Introducing… our new Publisher Profile series!
Every few weeks we will be catching up with some of our most exciting publishers and chatting with them about their passion and inspiration for making lovely, fascinating art books. This will give you, friends, a unique and rare opportunity to find out what really makes them tick.
We are thrilled to launch this series with artist Dominic Allan (from Luton), founder of the fresh and ambitious, Sunridge Avenue Projects. Dominic talks to us about the nitty-gritty of making a book, Martin Creed’s urge to make stuff with his Mum’s furniture, and whether (or not) Luton needs its own biennial art festival.
Dominic, why a book? What was your impetus and inspiration?
“It came about through a conversation I had with curator and writer Andrew Hunt in 2014. Andrew is the Director of Slimvolume. I have a good relationship with the Arts Council and at the time was applying to them to support an ambitious project commissioning artists to consider Luton directly as a source of content. Since leaving Chelsea in 1999 I’ve worked on so many collaborative projects in addition to my studio-based practice and Andrew pointed out that it was worth going through my archive in fine detail. He suggested I present both sets of practices and the new project in Luton in a publication. The idea was that the publication would be a piece of work in itself. My biggest motivation was for others to take my hometown seriously. Everything came together. My friend and patron from Texas, Stephen Weber helped with funding to realise the project’s ambition. The book became its lasting, physical legacy.”
Dominic From Luton is your first publication. What was the process of making it like and how did it evolve?
“I approached the process with two people. It was a ‘we’ not ‘I’. I’ve worked closely with designer Damien Good since 2006. He’s amazing. I’m direct, he’s considered. It works. It was about the finer detail. For example, different typefaces for the 4 different writers to un-unify them. We also wanted the readers’ initial contact with the more direct works in the book to be relaxed. We considered Harold Pinter’s approach in the design by allowing the content to simmer below the surface. The choice of a softer, matt paper throughout the book helped realise this. Chloe Barter edited and produced the publication. She taught me things I didn’t know and worked incredibly hard with the writers. At times she was like a dog with a bone; she fought hard to get things right. She went over and over the written content, the relevance of particular sections within the writing. Her attention to detail is quite incredible. I’m also lucky to have worked with four great investigative writers who are passionate about art. Derek Horton, Mel Jordan, Eddie Chambers and Olivia Leahy. Debbie Fielding at Cornerhouse Publications contributed greatly to the practical process of producing the publication. The process of working with Marcel Meesters at MM Art Book printing in Luxembourg was extremely rewarding. They strive to produce beautiful artist books and enjoy working with independent publishers. Their mindset is creative. They successfully realised a year’s work for me.”
Do you have any advice for anyone (particularly an artist) planning making their first book?
“Be thorough. Work to deadlines. Don’t go over budget. Work with people whose ambition, enthusiasm and commitment matches your own.”
What interests and excites you about making art in the context of the domestic, the everyday?
“I don’t want to have to go into a gallery to view art. I find the experience quite boring, who benefits from these cathedrals to curatorial self-importance? Not the public who they think they’re serving. Art and the everyday seem so separated. I want art to be knocked off of its self-appointed pedestal yet remain something that should be revered. It’s a never-ending paradox for me. In presenting the project ‘At My Mums House’ in Luton, I wanted to bring my world closer to the world which I can’t relate to anymore: suburbia. It’s a silent, stationary place but one which always feels quite content with itself. I also wanted to re-energise my parents’ home and present my world now in theirs. I was lucky in that they were brave enough to do it.”
Artists, the likes of Martin Creed, Mark Titchner and Bedwyr Williams – what was their initial response when you asked them to make work for your Mum and Dad’s house?
“The excitement was palpable. Also, Jasleen Kaur, School of The Damned, Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson, Grizedale Arts / Olivia Leahy and Joe Fletcher Orr. Martin wanted to take over and stop my Mum gaining access to her own bedroom by re-purposing her furniture in the hallway! It was an environment to which they can all relate. A three-bed semi-detached has nothing to prove.”
Is the town of Luton ready for a renaissance? Does it need a Biennial? Or, is Sunridge Avenue enough?
“Nowhere needs a biennial, there are enough of those. Luton is having a renaissance but it’s very important that it’s not an imported one. It needs to keep testing various models before it decides on simply presenting art in a whitewashed gallery. Luckily there are major shifts taking place across the country to re-purpose the role of the museum and art gallery and to reconsider who actually benefits from art and its often exclusive, dated presentation. The last thing Luton needs is curatorial didacticism. Sunridge Avenue Projects was good for Luton; it delivered a detailed, varied programme with humour. Let’s remember ‘Work No.2608’ by Martin Creed is still up in my Mum’s front garden.”
Now you live in London, what do you miss about your home town?
As for the future of Sunridge Avenue Projects, what’s coming next? Can you tease us with any tempting clues?!
“2018: ‘WEMBLEY 88, WEMBLEY WEMBLEY 88’.”
Thanks, Dominic that was a real treat for us! The pleasure was ours.
Dominic From Luton (published by Sunridge Avenue Projects) is in stock and available to order.
Lead image credit: Kay Allan watches Unmeasured Measurements, 2015, by Jasleen Kaur with Asshole (Everyone's Got One), 2014, screen-printed cushions by Shaun Doyle & Mally Mallinson. Mark Titchner's Double Lily Pond With The Houses of Parliament (My Life Has Been Nothing but a Failure), 2016, net curtains in the background.