Multi-Sensory Dialogues: Q&A with Russell Hill, Catlin Art Prize Winner 2011.

Established in 2007, the Catlin Art Prize recognises and supports the development of recent art graduates in the UK. Following their final degree shows, artists are selected for their potential to make a significant mark in the art world during the next decade and invited to demonstrate their progress by presenting a new body of work at the Catlin Art Prize exhibition, held twelve months on from graduation.

This year, Russell Hill, a 2010 sculpture graduate of Wimbledon College of Art was selected as the winner of the fifth annual Catlin Art Prize, and with degree shows in full swing we caught up with Russell to find out how he got so lucky.

First of all, could you tell us a little bit about your work?
I often respond to selected contemporary objects in a playful and carefully constructed methodical manner. I regularly attempt to control, order and exploit systematic approaches to consumer culture and regularly tamper with objects displaying images of the ‘natural’ and the work is expressed through serial sculpture. Domestic objects and consumer products are stripped of their imagery to support the idea of mass production, while references to popular culture weave through contemporary visual strategies to intrigue the viewer. I have an apparent penchant for contemporary versions of natural interventions whilst I am continuously preoccupied with the idea of ‘automation’ and its relationship to contemporary culture. The objects become transformed from the familiar banal into an elegant art piece.

What experiences shape your work the most?
When I left college I remember expressing to one of my peers that I felt I just wanted to ‘live’. By this I mean I wanted to experience life away from the institution of an art school. Ultimately it’s day to day living that fuels the work I make. I try to explore my own position within contemporary living, but more specifically my place within consumer culture. The apparent ease of this makes it an incredibly rich resource.

The multi-sensory nature of your work, especially in Airwicks stands out to me. What sort of experience are you trying to create for the viewer here?
The work was a two-way dialogue between the object and viewer. The multi –sensory nature of the work meant that the viewer was able to activate the work in terms of its interaction within the space. The visually stimulating aesthetic meant an often over-looked consumer object was now in an arena where its ergonomics are revealed along with its basic functionality. The work adopted a new fetish–like surface, with its high shine finish. Each object lined up like a military force assaulting the air around them, the work shifted from an affectionate consumer product to a calculated system where it paid homage to 1960s minimalism.

As a new graduate, how has the transition from art school to being an artist been for you so far?
The first few months were hard. Situating yourself within a new studio environment is a difficult thing to do when you have only just began to work in a way which you are happy with. I was lucky enough to have been given a great opportunity to be in a show called Anticipation curated by Kay Saatchi and Catriona Warren shortly after graduating. From that show things moved very quickly and Justin Hammond shortlisted me for The Catlin Art Prize which I ended up wining. This show gave me to motivation and ambition to make new work, something which was invaluable to me at that time.

What’s next for you?
Next up, I have the Bow Arts open studios, and the work featured in the Catlin Art Prize will be on show in Connection Point London, an exhibition of Bow Arts artists until late July. I have a studio visit pencilled in with Simon Oldfield Gallery so I will see how that goes.

What would be your advice to new graduates?
Go slow. I think it’s easy to put pressure on yourself too early on and that can hinder the creative process.

You can see Russell Hill’s work in Connection Point London at Bow Arts from 25 June – 17 July.

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel’s new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman’s retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel’s Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!