Founder of new magazine The-Art-Form, Andrew Townsend, talks to Grafik about his motivations, aspirations and the benefits of direct questioning in an industry dominated by obfuscation.
WHY DID YOU START THIS PROJECT AND HOW HAS IT EVOLVED FROM INITIAL CONCEPT TO FINISHED PUBLICATION?
I started The-Art-Form because I’m interested in art — looking at art, thinking about art and making art.
The initial concept for The-Art-Form hasn’t changed, it’s a limited edition publication about art and artists, where each artist featured completes a form about art. Originally the format was going to be an A5 newsprint zine, but when I started to receive the forms back from the artists, the work was so good it deserved to be shown in a larger format. So I decided to change it to an A4 perfect bound publication, printed on a quality uncoated paper stock.
THE NEWSSTAND IS FAIRLY SATURATED WITH ARTS PUBLICATIONS - WHAT CONVINCED YOU THAT THERE WAS ROOM FOR ANOTHER?
Many art publications focus on ‘The Art World’, galleries, collectors, curators and art critics. I wanted to create an art publication that just focused on the artist and their work, giving them the freedom to talk about their work, free from critique or a writer’s opinion. Using direct questions to get to the heart of the artist’s practice.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE STATE OF PRINT PUBLISHING IN GENERAL - RESURGENT OR ON ITS LAST LEGS?
Print publishing is definitely going through a resurgence, a new magazine seems to be launched every week. I’ve always loved books and magazines, the feel of the paper, the smell, the ‘thingness’. Flicking through pages will always beat clicking through pages.
WHAT INTERESTED YOU IN USING THE 'FORM' AS A FORM OF ENGAGEMENT FOR TALKING TO ARTISTS ABOUT THEIR ART?
The form acts as a blank canvas, a format for gathering unique content. One of the instructions on the form was “Make the form your own, sketch, stick and paint”. The artists featured certainly made the form their own — each form returned was completely different and helped reflect their work and personality.
Many of the artists created original work especially for The-Art-Form, one of the requests on the form asked the artists to “Make Art Here”. Ian Davenport created a beautiful, small scale painting, using his dripping technique. Dan Baldwin and Rana Begum made every page of the form into a unique artwork.
ART MAGS OBVIOUSLY HAVE TO HANDLE A DIVERSE RANGE OF COMPETING IMAGERY AND TEXT, WHICH CAN THROW UP ALL KINDS OF AESTHETIC CHALLENGES - WHAT WERE THE MOST IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS IN THE DESIGN OF THE MAGAZINE?
The most important consideration was to show the artists’ work in the best possible way. Each artist was featured across ten or more pages, showing images of their work alongside the returned form.
I wanted to include a diverse mix of artists, working in different mediums and styles, from conceptual art, abstract art, urban art, sculpture and photography.
WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN TO THE PUBLICATION, BOTH FROM CONTRIBUTORS AND READERS?
The response has been very good so far. The first issue has only been out a few weeks and I’ve sent copies all around the world. The artists have all been very supportive and have helped to promote the first issue. Tate Modern have just ordered some copies for their bookshop, so that’s really exciting.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE MAGAZINE GROW? IF YOU COULD REQUEST A COPY FROM THREE YEARS IN THE FUTURE, WHAT WOULD YOU HOPE HAD CHANGED AND WHAT STAYED THE SAME?
The-Art-Form will always be a niche, limited edition publication with a small print run — that’s what makes it special and collectable. I would like to include more artists in each issue, and experiment with different print techniques, such as screen printing, special inks, foils and different paper stocks, making each issue even more desirable and unique.