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New masters of paint: today's top contemporary painters

Our eclectic selection of international painters is united by three facts: most are relative newcomers to the art scene; all work figuratively (we take a look at some of the best new abstraction from the US, UK and Germany in a separate section) and all, in our opinion, are among the most exciting contemporary painters working today.

Some names are well known, others less familiar. We're enthralled by their approach to painting and hope you will be, too.


Izumo Kato

contemporary Japanese painting: Izumo Kato


Japan: born 1969

Japanese painter and sculptor Izumo Kato may not enjoy the same kind of global recognition as fellow countrymen Takashi Murakami or Yoshitomo Nara, but since the the mid noughties he has increasingly established a reputation as one of the most interesting and individual of artists - not only in Japan, but internationally.

Kato's portraits of otherworldly beings draw direct inspiration from 'primitive' and outsider art, while also exhibiting very distant echoes of Japanese manga and the kawaii, or 'cute'.

Yet despite such references Kato's gorgeously coloured, enigmatic works exist very much on their own terms, making him a highly distinctive voice within an increasingly homogenised Japanese art scene.

Izumo Kato
new contemporary painting - Izumo Kato
images © Izumo Kato

Eduardo Berliner

contemporary painting Eduardo Berliner


Brazil: born 1978

The high quality of South American contemporary art is finally becoming clear to collectors world-wide, its strengths typified by the painting of young Brazilian Eduardo Berliner, whose darkly-nuanced canvases are already well-known - and feted - in his home country.

This rapidly-rising star of recent Latin American art produces work in a variety of styles, from forensically detached depictions of the everyday to improbable palimpsests laced with painterly and narrative intrigue.

We prefer the sheer visual verve of the latter works, but Berliner's confident dominance of whatever subject happens to intrigue him is never less than certain.

Eduardo Berliner
new contemporary painting - Eduardo Berliner
images © Eduardo Berliner

Jakub Julian Ziolkowski

contemporary painting Jakub Julian Ziolkowski


Poland: born 1980

Having received enthusiastic acclaim from several leading critics, Ziolkowski's painting has rapidly become highly desirable.

Quite apart from its 'must-have' status among galleries and collectors, however, Ziolkowski's work does, in general, deserve the buzz that surrounds it.

Varied in style and execution, his best pieces are masterly - and as one of the the youngest painters featured here, Ziolkowski is only just embarking on his artistic career.

new contemporary painters - Jakub Ziolkowski
images © Jakub Julian Ziolkowski

Adrian Ghenie

contemporary painting Adrian Ghenie


Romania: born 1977

Another from a growing list of exemplary Eastern European painters, this young Romanian's eerily enigmatic work burst onto the art scene in 2005, and his reputation has grown vertiginously since.

Richly and often hermetically allusive, Ghenie's work attempts to investigate memory and the unconscious against a backdrop of 20th-century European history.

Frequently attaining a cinematic, film noir-esque quality, Ghenie's highly structured, dramatically lit tableaux justifiably make him one of the major art stars of the moment.

Related article: Romanian art now


new contemporary painting - Adrian Ghenie
images © Adrian Ghenie

Hernan Bas

great contemporary painters: Hernan Bas


US: born 1978

Based in Miami, Bas achieved early recognition for his romantic, melancholic style and subject matter laced with literary references (especially to late 19th century European works associated with the Decadent or Aesthetic movements).

Though occasionally verging on the florid or overwrought, Bas' bravura painting and highly personal, somewhat anachronistic vision mark him out as a singular and very fine artist.


great painters today: Hernan Bas
images © Hernan Bas
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