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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Catlin Guide 2013 Preview: An Interview with Steven Allan

The Catlin Guide 2013 is being launched at the 25th annual London Art Fair - meet one of this year's stars, Steven Allan.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Steven Allan Catlin Guide - We're All In This Together 2012
Steven Allan – We’re All In This Together.

The Catlin Guide returns once more with a selection of 40 recent graduates to watch: an intriguing selection that includes a bevy of painters. I caught up with New Sensations shortlisted RCA graduate Steven Allan, a Scottish painter who specialises in anthropomorphic depictions of everyday objects.

Steven Allan Catlin Guide -There's Always Time for Tea
Steven Allan – There’s Always Time for Tea.

Has being Scottish and your subsequent move to london informed your work? and if so in what way?
I wouldn’t say that being Scottish has had an overriding influence on my paintings, but my roots have certainly influenced the black humor that is evident in most of my work.

Why do you think you focus on a confusing and tragic landscape? Any particularly sad stories in your past that have made you this way?!
I don’t think my paintings are necessarily just tragic or confusing – but they can often be interpreted that way. I think there are many less obvious things at play as well. Like Hogarth, I am interested in the tragicomedy aspect of humanity. I want to depict real life situations but obscure and twist them around to both bend and underline their meanings.

Steven Allan Catlin Guide One-Off-The-Bunch
Steven Allan – One Off The Bunch.

Objects such as bananas and snails are a feature of your art – what draws you to these most curious and disparate of subjects?
I don’t tend to dwell on why I paint this, or why I paint that but If pushed for an answer I guess I Identify in some way with these kind of ridiculous objects. I look at a banana in the fruit bowl, browning, overripe. It’s such a sad image to me – the last banana that no one has gotten round to eating – destined for the bin. It can say a lot about where your heads at to be painting a version of yourself into such an object. The snail I don’t paint so much anymore. Most images are a passing phase. They completely captivate me at the time but at some point I’ll move onto the next image that captures my imagination. With the snail paintings I was just interested by this slimy little creature that carried its house on its back. How I choose an object is pretty much that simple –its really just about my desire to visualize that subject in my paintings.

Steven Allan Catlin Guide- Stains Of A Decade
Steven Allan – Stains Of A Decade.

Subversion is a key element of your artworks – any future subversive ideas that you would like to work on?
Currently I am working on a hybrid painting, which involves two very disparate images that visually seem to fit together. I came across this really odd photograph of a gimp in a pvc balloon suit and then thought about coupling it with something else I’ve been looking at a lot lately – Bertie Basset of the famous liquorish allsorts. As a child I always though there was something quite scary about Bertie Basset. He’s supposed to be approachable and sweet but he’s his strange anthropomorphic figure with a liquorish black hole for a face. Taking Bertie’s head and putting it on an inflatable gimp suit just seemed to be more in spirit with what he was all about in the first place so I decided to make a painting about it.

Steven Allan Catlin Guide - The Faithful Companion
Steven Allan – The Faithful Companion.

What is your work process? (using materials and in the studio)
Well for me it’s a really intuitive, complex process and it can take a long time. I use alot of unconventional tools I find in diy shops and of course an array of paint brushes and palette knives. I’m always on the look out for different objects that I can manipulate paint with. I also use allot of paint mediums, depending on what effect I’m after. Some give the paint a matt finish, some a gloss, some thicken paint and other speed up drying time. It all really depends on each individual painting.

How has being part of the Catlin Guide aided your career and what do you hope for in the future?
Being part of the Catlin Guide so far has been a great experience. I was surprised to see an image of my painting in the Guardian and also get a quick review. I am also going to be putting work in the London Art Fair which will be featured in the Catlin Guide’s stand so I’m looking forward to that. All in all it’s been a great experience so far and I am extremely thankful to Justin Hammond who had the belief in my work to give me this great opportunity to get my work out to a wider audience.

He that’s born to be hanged will never be drowned.

Geoff Litherland catlin guide
Geoff Litherland – I Knew it Would Come to This (The Old Horizon).

Also check out the work of Geoff Litherland, who creates abstract landscape collages that tap into our current obsession with other worlds. To find out more about the selection process read my interview with Art Catlin founder and curator Justin Hammond.

The Catlin Guide 2013 NEW Press Shot
The Catlin Guide 2013: New Artists in the UK is launched at the London Art Fair 2013, 16 – 20 January, listing here. It will also be available from Amazon, Culture Label and selected book sellers (£12.99).

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