Back to the Big Smoke yesterday. A combined trip for the family – most importantly for the kids to pick up their Harry Potter book plus I was booked into a workshop at the WA Printmakers Association on embossing taught by Hilda Klap. With time to spare after that the family headed off to make it a really Harry day by taking in the new movie too while I picked up a few last minute things for school – which starts back in a couple of days (groan…). Thankfully the movie lasted long enough for me to look again for the book Studio: Australian Painters on the Nature of Creativity by R Ian Lloyd and John Macdonald. I got lucky – this time I found one at the Art Gallery Bookshop – without the stupid plastic wrapper – and yes, it came home.
It is beautiful: hardcover, 280 pages and full colour throughout – with double page spreads showing the studios of 61 artists as well as other photos and text for each of the interviews. It raises and attempts to answer the question as to whether the artist creates the studio or the studio creates the artist. The result is fascinating.
I am struck by the similarity of the studios to the work of the artists – the clean graphic quality of Marion Borgelt to the eclectic and colourful belonging to Margaret Olley – truly looking like her painting come to life. There’s James Gleeson’s cave-like haven – who needs natural light to explore the dreamworld? Then there’s Tim Storrier’s space: large, clean, well-lit with everything in immaculate order. I have to say that I’m not surprised.
Does that phenomenon give a clue for those of us still trying to find our footing? Should I go study my studio as I might someone else’s painting. Would that give me a clearer picture of my nature than anything coming from my head? A sense of direction. A realness behind the layers of learning. Hmmm, better go clean up.
The interviews throughout Studio feel candid, offering thoughts on painting, being blocked, keeping working and how it all fits into life. The answers are as varied as the work of the artists involved but there are common threads. It is in recognising those threads I found a new sense that my own struggles are valid, not just another figment of my overactive imagination. I particularly related to Peter Churcher’s comment:
“Without wanting to to sound corny,” he says, ” I think it’s very important to stick to that old adage: ‘Unto thine own self be true’ because that’s all you’ve got. An artist has to have their vision, their relationship with the world, and that’s all you can really paint about.”