Posting a view of Grayson Perry’s studio reminded me of my old studio. This morning I found a small box of drawings, cards and stuff I had pinned up in my temporary studios. The bits and pieces inside a studio give you an idea of where you’ve been and how you work.This shot was during the work for the Roadside Exhibition. I had rigged up a door over two trestle tables for a drawing. On the floor I had discovered the benefits of gadgets so that I had a constant source of music or podcasts. I can’t work without music. I have an eclectic taste which includes blues, jazz, punk, classical and even disco. At one stage I remember saying there was only two types of music I disliked, country and western but I really like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson so I guess there’s not much I dislike apart from Mariah Carey and Celine Dion type divas.
I loved this studio for the breeze I would get from the beach down the hill. It was also the home for possums and lizards. It also backed on to the train tracks and I would love to sit on the step outside and watch the carriages flashing past.
There was also the drive to and from the studio each day, about 15 mins that also influenced how I was working and part of the impetus for this exhibition.
I always have a collection of photos and sketches for works I produce and I love these shots I took leading up to this exhibition. The by-pass was new and the colours of the concrete were inspirational in these works.
Being in an artists studio is akin to looking into the mind of a serial killer. You can see where they are coming from, what drives them. Some are erratic, others orderly. A recent trip to Idris Murphy’s studio meant we could understand the paring back, the essence of composition. I always feel somewhat of a voyeur when looking at other artists brushes – the length, the width, how they are cared for-hung or potted. I am always so careless with my brushes and I think this leads to a bitter case of brush envy.
No matter what I paint or where I paint, I always seem to be in chaos. My studios have always become a huge mess. Perhaps if I look at paring back my compositions, my paint, the studio will follow and I will have well hung brushes like Idris.
It didn’t matter what was on the walls. I came back, put up the photos, undercoated canvases, spread out paper. It didn’t matter. The pressure was on, I had spent a week camping in the West MacDonnell ranges -the colours, the dingoes, the swag, the rocks! I tried capturing the gentle greys and naple -ish yellows of the sparse vegetation, the subtle greens of spinifex by throwing watercolour and gouache at paper. I tried mixing a mountainous amount of orange-red oil paint and slashing it onto canvas. I even pulled out the blue! I knew it was over.
I thought I could do the same as any series of works -prepare the studio, surround myself in the odds and ends that I had brought back but nothing worked. I had scrawled “Nadapa” in red chalk -”welcome to this place” but it was alien on white walls. The Alice was my studio for the week, I immersed myself but it was obvious in my return that you cannot take that country home. The Papunya artists know.
I admire the painters who have gone and painted and conquered but nothing on paper, canvas or film will ever be enough for me.
I love setting up a studio. The preparation of choosing what to hang on the walls. It can make or break a work. When I first checked out this studio to rent, I thought it would have some problems but it turned out to be great – it was cool -breezes from the sea in summer and that grunginess that only an artist can appreciate. It’s called The Barracks cause it backs onto the rail station, old quarters used by men who worked on the rail. The building although pretty dodgy had been converted into individual studios.
I love the sudden noise of freight trains, glimpses of graffitied carriages and the lines of track and overhead wires dissecting the landscape.
What I didn’t expect was tracks (of the animal kind) across my prepatory sketches I had done on the Island. There was also a few nibbled edges. I asked the possum or rat not to eat the sketch I was working on. I think we came to an understanding, it never happened again but I was lucky enough to share the space with no less than 3 possums, not sure about the rats.