Saturday, January 15, 2011

Studio Still

In his book “43 Principles of Home” Kevin McCloud meets and interviews Dieter Collen – an architectural model-maker. At the end of the interview McCloud makes his own model. Collen commends him, saying

“That’s fine. It’s a good little piece. Really it is. You know, you have made something. It’s an object now.” (my italics)

I’ve been spending some time at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. The café / restaurant / bar is a huge space with long tables where people sit and work for hours on end. (Or just sit and people-watch - which is my favourite pastime.)

It seems everyone there is working at a laptop. A few of us are doing that old-fashioned thing of writing by hand and some are sitting and chatting (the people behind me yesterday were talking through a new theatrical production they were planning. I was very tempted to join in.)

But whilst it’s a great place for thinking, chatting, planning and writing, it’s not a great place for making anything. For that, a different kind of space is needed. Producers, dancers, performance artists, video artists, recording artists and visual artists all need their own particular studio space equipped with the tools of their particular trade. Chapter hires out a lot of these facilities for the production of art as well as facilities for its presentation (theatres, a cinema, a gallery etc.)

As I looked out at the sea of laptops in front of me and considered all these people working digitally (myself included, sometimes) I realised again that the main reason I can’t make art in places like this is because I don't work digitally - I work with materials. I make things. I make objects. But, mostly, I make a mess.

Paper, card, canvas, wood. Pencils, chalks, charcoal and fixative. Pen and ink, paint, glue and varnish. Fabric, plaster and cement. I love the way they get all over you – on your hands, under your fingernails, on your clothes, in your hair, in your mouth and up your nose. I love art that makes you want to stare at it, to touch it, to hold it. I love paintings that make you want to lick them.

I love the texture, the taste, the smell of it all.

I think I’m passionate about art, but really I’m just high on solvents.
(All the pictures are from the London studio)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Studio Practice

Studio Practice is an important piece of the skeleton I work with in terms of my job as an artist.

This is where things get done. It’s where practical work is developed alongside studying art history and theories of art.

It’s a current priority for me - because I’m not very good at it.

These are some of the things that take place in the studio:

* Painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture.

* Developing skills, techniques and good working practices.

* Accumulating a visual vocabulary.

* Developing a substantial portfolio of work.

* Producing and presenting of works of art.

* Experimenting with materials, techniques and processes.

* Compiling backup work – experiments, notebooks, sketches, photographs, photocopies, prints, cuttings and any other related material.

I like the sound of all that. I love the idea of it.

I’ve just never been able to make it work in practice.

I’ve worked in lots of different ‘studio’ spaces – some of which were specially designed, some of which were a bit ad-hoc. Some have been in the room where I live, some require a three-hour drive to get there.

I’ve even produced work on the road – literally.

(I was in Mid Wales parked at the side of the road. I covered a piece of board with No More Nails (a strong glue) and pushed it into the ground to get a piece of nature to work into. The trouble was, I also got glue all over my hands so I couldn’t get back in the car. If I had, my hands would have stuck to the steering wheel. Permanently. So I had to stand there waving my hands around waiting for the glue to dry. Not my most successful mission.)

Perhaps I’ve never ttled into a studio space for long enough to make it work.

Also, I can’t work when other people are around unless they are working too – even if they are elsewhere in the building.

I think, for me, the actual making of a piece of art is an intense and highly personal process. I like to abandon myself to the process and do whatever it takes for however long it takes. To be observed or interrupted makes me highly self-conscious and unable to function.

It’s a mixture of having the external framework and the internal, emotional state working together. I know how it can and should work – I just haven’t yet found a way of making it work consistently.

But that’s my there for the year … “more and better”.

By the way, if you’re interested, take a look at these pictures of Giacometti’s studio (click on the thumbnails in the upper right) … what a mess ... but kind of inspiring!

Post script: I never learn. The other week, before driving to London, I decided to re-attach my rear-view mirror to the windscreen using a strong glue. I ended up with a mess of glue on the windscreen and the mirror stuck to my left hand. I considered driving to London one-handed, with my other hand held up in the air so I could see out of the back. But I was worried the blood would drain from my hands and I would get pins and needles.

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