Top 5 London Artists Whose Work Is Inspired By Sadness

It seems to be a constant in the arts: sad artists produce good work. With London being the polluted, busy and unnerving city we all love, does that mean artists here become better? We explore London’s art scene to find out.


It happened in Dalston. Sheltered by the smoky atmosphere of the Moustache bar, Valentina and Mathilda, the duo behind Mad Monday Music, sang the very sad lyrics of their original ‘Blackpool’, which Mathilda had written after a particularly nasty breakup.


Historically, this is not new. Melancholy is inspiring. Films and novels have provided countless examples of artists that only hit peak creativity after some really angsty shenanigans ensue. ‘The Pianist’ and ‘Moulin Rouge!’ are good examples of this.


Perhaps this does not mean Dalston is about to be renamed as the new Montmartre, but what with the threat of global warming, the political uncertainty and Tinder making everyone’s dating life a bit harder, well, it is only natural these 5 London-based artists are looking for an outlet.


Sarah Howe, ‘Consider Falling’, 2018

1. Sarah Howe

As if you’d just kicked a football into a mirror in a fit of anger, Sarah Howe’s ‘Consider Falling’ is a chaotic composition of broken pieces that cannot be put back together. By flashing images over scattered objects, Howe alludes to a loss of reality, a feeling she knows from her extensive research on depersonalisation disorders (DPD) and her own experience with anxiety.

Find Sarah Howe in ‘ON EDGE: Living in an Age of Anxiety’ at Science Gallery London, 19th Sep - 19th Jan. Free.


Hannah Diamond ‘Reflections’ Album Cover, 2019

2. Hannah Diamond

When London-based singer Hannah Diamond was 23, she released three tracks through PC Music. After a sudden outburst of unwanted attention, she fell off everyone’s radar. Almost six years later, she returns to the music scene with her album ‘Reflections’, inspired by… you guessed it: a pretty terrible romantic affair.

‘Reflections’ will be available on Spotify from November 22nd


Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, ‘Dance of Many Hands’, 2017

3. Kudzanai-Violet Hwami

Zimbabwean-born Kudzanai-Violet Hwami moved to London when she was 17. In her paintings, her childhood memories and her yearning for her hometown are constantly battling against the political realities of her country. The way she conveys strength as well as tenderness through self-portraiture make us think of another artist, also caught in between two worlds: Frida Kahlo.

Find Kudzanai-Violet Hwami in Gasworks Gallery. 19 Sep - 15 Dec. Free.


Stephen Anthony Davids ‘Jesus Was Not A Caucasian’, 2019

4. Stephen Anthony Davids (S.A.D)

This visual artist has a lot of talent and a lot to say. Through graphic paintings, Stephen Anthony Davids speaks up about slavery, the Windrush scandal, and growing up as a black man in East London. He is upset and his work is an invitation to see the world through his eyes. After seeing it, you will be upset too.

Find S.A.D. in 508 Gallery, Chelsea. Tues - Sat 6am - 10pm


Polly Mackey on Instagram

5. Art School Girlfriend

After breaking up with her girlfriend - who, in case you wondered, did attend art school - Polly Mackey moved from North Wales to London in search of answers. Five years later, Art School Girlfriend is preparing her new album. In June, she released her single ‘Diving’, featuring tearjerker lyrics such as: When did I get delirious?/ Dark diving when you're not there. Get the tissues ready.

Art School Girlfriend will be at Rich Mix London 26th Nov 2019