The emerging artists following in the footsteps of an American legend

Interested in investing in art but not quite ready to splash out on an old master? Sarah Ryan of New Blood Art looks at two emerging artists inspired by photographer Ansel Adams.

Interested in investing in art but not quite ready to splash out on an old master? Sarah Ryan of New Blood Art looks at two rising artists inspired by photographer Ansel Adams“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.” – Ansel Adams (1902-1984).

Ansel Adams, American photographer and environmentalist, is one of the best-known photographers in the history of art. His black and white, large-format landscape photographs are full of luminosity and space.

His respect for the land permeates his work – he aimed to see beneath the surface and to record its essential qualities, most often taking inspiration from the Yosemite Valley where he lived and breathed and worked. His position in the history of art is undeniable. Indeed, he is credited for his contribution to the recognition of photography as an art form.

Countless reproductions of his images are available on cards and calendars. But nothing compares to seeing his work in person, and his photographs have sold at auction for more than $700,000 in some cases.

However, under the right circumstances, it is possible to buy a high-quality piece for significantly less. At auction at Christie’s in April this year, for example, his photographs sold at a range of prices, from $10,000 to $545,000 each.

So auctions can offer good opportunities for buyers, although with many now operating online, the element of luck has been reduced. To increase your chances of landing a good investment, do your research and look at the information available ahead of time, such as sale prices achieved previously, and a list of the works currently available at public auction – this data can be found on a number of art-price information websites. Remember too that physical galleries will often accept an offer on the list price.

David Wightman

But what if you’re looking for less-established, more affordable artists who might have the staying power to follow in Adams’ footsteps? Today there are two young emerging artists, on either side of the Atlantic, whose work might qualify.

David Wightman is an English painter known for his abstract and landscape paintings, which he makes using collaged wallpaper.

Wightman has been profoundly inspired by Adams’ work: “I first saw Ansel Adams’ work in a dusty monograph at Stockport College library when I was 16 years old. I think I was amazed at how timeless his photographs seemed. A few years later I started experimenting with landscape ideas in my painting. Adams was a huge influence in my pursuit of landscape as a serious artistic endeavour. It was only with Teton (below), however, that I decided to acknowledge his work so directly.”

Teton (2012), by David Wightman

The painting pays homage to Adams’ The Tetons and the Snake River photograph (pictured below).

The Tetons and the Snake River (1942), by Ansel Adams

Their use of media and technique are evidently different. However, the characteristic clarity and precision of Adams’ approach to photography is apparent too in Wightman’s paintings.

His technique is unique – Wightman painstakingly constructs the picture plane from painted vintage wallpaper. While both pieces have a contrasting aesthetic and style, they share an intricate and time-consuming process that is not immediately apparent.

Wightman graduated a decade ago from his MA at the Royal College of Art (RCA). At just 23 years of age, he was the youngest graduate at the time. During his time at the RCA, he won the Young Artist of the Year prize and since graduation has become much sought after.

Until recently Wightman was represented by Halcyon Gallery, but due to increased private sales, his recent collaboration with the international fashion house Akris, and many public commissions, he decided to represent himself.

With solo shows planned with Albemarle Gallery for 2015, along with many other group and public exhibitions, Wightman’s work is set to increase in value steadily over the coming years.

For instance, Teton is now worth five times the amount it could have been bought for five years ago. Fortunately, Wightman’s work is still accessible for budding investors: a small piece (50 x 75 cms) can be picked up from us at New Blood Art for around £2,000, with larger pieces ranging from £3,000 to £15,000.

Mona Kuhn

Over in LA, we find contemporary photographer Mona Kuhn. Taking abstraction a step further, Kuhn creates intimate, dream-like photographs. Inspired by nature and light, Kuhn has a feminine approach, creating softer, mercurial meditations on the relationship between the figure and its environment. 

In her most recent work (pictured below), for example, we find the female nude and the landscape abstracted into one.

AD6046 (2013/2014), by Mona Kuhn

Like Wightman’s approach to reconstructing the landscape through meticulous collaging, Kuhn’s clever use of mirrored reflections, transparency, and desert light, similarly fragments and unifies her resulting image.

Her piece AD6046 was taken outside Joshua Tree Park. “It is from an abstracted series, where I blended landscape, figure and architectural lines into one plane of reflective surface. I photographed inside a glass house in the middle of the desert, where the light and reflections would mirror all over its surfaces.”

Kuhn’s work has been exhibited and included in several public and private collections, including the Sir Elton John Collection (see for an extensive exhibition history).

In the UK she is represented by Flowers Gallery, where her work can be purchased, and she is currently exhibiting at Edwynn Houk Gallery in NY. She has a strong and growing reputation, with prices expected steadily to rise from their already substantial price point. For around $10,000-$15,000 you can acquire one of her photographs.

However, for around the same price, if you do your research and look hard enough, you may be lucky enough to pick up a lesser-known photograph by Ansel Adams. Happy hunting!