This is Marc Quinn’s most famous piece of work, Self, made using 4.5 litres of his own blood, which was slowly extracted from his body over a period of five months and frozen in a cast of his face. Quinn has been making these roughly every five years since 1991, and each one must be maintained carefully in fridges. The fragility of the media means exhibiting is difficult - the head has to be placed into a glass case which is chilled from underneath. It reminds the audience of the fragility of existence and the precise conditions necessary for the flourishing of life.

Click through on the image for a link to Quinn’s website.

I find there something quite amusing about Yoan Capote’s work. This sculpture, Nostalgia, for instance, reads as rather cheeky. Capote is reminding us all of the lightness of innocence, and the heaviness we feel, the older we grow. There’s also a more serious side, however, as this sculpture also references migration - the suitcase having been carried from Cuba to New York by Capote to make this piece of work. The brick wall also symbolises the inability to return to the place we have come from.

Click through on the image for a link to Capote’s website.

Yeong-Deok Seo creates these incredible figurative sculptures from industrial or bike chains, welded together tightly. The material seems familiar, but in a mass, it looks more like a writhing body of worms. I really love and admire the industrial chain link ones, but I think the bike chain is a more exciting material. I mean, to use chains as a metaphor for the human condition seems a little blah, but to use bicycle chains? That’s way more interesting when you consider 1bn people a day ride bicycles somewhere - it’s a cheap, common form of transport found all over the world. A bike chain is more than a way of illustrating our trapped souls, it’s also a way of expressing movement, maybe even the desire to escape.

Click through on the image for a link to a large collection of Seo’s work (Korean).

Thomas Grünfeld’s Misfits references the fairytales he grew up with in southern Germany - wolpertinger. The stories talk of impossible animals with human traits. Maybe that’s why Grünfeld’s taxidermy creations seem childlike and imaginative, but also a little dark. The most commonly described wolpertinger in Bavarian folklore features wings, antlers, tails and fangs attached to rabbits or squirrels, and I quite enjoy the slightly sinister mental image of a fanged rabbit hopping around those mysterious Bavarian woods. Grünfeld’s work seems to strike a childlike chord within his audience, who are captivated but also a little suspicious.

Click through  on the image for a link to a large collection of Grünfeld’s work on Designboom.

There’s something a little timeless about Min Jeong Seo’s work - like a moment that is just plucked from the air. She plays with classic imagery - for example, high heels or the Statue of Liberty - and gives them a modern, updated twist. In this example, To Live On, the stems of the roses are actually dead, but the blooms continue to thrive. There’s a commentary in there about life and death, and the advances of medical science.

Click through on the image for a link to the artist’s website.

Polly Morgan’s work is exquisitely created, with attention placed on the smallest details, allowing her macabre constructions to come to life. While Morgan has been hailed as “leader of the next generation of YBAs,” I think it simplifies her work into a hot commodity and herself into a celebrity, as opposed to an artist. What I do love about her work is its quiet haunting feel, the uneasiness in the simple pairings of animal and object. Interestingly, she does not see death as the central focus of her work, rather the sheer beauty of the empty body is of interest to her. And, rest assured, all animals she works with have been either roadkill or died of unavoidable causes.

Click through on the image for a link to Morgan’s website.

Donald Judd, 1928-1994, was an American minimalist sculpture, although he didn’t like the term “minimalist,” preferring to refer to his work as “the simple expression of complex thought.” Judd sought autonomy and clarity for the constructed object and the space created by it. He used humble construction materials, such as metal, plywood, concrete and plexiglass - by using these materials, he was rejecting the tradition of artistic expression and craftsmanship. By encouraging concentration on the volume and presence of the structure and the space around it, Judd’s work draws attention to the relationship between object, viewer and environment.

Click through on the image for a link to the Tate Modern’s Donald Judd page.

Jaime Pitarch takes ordinary objects and transforms them into something totally different. There’s something about his work which takes something normal and transforms it into something much more difficult to understand. There’s a playful element to his work, but also sometimes something a little darker - take the above example, named Chernobyl. His work can be small interventions, perhaps not something we’d necessarily notice straight away, but the element of the surreal, once it catches you, refuses to let you ignore it.

Click through on the image for a link to his website.

Yinka Shonibare is concerned with the aftermath of colonialism and its effects upon culture. Here we see two women, their clothes cut to resemble the clothes of high society Victorian women, but the textile used is more commonly associated with African dresses. Historically, these fabrics were actually inspired by Indonesian batik design, imported to Europe and mass produced by the Dutch and sold in West Africa. Shonibare contemplates contemporary African identity, in the age of post-colonialism, and the huge ethnic diversity of his home city of London.

Click through on the image for a link to Shonibare’s website.

Monika Sosnowska (sometimes spelled Monica) creates site-specific installations which study the failures of architecture, creating non-functional spaces which frequently reference the stern architecture of Eastern Europe. Many of her installations show crumpling, disheveled forms which direct the viewer towards thoughts of the influx of capitalism into Sosnowska’s native Poland, and the clash of culture and economics which has affected most of Eastern Europe has it has transitioned into capitalism over the last twenty years. 

Click through on the image for a link to Sosnowska’s page on the Hauser & Wirth gallery page.

In 1999, Santiago Sierra hired six unemployed Cuban men for $30 each to participate in an installation he devised. Standing in a line, a tattoo artist proceeded to permanently mark each man, until a 250cm line was created across their backs. I both like and hate this piece of work. I like it because it eloquently demonstrates the inequalities of the world - six men were paid a pitiful fee to stand for the entertainment of the spectators, who undoubtedly came from more fortunate economic backgrounds. I hate it because Sierra also plays into that system that he demonises - the art world. He reduces people into objects to be gawped at - the whole point of his work. It’s rather one dimensional, and after a while, begins to hammer the point home rather than make it with subtlety and grace.

Click through on the image for a link to Sierra’s website.

Tomas Saraceno’s vast spiderwebs take a long time to create. He has recently worked with architects, astrophysicists, engineers and spider experts to create these kinds of installations - like condensed constellations or the webs of demented spiders. His work often encourages the viewer to approach the work and contemplate the relationships between the work, the space and their own bodies.

Click through on the image for a link to his website.

Kohei Nawa’s PixCell series is visually stunning - the glass beads that adorn every surface of the taxidermy animals he uses distort the image, creating areas of increase magnification. From every angle, there is a new perspective and a new viewpoint. While the sculptures seem magical and dreamlike, they also resemble the surface of a computer screen, each bubble looking like an enlarged pixel. Nawa is fascinated by the interaction of the digital and the tangible, which he brings together neatly in this series.

Click through on the image for a link to his website.

I had the privilege of studying under the supervision of this artist, Martin Newth, for two years. Sadly, he’s leaving us for an undoubtedly better paid job, but I think I learned a lot from him already anyway. Martin’s focus is on the ephemeral which cannot be easily captured in conventional ways. He invokes layers of space, the passage of time, the seeing of impossible things. His photographs are surreal, dream-like and question exactly what is the nature of photography.

Click through on the image for a link to his website.

Mario Merz was an influential figure of the arte povera movement, like Jannis Kounellis, who I also wrote about quite recently. Merz’s igloos are perhaps his most iconic pieces, referencing some kind of pre-industrial society that has been lost. The artist was fascinated by the Fibonacci sequence and its occurrence within nature, something which appears frequently throughout his work.

Click through on the image for a link to Merz’s page on the Tate Online website.

Charles Avery has created an entire world from his imagination and has spent the last seven years working on documenting as much of The Island as possible. He’s worked in several disciplines over this time, including drawing, sculpture and taxidermy. Avery is mostly self-taught, and his work is a refreshing change from the usual conceptual nonsense I usual post about. This is a man who has created something creative, original (which I consider highly important in this day and age of the appropriation of image and idea) and beautiful. There is a wonderful accessibility to Avery’s work. You don’t have to be able to decipher the endless semiotics or read Freud, you just have to use your imagination.

Click through on the image for a link to Avery’s page on the Doggerfisher website.

There’s an uncomfortable, in-your-face sexuality in E.V. Day’s Tongues and Clams series. While perhaps not a subtle metaphor, it does indeed make a profound visual impact on the viewer. There’s something oddly repulsive about it, perhaps the liquid-like resin surrounding the tongue and teeth. Day’s main concerns as an artist are exploring feminism and sexuality in the context of pop culture. I’m not sure what to take from her sculptures, apart from perhaps a profound respect for the skill and craftsmanship which Day puts into this series, perhaps one reason why they turn my stomach a little.

Click through on the image for a link to Day’s website.

There’s something I find magical but creepy about Julien Salaud’s work - he covers taxidermy animals with intricate geometric webs which glitter and catch the light, but also bring to mind the dust and dirt of something long forgotten. There’s something mythical about them, almost ageless, yet also something morbid - a reminder that we will all one day be dead and gone, covered in webs (but hopefully not stuffed and mounted).

Click through on the image for a link to his blog (French).

Levi van Veluw plays with the boundaries between sculpture and photography, using his own skin as a canvas. His self portraits are remarkable - each seems to be like a live performance, captured on camera. Repetition features heavily in the artist’s self portraits - each angle is the same, each expression mirrors the last. Eventually, his face becomes secondary to the medium he has decorated himself with - the model loses his value, a twist on standard portrait photography. Interestingly, van Veluw has only recently left education, graduating in 2007 from the Artez Institute of the Arts, Netherlands. It’s worth keeping an eye out for his work, and it will be interesting to see his career develop.

Click through on the image for a link to his website.