'Plaster': New Art Poster Magazine Profiles Harland Miller

by Hetty Mahlich on 12 May 2020

Plaster is the new publication for a youth obsessed by contemporary art. Hetty Mahlich spoke with founders Finn Constantine and Milo Astaire about the inaugural issue profiling British artist Harland Miller.

Plaster is the new publication for a youth obsessed by contemporary art. Hetty Mahlich spoke with founders Finn Constantine and Milo Astaire about the inaugural issue profiling British artist Harland Miller.

Founded on the premise of giving unique, intimate access to the modern day idols of the art world, Plaster is a new contemporary art publication speaking to and for youth. Founded by brothers Milo Astaire, a curator and writer, and photographer Finn Constantine, each issue will profile a new artist from across painting, photography and sculpture. The duo aren't messing around, with the inaugural issue featuring the critically acclaimed British artist and writer Harland Miller. Known for his joyful, often satirical takes on literary motifs and images, (notably his series of paintings based on Penguin Classics dust covers featuring playful titles such as 'Dirty Northern Bastard by DH Lawrence'), Miller has exhibited internationally with solo shows at institutions including White Cube and the Royal College of Art.

Plaster Issue 01 allows art fans to get to know Miller as one would a glorified musician or film star, with the title also doubling up as an A1 poster so that the artist can live forever on your bedroom walls. Alongside Constantine's photo portfolio of Miller working in his fuchsia pink paint splattered studio, 'Quick Fire Questions' are presented in Miller's graphic, immediate aesthetic, whilst screenshots of an iMessage conversation present a playful alternative on the interview format.

Hetty Mahlich spoke to Constantine and Astaire about putting the issue together, the allurement of Harland Miller's work, and democratising the art world.

Hetty Mahlich: When did the idea for Plaster first come about? Could you tell me a little about those initial conversations?

Milo Astaire: A few years ago I came across a poster magazine from the 70s called Kung-Fu. Each issue was dedicated to Bruce Lee and his films. It was produced for an ever-growing youth audience at the time. It would arrive as a magazine folded down into A4 and then you could unfold it to reveal a huge poster on the reverse of Bruce Lee in an action pose, which you’d then proudly put up on your wall. I loved the format and thought it would be a great concept to swap karate for art.

Finn Constantine: We agreed that each issue should explore a single artist working today and give an insight into their practice.

HM: Why did you choose a print format over digital, and how essential was it to have that literal aspect of the publication doubling up as a poster?

FC: There was no doubt in our mind that we wanted to make this a physical object, something tactile and collectable, we didn’t want people to scroll past it. It was about playing around with the idea you could have something that sits on your coffee table or can be put up on your bedroom wall.

MA: It's about acknowledging the ever increasing status of artists today. The poster has long been reserved for movie stars and rockstars but we thought that it was time, with the increased interest in their work, to give people the opportunity to stick their favourite artists up on their walls. By making a poster magazine, we're offering context and the chance for readers and collectors to dive deeper into who these artists are, but still having fun whilst doing so.

HM: Between you, you’ve worked across art, music and fashion. Why does contemporary art specifically resonate with you both?

MA: Contemporary art is such a big tool of communication for us and our peers, influencing our ideas and attitudes on a daily basis. More so than ever, it has become so influential on fashion and music. Just look at Sterling Ruby and Raf Simons, or Virgil Abloh and Takashi Murakami collaborating.

FC: The lines are more blurred than ever, and I think especially as a photographer you have to be aware of what is happening everywhere, it's hard to distinguish where one stops and another begins. In art, it's the characters which usually are hidden behind the work that really fascinate me.

MA: With this considered, we didn’t feel there was an out-and-out contemporary art publication speaking to and for a youth audience. 

I found myself wearing sunglasses like his and making sure I always had a vest in my cupboard. So for me it was a personal thing, trying to understand a little bit more about the guy I’ve always found so cool.

HM: Tell me about why you chose Harland Miller for the inaugural cover, and why his work is relevant today.

FC: We’ve both known Harland since we were kids and have always loved his work, I've long been in awe of his personal style. I found myself wearing sunglasses like his and making sure I always had a vest in my cupboard. So for me it was a personal thing, trying to understand a little bit more about the guy I’ve always found so cool. 

MA: Harland’s work is so direct, immediate and most importantly accessible, and those were things that very much fit in line with how we wanted our magazine to be.

HM: It’s quite an intimate project, you’re working so closely with the artist. Bearing this in mind, how did you get Miller on board?

MA: Harland is the kindest, most laid back person you’ll ever meet. Once we asked him he was up for helping in any way he could. The only difficulty is that he’s not very good with time, so it took us a while to set a date. And when we did he was an hour late!

HM: Finn, how was the experience of documenting an artist you admire up close and personal, could you tell me a little about the process?

FC: To be honest, it's one of the harder things I’ve done. Being such a fan and having such admiration for him I really wanted him to like the pictures. A voice in my head was constantly saying: 'Finn, if these are rubbish and he doesn’t like them, it's over'. It was a real never shoot your heroes type of situation. But luckily for me, the moment we began he brought such attitude and character to the images that I didn’t have to do much, just make sure the lens cap wasn’t on.

Harland Miller, photograph Finn Constantine
Harland Miller creates exclusive self-portrait

HM: How did Miller’s aesthetic inform the layout design for Issue 01, and what else impacted upon the final layout?

MA: Harland has a very carefree attitude in life but his work is very concise. We wanted to capture those two elements in the design of the magazine. When we showed all the images and assets to our graphic designer Josh Crumpler, we all agreed we should embrace a low-fi vibe but still retain a clean and straight forward design. We want each issue to reflect the artist's practice and style, and we were thrilled when Harland said we had got him spot on. 

HM: There’s a sense of democracy to Plaster in creating easier, affordable access to the art world. Do you think contemporary art is at all backwards in terms of access and what other work needs to be done to tackle this?

MA: I don’t think it is necessarily backwards and I think a lot of people are trying to make it more accessible but I do recognise that many of my friends still find it intimidating to walk into a gallery, or shake their heads at the prices works sell for in auction. I think, especially in today's world, it's about finding a balance. If you look at one of the biggest auction stars today KAWS, he still gives kids the opportunity to buy his work by doing t-shirt or toy collaborations. 

HM: Now you’ve ticked off Miller, who would be each of your dream artists to profile and why?

MA: There are so many to choose from! I’d love to do issues on Elizabeth Peyton, Dike Blair and Isa Genzken to name a few. Richard Prince would be ace because I think we’d come up with a really great angle for his issue where he’d appropriate plaster!

FC: Daido Moriyama and Nan Goldin. The King and The Queen!

HM: When can we expect the next issue?

FC: We are just putting the next issue together now...we can’t say who the artist is but it's very exciting, and another household name. We are planning to release it in a couple months.

Plaster is available to buy now.

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