Heading for the top: the YBAs of tomorrow

Painting is their preferred medium, the dark side of nature their theme: they're the artists to watch. Charlotte Mullins picks the cream of the crop.
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The Independent Online

Reputations are made at fine art degree shows. Every summer major dealers come to sniff out new talent, collectors such as Charles Saatchi and David Bowie glide around, chequebooks in hand, and artists tremble at the very mention of Jay Jopling and White Cube, his celebrated gallery which represents Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and other top names. Add to this work priced in the thousands, expensive catalogues reminiscent of those produced by top auction houses, dedicated web-sites, and you have a roller-coaster buying-selling-winning-losing phenomenon.

Reputations are made at fine art degree shows. Every summer major dealers come to sniff out new talent, collectors such as Charles Saatchi and David Bowie glide around, chequebooks in hand, and artists tremble at the very mention of Jay Jopling and White Cube, his celebrated gallery which represents Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and other top names. Add to this work priced in the thousands, expensive catalogues reminiscent of those produced by top auction houses, dedicated web-sites, and you have a roller-coaster buying-selling-winning-losing phenomenon.

This year, the biggest buzz was at the Royal College of Art's fine art MA show. Several of the painting students have since received studio visits from White Cube representatives, with many other galleries - from Beaux Arts to Percy Miller and Nylon - expressing interest in taking on certain artists. Markus Vater has been singled out for success by several critics, as has Ian Kiaer, both for confident installations, and Lee Wagstaff entered his tattooed body for his printmaking MA degree show. Across the colleges, many students are working in the photorealist vein of Chuck Close that artists like Jason Brooks have been exploring successfully for several years. Painting and drawing no longer has to be messy, abstract or grungy to get noticed, it can be slick and detailed and so well-painted it looks like a photograph. Even BA graduates such as Luke Caulfield are at it.

Japanese students studying in Britain are standing out as producing some of the most interesting and mature work, often using throwaway materials to create obsessively intricate installations and paintings. And it is painting that has made a big comeback in the work of this year's graduates, with melancholy landscapes a favourite theme. Just look at the New Contemporaries exhibition: wall to wall muted landscape, with strangely de rigeur themes of volcanoes and horses' heads thrown in, just for good measure.

Charlotte Mullins is editor of 'Art Review'. A larger selection of work by this year's graduates can be found in the September issue, published on Friday

SEE THEM NOW

Work by the artists featured can be found in the following exhibitions: 'Domestic Bliss': Goldsmiths MA project at South London Gallery, SE5 (020 7703 6120) to 10 September; 'MA show 2000': Winchester School of Art (023 8059 6900) 31 August to 8 September; 'MA 2000': Holden Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University All Saints Campus (0161 247 3525) 9 to 13 September; 'Together Again': thirteen of this year's RCA MA graduates at the Pump House Gallery, SW11 (020 7350 0523) 8 to 24 September; 'MA show': Central St Martin's, WC2 (020 7514 7022) 15 to 21 September; 'Soft and Gentle': five of this year's RCA MA painting graduates at Gallery Westland Place, N1 (020 7251 6456) 5 October to 4 November; 'Assembly', Jubilee Street, E1 (contact Harold Offeh 0771 579 2690 and Eloise Calandre 0771 235 9255) from 5 to 30 October; RCA and Goldsmiths MA students 'New Contemporaries': Cornerhouse Manchester (0161 228 7621) 7 October to 12 November, then travelling to Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (0131 552 7171) from 18 November to 14 January

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