Contemporary Painting: Trends & Figures

Tima Jam

Contemporary Painting – Trends & Figures    Funeral Parade of Sunflowers – Ehsan Arjmand ;      …

Contemporary Painting – Trends & Figures 

Ehsan Arjmand - Funeral Parade of Sunflowers1399-145x180cm-Acrylic Contemporary Painting - Sisi Eko - Olamide Ogunade Olisco Contemporary Painting - Turn Around - Anastasiia Danilenko__Turn_around_2021_oil_on_canvas_40х30cm

Funeral Parade of Sunflowers – Ehsan Arjmand ;                         Sisi Eko – Olamide Ogunade Olisco;                                        Turn Around – Anastasiia Danilenko


Contemporary painting is one of the most popular forms of art today. Loved by art enthusiasts and casual buyers. Painting is an easy-to-display form of art. You can hang it on a wall. Prop it against a piece of furniture. Or use a painting as a divider in your space! Compared to other art forms, displaying paintings is almost a no-brainer. 


What’s more? You can easily find a style of painting that compliments the aesthetic of your space in the art market. There are so many different painters working in this sphere. Especially now that the art market has gone international. 


In the past few years, the world has necessarily gone digital. And so has transactions in the art world. This has allowed many local and regional artists to thrive in the “mainstream” art scene. Meaning the art market has seen a large influx of unique paintings in more recent times. 


But what exactly are the trends in contemporary painting today? How have these trends changed in the past few years? What trends are likely to stay? Which ones are nearing the end of its popularity? And which contemporary painters should you be keeping an eye on right now? 

Read more to find out the trends and popular figures in contemporary painting. 


Paintings In the Market 

Painting is one of the most well-known forms of art today. For art lovers, you will know painting is also one of the oldest forms of art we know. 

Painting as an art form originated from Ancient times. And they have accompanied humanity as we grew to our contemporary prosperity. So, what are the key differences between painting styles then and painting styles now? 


Painting Styles 

Let us give you a brief history lesson. To put it very, very plainly. Painting styles started off mimetic. Meaning paintings paint pictures that mimic reality. Paintings that are true depictions of real life. This evolved into realism. But from the modern period, painting styles saw a drastic change. Pictures were no longer “true to life” in the literal sense. And became abstract. Cubic. Surrealist. To list a few. 

In the contemporary though, painting styles are once again beginning to change. There are two very broad groups emerging in contemporary painting today. One follows the mimetic, realist, and figurative style. The other follows the abstract, surrealist style. 


What is popular? 

What contemporary painting style is popular is very subjective. People of influence in the art world usually have more say in establishing art trends. If you want to know more about how art trends drive the market, we have discussed this in a previous article. You can read this here

It is important to keep in mind that trends are trends. Treat them as a buying guide. When you are thinking of buying art, always make sure to buy what you love. 

With all that out of the way, let’s dive into some trends in contemporary painting from 2018 to the present. 



Trends in Contemporary Painting 


2018 is the year when all things digital began entering the art world. We saw this in the sales of the art market. More and more institutes began using online platforms in their sales operation. Whether it be displaying, exhibiting, or transacting artworks. 

On the more practical side of the arts, we also saw the popularisation of certain digital media. Particularly contemporary paintings created with AI technology and digital equipment. Artworks created by these means became popular on the art market. 



In 2019, this digital trend continued, with another trend slowly establishing itself in the artworld. Art and environmentalism became a frequent partner in creative production. The rise of this environmental trend could be related to the digitisation in the art world. It could also be related to other environmental issues surfacing in wider society at the time. 

Many paintings addressed and drew attention to various problems related to the health of our planet. Amongst the many include issues surrounding climate change and global warming. Combined with the global pandemic that struck the world at the end of this year, artworks produced often appear dystopian, reflecting the uncertain times we lived in through equally mystical means. 


When Darkness Shrouded Earth by Sanam Sayehafkan Sanam Sayeh Afkan - Silently Filling the Splits in His Body with Something Else














Images: left, Silently Filling the Splits in His Body with Something Else – Sanam Sayeh Afkan; right, When Darkness Shrouded Earth, They Were Flying to An Unknown Place – Sanam Sayeh Afkan


Paintings produced in 2020 have a distinct biological/anatomic look to them. This could be a portrait of a cyborg, or humanoids with unnatural features, or a strange form predicting an evolutionary future where the human has amalgamated with other forms of being on earth and beyond. With influences of the pandemic still fresh in artists’ minds, it seems that many are keen to create an alternate universe or world different from the one we are currently living in. 


2021 saw an increasing popularity in contemporary African art. Pieces depicting the rich and diverse traditions and beauty the country has to offer remain on par in popularity with those addressing and bringing attention to socio-economic challenges the region faces as they flow rapidly into the global art market. 



So, what does this mean for 2022? What are the popular trends in contemporary art, especially painting, this year? 

The popularity of digital and biological paintings seems to be dwindling amongst all facets of contemporary painting. While the popularity of African art is still growing alongside these two trends. But what specific styles are trending right now? Let’s review the top styles in contemporary painting below. 


Popular Artists in Contemporary Painting Now 


Contemporary Painting by Khari Turner

Khari Turner 

Khari Turner is an African-American painter. The subjects of his work are multiple and diverse. Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, Turner recognises water as his greatest influence when painting. Which is why when Turner decided to become a full-time artist in 2021, he titled his next solo exhibition Breathing Water into Air


Contemporary Painting by Khari TUrner 2

Paintings displayed at this exhibition are created with water gathered from Turner’s travels all over the world. From Senegal, to Manhattan, to the Milwaukee River. The artist mixes coloured inks with salt- and fresh-water to create colourful and striking pieces. 


Turner’s figures are often painted without eyes. Particular to works in this exhibition, the artist wishes to direct visitors’ attention to the element of water. To its properties and how it connects: “The water makes you connect to the figure’s body, as well as yours. It’s a body of water connected to a body of water through abstraction.” 

Contemporary Painting by Khari Turner

After winning a five-figure auction bid for his painting, ‘Breathing is my occupation’ at Christie’s in 2021, Turner was on his way to a successful career. In April this year, Turner was able to stake his claim on the international art market by participating in the Venice Biennale Personal Structures exhibition at the Palazzo Bembo. 



Images: top, Untitled – Khari Turner; top-right, Swim Lesson – Khari Turner; left, Thank you for being my lighthouse – Khari Turner 




Contemporary Painting by Genevieve Leavold

Image: Daydream – Genevieve Leavold 

Genevieve Leavold

Contemporary Painting by Genevieve Leavold

Genevieve Leavold is a British artist. Her work is dynamic in the shapes and colours that fill the canvas. The artist’s fluid abstract approach creates unique brush strokes that appear as singular abstract forms. Looking to nature for inspiration, these continuous brush strokes often resemble flora and fauna and various types of sea creatures. 


Contemporary Painting by Genevieve Leavold



Images: left, Danse – Genevieve Leavold; right, Light Divided Like Pearls – Genevieve Leavold 


Looking to art as a refugee from a young age, Leavold has a close connection with her artistic practice. Her paintings depict colourful and fantastical shapes that appear other-worldly. Often creating a scene that consists of hidden spaces of nature beyond our known world. 

The artist’s renown in the art world has earned her a place at The Other Art Fair. Many of Leavold’s artworks are also in collections of major art institutions around the world. 




Contemporary Painting by Tafy LaPlanche

Image: Shoop Shoop Shoop – Tafy LaPlanche 

Tafy LaPlanche 

Tafy LaPlanche is an Afro Latina artist of Haitian descent. Primarily a portrait painter, LaPlanche explores personal narratives in her work, often juxtaposing the history of western portraiture with those stories saturating her canvas. 

Particularly the painting series, Las Frutas. A collection of portrait paintings, Las Frutas stands apart from traditional portraiture in two ways. The background complementing the figures, and the stories these figures tell. Each figure is painted against a background of fruits (hence, Las Frutas) representing the subject’s culture and their vibrancy. “[S]howcasing those who get judged solely based on their skin and who they are as a person despite that”, Las Frutas is a powerful collection questioning and exploring the importance of appearance, identity, and origins in contemporary society. 


Contemporary Painting by Tafy LaPlanche Contemporary Painting by Tafy LaPlanche









Image: left, – Mi Gente Dulce – Tafy LaPlanche; right, Amante de la Fruta del Dragon – Tafy LaPlanche 


LaPlanche has participated in many exhibitions and art fairs. Her works have been featured in collections of major international institutions like Saatchi. Apart from these high-profile involvements in the art world, LaPlanche has established her own gallery and studio space, Lepouf Art, where the artist accepts visits and commissions from the public. 



Contemporary Painting by Kerman

Image: Mottled – Neil Kerman 

Neil Kerman 

Neil Karman’s works are bright and vibrant. Believing that colours have the power to influence us emotionally, physically, and mentally, the artist aims to harness this influence in his work. Karman sees colour in everyday life as possessing “potent powers to heal”. He intends for each of his works to have a similar effect on the viewer wherever it is placed. To the Brooklyn-born artist, colour is a visual language. Kerman’s abstract paintings employ this language to create works of art that speak to their viewers personally. 


Contemporary Painting by Neil Kerman Contemporary Painting by Neil Kerman











Image: left, Transitions – Neil Kerman; right, Individualism, Neil Kerman 


Apart from his dealings in the artworld, Kerman has been using art as a form of therapy for those in his community. Particularly at his solo exhibition at the United Nations, New York, Alzheimer’s: GLobal Initiative. The artist created unique paintings that spoke to those suffering from the disease on a deeply personal and emotional level. 



Contemporary Painting by Kehinde Wiley

Image: Portrait of Mahogany Jones and Marcus – Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley

Wiley is an African-American contemporary portrait artist. Wiley engages with and disrupts traditional western portraiture in his paintings. These paintings tell a story with the figures depicted on the canvas. Wiley’s figurative work intertwines historical sources and contemporary lives, bringing to the fore of his paintings complicated socio-political issues that often remain hidden in contemporary discourse. 

Wiley merges aesthetics and techniques of traditional western portraiture with the lived experiences of contemporary black people living across the world. Particularly, Wiley looks for inspiration in the mundane and the everyday. Travelling across the world, the artist asks strangers he meets on the streets to model for him in poses found in traditional western portraiture. Placing contemporary figures within a historical background creates a juxtaposition that is striking and provocative. 




Trends in contemporary painting are always shifting. And it seems as the world emerges from the pandemic, the art world and its patrons are looking for something to light up their spaces. 

The use of colour seems to be the overarching theme across the artists we have mentioned. But of course, these artists are by no means the only popular contemporary painters out there. 

There are many talented contemporary artists around the world today. And some of these artists are featured in our collection! Take a look at our shop to see this month’s featured artworks and artists. 



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