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Thankfully, it's the beginning of a new year. As we say goodbye to one of the most turbulent years in many of our lives, we want to help our readers – perhaps bored in lockdown and staring listlessly at a screen – to find new inspiration. In an age of social distancing, artists are increasingly turning to Instagram to showcase their work and connect with a community of art lovers. Many of them are using the platform to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of Brexit, or are directly communicating with their audience to raise funds for charities during this difficult time. From emerging to well-established artists, here are ten creatives represented in UK collections who we recommend you follow, support and engage with on the app.

Bedwyr Williams

The Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams is known for his sardonic and sometimes absurdist work that draws upon the curious inner workings of his mind and the banalities of everyday life. With an autobiographical approach at the heart of his practice, Williams' internal dialogue is brought to life and expressed through the mediums of sculpture and performance.

The Burn

The Burn 2012

Bedwyr Williams (b.1974)

Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

The Burn (2012) is one of the most intriguing examples of sculpture in the Arts Council Collection. Despite its highly delicate and decorative nature, what you see before you is a metal BBQ encrusted with shells.

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Williams' topical and wry Instagram page @bedwyr_williams has a darker edge that satirises the art world, lightly mocking the pervasive attitudes of self-congratulation on social media through brush pen drawings. Williams once remarked in an interview with curator Adam Carr: 'Instagram is popular with artists, so it seemed a perfect place to show the drawings. I think artists think they have their own unique take on the platform, but really it's the same humble bragging and bum shots that everyone else is doing.'

Stay tuned, as the artist's exhibition 'Instagram Drawings' (26th June to 26th August 2020) is set to open later this year.

Simon Frederick

The filmmaker and photographer Simon Frederick is known for his powerful portraits of influential Black British figures.

This portrait of Vogue's Editor-in-Chief, Edward Enninful, was taken in 2016 and belongs to the National Portrait Gallery collection. It forms part of a larger photographic series by Frederick that includes 38 sitters, all of whom embody Black brilliance in the UK.

Edward Enninful (b.1972)

Edward Enninful (b.1972) 2016

Simon Frederick (b.1965)

National Portrait Gallery, London

Between 2018 and 2019, Frederick exhibited his portraits in the exhibition 'Black is the New Black' at the National Portrait Gallery, which was also made into a BBC Two series in which figures such as Lenny Henry discuss their families' histories and what it means to be Black and British today.

Amongst many other impressive figures in British culture, Frederick's photographic series features the supermodel Naomi Campbell, journalist Gary Younge, artist Yinka Shonibare and author Malorie Blackman.

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You can follow the artist @simonfrederick, where he posts to showcase his films, photographs and Black Lives Matter activist work, including a recent tribute to Stephen Lawrence, the Black British teenager who was murdered by a group of white men at a bus stop in 1993.

Frances Borden

The English portraitist, Frances Borden, has won numerous prizes over the years for her highly detailed portraits that seem to be quintessentially twenty-first-century in their composition and palette. SP40, housed in The Ruth Borchard Collection, is a particularly good example of her work and depicts a female sitter against a pastel pink background.

In the artist's own words: 'I love painting because its truthfulness never fails or diminishes, is obvious and directly expressed right at the heart of the work.'


SP40 2013

Frances Borden (b.1970)

The Ruth Borchard Collection

During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, Borden used her Instagram account @frances_borden to launch a painting initiative for NHS key workers.

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David Kim Whittaker

A self-taught artist based in Cornwall, David Kim Whittaker's intriguing work merges landscape photography with abstraction and figurative painting. A trans artist, David's work explores the conscious and subconscious, the conflict between the masculine and feminine, while tackling the subject of gender dysphoria, a feeling of distress experienced by individuals whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth.

The Year List

The Year List (Bassaleg Viaduct, River Ebbw, Redstart) 2012

David Kim Whittaker (b.1964)

The Box, Plymouth

David's Instagram page @davidkimwhittaker showcases his paintings, poetry and installation shots from recent exhibitions. Recently, he has been using his digital platform to raise funds for charities by selling his limited edition works.

Seren Morgan Jones

Seren Morgan Jones' hyperreal yet imaginary portraits certainly fit the emerging aesthetic adopted by Millennial and Gen Z artists (her work is perhaps reminiscent of Chloe Wise). Seren was born in Aberystwyth, Wales and graduated from Central Saint Martin's College of Art in 2009. Since then she has been exhibiting regularly and developing her work that places Welsh women at the centre of her practice.


Creirwy 2020

Seren Morgan Jones (b.1985)

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

Speaking to Art UK about her work, she explains: 'With my portraits of made-up people, I'm trying to explore and celebrate Welsh women and femmes whilst playing around with different painting techniques.'

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She continues: 'Constructing these characters allows me to learn, unlearn and think about the prejudices that govern society, and to spend time in a place without some of them.'

An artist on the rise, BBC Cymru Wales created this short video about her practice last year.

To follow Seren on Instagram follow her @serenmorganjones where you can see more examples of her work.

David Blackmore

In the UCL Art Museum is this lurid green sculpture by former Slade student David Blackmore. An Irish multidisciplinary artist, over the years he has experimented with a variety of mediums, from photography, to video and sculpture.

Undated Fragments on Unofficial Paper

Undated Fragments on Unofficial Paper 2018

David Blackmore (b.1981)

UCL Culture

This sculpture is, in fact, a plaster cast of the Prison Letters of Countess Markievicz (1932), the Irish feminist and Sinn Féin revolutionary who became the first elected woman Member of Parliament in 1918 from her Holloway prison cell – she was detained for her part in the 1916 Easter Rising against the British in Ireland. In the end, she abstained from taking her seat (the Tory politician Nancy Astor became the first female MP). Speaking to Art UK, Blackmore explains that he was interested in her 'subversive militant behaviour', but also 'the contradictions of her Anglo-Irish background and her connection to the Slade.'

Blackmore's recent work has also investigated systems of power, surveillance and dominance, such as an eight-fold book titled Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act, 2008. The work examines the act which made it an offence to photograph a member of the police and security forces in the UK. In his own words, the artist says: 'I am interested in transgressive behaviour and see my practice as operating on a boundary area between order and dissent.'

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His Instagram engages with a range of sociopolitical issues, from the tensions over migration to the uncertainty of Brexit and the impact of COVID-19. Follow him @david._.blackmore.

Hannah Uzor

Last year, the artist Hannah Uzor made headlines with her portrait of the nineteenth-century figure Sarah Forbes Bonetta, the daughter of a Nigerian ruler who was orphaned and then sold into slavery. After being introduced to Queen Victoria, she became her goddaughter and lived in the UK. Commissioned by English Heritage, the painting forms part of a larger project to highlight neglected historical figures of African descent in British history.

Aina, Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies (1843–1880)

Aina, Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies (1843–1880) 2020

Hannah Uzor (b.1982)

English Heritage, Osborne House

Uzor's painting is housed at the Queen's former residence, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, and is based on the Camille Silvy photograph of Forbes Bonetta found in the National Portrait Gallery.

Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta, later Davies) (1843–1880)

Aina (Sarah Forbes Bonetta, later Davies) (1843–1880) 1862

Camille Silvy (1834–1910)

National Portrait Gallery, London

To discover more of Uzor's work and shots from her recent exhibitions, follow her Instagram @hannahuzor.

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Oli Epp

The London-born artist Oli Epp graduated from the City and Guilds School of Art in 2017. Since then, he has exhibited internationally. This work below titled Multitasking was acquired by The Ruth Borchard Collection, and demonstrates his preoccupation with the 'tragicomedy' of digital life in the twenty-first century.

As described on the collection website, this work 'explores the way in which our digital selves have the capacity to act as both an extension of the self and an obfuscation of it.'


Multitasking 2017

Oli Epp (b.1994)

The Ruth Borchard Collection

As you might expect, Epp embraces Instagram, using his page @oli.epp to showcase his recent exhibitions and 'post-digital' work, which the artist explains: 'People often take "post" to mean "after" but I see it in the same way as "Post-Internet": not "after" but acknowledging the context of working within a culture that has been fundamentally changed by screens and social media.'

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Iman Tajik

An artist based in Glasgow, Iman Tajik's work is rooted in the artist's preoccupation with sociopolitical tensions and power structures defining our globalised contemporary world, in particular, questions over freedom of movement, the migrant crisis and the widespread emergence of nationalism.

Since 2020, he has been working on This is Now Not for Me, a series comprised of performative photographs that respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, his project Calais consisting of photographs and video footage taken in the French refugee campsite (sometimes referred to as 'The Jungle'), documented the experience of migrants who wait (often indefinitely) for the opportunity to find refuge in the UK. For the artist, this project connected to his own personal journey as a refugee from Iran.

Can You Hear Me I

Can You Hear Me I 2015

Iman Tajik (b.1982)

The Fleming Collection

Can You Hear Me I (2015) in The Fleming Collection was taken during the artist's time in the campsite. His Instagram @iman_tajik offers a window to visualise the entirety of his varied, socially driven practice. Amongst many examples of his performance, video and installation work, the account features shots from his ongoing series Who Is? Project founded in 2017 in collaboration with Jonas Jessen Hansen to ignite discussion about growing divisions and 'fear of the stranger'.

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Yelena Popova

Yelena Popova's distinctive work can be found in many UK public collections, including Lise Meitner in the Government Art Collection.

Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner 2018

Yelena Popova (b.1978)

Government Art Collection

A Russian artist who lives and works in Nottingham, Popova works with painting but also produces video and installation works. Her work takes influence from the designs and aesthetic of Russian Constructivism, and she has explained in past interviews that her abstract style responds to our image-saturated culture of consumption.

Her Instagram @yelena_popova is a rich collection of the artist's latest paintings, projects and everyday activities.

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If you're hungry for more contemporary artists to follow on Instagram, you can also check out last year's story, 'Ten artists to follow on Instagram in 2020'.

Lydia Figes, Content Editor at Art UK