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)

I'm not much into philosophical debates on the nature of reality, I prefer to allow my gallstones to remind me I exist - they never let me down, and rarely prevaricate or lie! I'm also no advocate of 'machine breaking', but in the digital age I've often wondered if the creators of computer generated imagery have, as a for instance, any conflicts over the make-up of art work thus produced, after all such designs are nothing but a collection of electronic impulses (bit like Facebook friends!), and don't exist in space and time unless printed, projected or published.
I know these are simply other ways of operating (and creating), but I sensed a certain disgruntlement in your posting, and though I suspect you're far too polite, I visualised you bringing your own way of working to those long tables - paint, ink, plaster and all - just to remind the laptop generation of those traditional methods and materials artists have been employing for millennia.
Martin ... excellent comment! Yes, I do have some disgruntlement because I like material objects that exist, as you say, in time and space and that have some permanence.
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