We are very pleased to announce that we have just printed the highly collectible The Catlin Guide for 2012: the premiere place to discover the best new graduate artists from across the UK. We decided to quiz curator Justin Hammond on the history of The Catlin Guide. Read on to find out more!
Due to the financial implications of most art fairs, galleries tend to pack out their stands with large and expensive statement pieces. So I’m going to do the opposite and curate a show of small scale drawings, photography and works on paper. I’ve asked artists like Gabriella Boyd & Tom Howse to make very small paintings. I’m showing eleven artists from the Guide - a real mixture - and for most of them it’s the first time they’ve shown in that kind of environment. We’ll also be giving away copies of The Catlin Guide, of course.
You’ve picked 40 graduates for inclusion in the guide: what criteria determines who you pick, and what are you looking for?
Potential is the key criteria. I’m looking for artists with the ability and desire to progress and really make their mark in the art world over a prolonged period. Ultimately, I choose the final 40 artists but a big part of the initial long-list is made up of recommendations from course tutors, curators, collectors, gallerists, artists, critics and bloggers.
Twofold Interleaf by Rowena Hughes.
What is your background?
I studied Art History in Manchester in the early 90’s, but didn’t open my first space in Hackney until 2005. Along with my brother, I ran MLIA in Broadway Market for a couple of years showing new grads and generally making it up as we went along. That was when I decided to start the prize and Catlin came on board as the sponsors almost immediately. The first year was held at the now defunct Ada Street Gallery with a first prize of £1000.
Portrait of the artist on vacation and the door opening for a Byronic Hero by Hannah Harkes.
How do you support the up and coming artists that you choose, so that their career gets off to the best start it can?
The Catlin Guide functions as an index; a bang-up-to-date ‘who’s who’ of the new wave in contemporary art, and that’s a great platform. If the Guide can help to facilitate exhibition opportunities or encourage interest from galleries and collectors, then I see it as a success. Last year, the winner of the Catlin Art Prize was awarded £5,000, while Catlin bought work by participating artists and commissioned two new pieces for their collection, so there’s financial support too.
Catlin Art Prize 2008 at LSO St. Luke’s
How is The Catlin Guide related to the Catlin Art Prize, and how do they work alongside each other?
In a way, they’re quite separate. The Catlin Art Prize came first and The Catlin Guide was initially a supplement to that and a way of documenting the shortlisting process. Now, I think The Catlin Guide has taken on its own identity and individual worth. All artists for the Prize are selected from the book, but there’s a gap of four months between publication and exhibition, so The Guide has its own lifespan.
Victoria Matkin's 'Ladies in Waiting' - Catlin Art Prize 2010 at Village Underground
What are your particular hot tips from the current batch of featured artists in the guide?
All 40 artists are in with a shout, but some are already streets ahead in terms of attention and publicity. The press will always focus on new grads from the Royal College of Art or other major schools, so I’m going to pick out Mandy Barker from De Montfort University and Hannah Harkes from Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. I like the way that both artists are forging their own paths. Neither is primarily concerned with producing commercial work, but what they make is very desirable. Hannah is on a residency in Tallinn and has just sent me through a fantastic new piece called Desert Picnic Imposter. I’ll be showing it at the launch.
What has happened with previous artists that were featured? Have they gone onto great things, if so what?
The Catlin Guide is only three years old, but lots of artists have gone on to feature in high-profile exhibitions in the UK and abroad. Leah Capaldi and Joshua Bilton from the 2011 Guide have just finished showing as part of Bloomberg New Contemporaries and Noemie Goudal has been selected for Out of Focus: Photography, at the Saatchi Gallery in May. But I’m taking a long-term view; it’s all about what happens over the next decade or more.
Untitled by Ali Kazim.
How is the guide itself produced and how do you ensure that it is a desirable object destined for collectibility?
The slipcase makes The Catlin Guide very expensive to produce but we’re not looking to make a profit or even recoup the production costs. We print a limited number so that all adds to its collectibility. The first edition has sold out and there are just a few of the 2011 edition remaining. OK, here’s the technical stuff: For the slipcase we’ve used Lockwood Green 135gsm from the GF Smith Colorplan range. The Guide itself is printed onto 170gsm Munken Polar. All the paper products are FSC certified. There are 128 pages.
Mossy Lichens by Tom Howse.
Why did you decide to print your guide with Principal Colour? Was it important to use a printer based in the UK and if so why?
Catlin came across Principal Colour and we were impressed with their green credentials. Printing abroad was not an option due to the tight deadlines. It’s imperative that the information in the Guide is as relevant as possible, so we sign off in the week leading up to Christmas and publish in mid January. Principal Colour were prepared to go in and work on The Catlin Guide over the Christmas break.
Tom Howse at work.
Who designs the guide and what kind of art direction are they given?
The original design and identity were conceived by the guys at Yes Studio. I liked a lot of the previous stuff they’d done and I was after a very minimal design; I wanted the Guide to be an art object in its own right. Yes Studio were working with Peter Saville at the time so it was a perfect match.
Moje Sabz by Soheila Sokhanvari.
What do you do when are you not curating The Catlin Guide? Any other exciting projects in the pipeline?
I’m actually trying to work less… and failing. I’ve been doing lots of writing and I also published a book of Alex Ball's paintings. The last couple of years have been non-stop but it's hard to turn down an interesting project. At the moment, I'm enjoying not having the burden of a permanent gallery, but that could change. I've curated a few pop-up shows and I'm always on the look out for original and exciting spaces.
Pools from the Plane by Sophie Percival.
Any last tips for aspiring artists who want to be featured in The Catlin Guide? What should they do if they are still working towards their graduation?
Presenting a strong degree show is vital. It’s a shop window. My personal bugbear is film or installation artists not bothering to turn up and switch on their equipment. A waste of everyone’s time.