
Stouffer’s vibrant and feminine art is simultaneously intricate with geometric shapes and patterns while keeping it loose with layered textures created with ink.
She includes naturalistic and psychedelic symbolism to produce an almost otherworldly feel and is inspired by her “pursuit of illustrating emotional transcendence”.
In an interview, Stouffer’s spoke about her medium of choice.
“Watercolor and acrylic inks. Heavily pigmented neon gouache and airbrush inks…the thickest hot pressed watercolour paper you can find and a good Uniball Micron Exact pen – black,” she said.
KOUR POUR, BORN 1987
British-Iranian-American artist Kour Pour achieved international acclaim with his series of paintings influenced by Persian carpets and tapestries. He’s since amassed a healthy Instagram following of 14.5k with a grid full of stunningly detailed images.
Pour uses various techniques like silkscreen painting and sanding. He also painstakingly hand paints elements.
Inspiration for his future art career was fuelled by working in his father's rug shop as a child. He restored original Persian carpets (with his father) back to their former glory by hand-dying the faded elements.
Pour is also inspired by hip-hop and applies the principles of sampling in music production to his artwork to represent cultural exchange. He refers to his carpet paintings as tracing “a history of early trade and exchange by depicting imagery and design influenced by different cultures”.
Cover Credit: Steve Johnson/Unsplash
Writer | Rachael Hope
Rachael Hope is a writer and visual artist. She loves to explore the connections between creativity in all its forms and broader culture. When not being creative herself, you’ll find her practising yoga or exploring nature.