It’s no secret that our little island has always been a breeding ground for raw artistic visionaries, and the XL Catlin Art Guide is known in particular for having its finger on the pulse of this burgeoning talent.
Each year sees the book’s author, Justin Hammond, select some of the most exciting new artists from all over the UK to be featured in the guide. Later this month the accompanying exhibition will take place at the London Art Fair, which is “a chance for a small selection of those artists to really show off,” Hammond explains.
Only the most authentic and original talent will suffice. Hammond goes through an exhaustive process to narrow down the final list, which includes going to degree shows across the country, followed by a succession of studio visits and interviews before making his final selection. “I’ve focused on fewer artists this year, but opened it up to PhD artists,” Hammond says. “I was desperate to include Sam Belinfante, a multidisciplinary artist from the University of Leeds, and Neal Rock from the RCA.”
Other new finds include Christopher Gray’s lo-fi videos of bloodthirsty puppet shows, and Alex Rathbone’s forthcoming exhibition at The Sunday Painter. One of the most exciting graduates featured is Riika Hyvönen, whose Roller Derby Kisses painting series explores the beauty of the humble bruise.
“Roller derby, my great source of inspiration, is a sport in which aggressive tackles and tacky elegance exist together in harmony,” Hyvönen explains. “When a derby player gets hit in the game, she wants to show her bruised bum for her team members on the side of the track. The bruise is called a derby kiss. It’s simultaneously a love bite and a badge of honour.”
While others might find the bruises painful-looking and grotesque, Hyvönen likes to see beauty in unexpected places. “They are absolutely mesmerizing,” she says. “They tell stories. Their colours alter from light green to all imaginable shades of purple. Their psychedelic figures are capable of taking forms as mystical as the clouds.” To suffer such an injury is also a display of great mental strength, she adds. “They show that the player’s bodies can take the hits, yet overcome the pain and still continue playing.”
This year will see the seventh edition of the XL Catlin Guide, a feat that Hammond puts down to the fact that “there’s no hidden agenda. It’s infused with an independent spirit, so it’s become a trusted platform for early-career artists.”
London Art Fair runs from 20-24 January, find out more information at London Art Fair