The idea of studio.
When first invited to write a piece considering the idea of a ‘studio’, I can divide the piece into two distinct set of thoughts. Before lockdown and the present, the new normal.
Rewind to March 10th this year and NCAD announces its closure on March 12th. I teach on the first year multi-disciplinary programme and I am helping students in our big studio spaces on campus, gather up what they will need to work from home, outside on the street people are busily running along armed with multi pack toilet rolls. It feels both simultaneously comedic and surreal.
But let’s track further back, say a month previous, to my own arts practise where I work and use two quite distinct studios spaces in Dublin.
The first, is the shared communal specialist space of the Black Church Print Studio, a community of printmakers founded in Dublin in 1982. Getting accepted into a Print Studio in Dublin in the late eighties was quite the rigorous process. Your portfolio was intensely scrutinised for technical proficiency. The offer of membership was a coveted state, an official acceptance into the league of printmakers. I have made prints at BCPS in Temple Bar now for twenty years. Because the equipment is so specialised Printmakers tend to share a space. The attraction of a shared space, is an established artistic support system where techniques are shared and collaborations made. Work is constantly pinned on walls during the proofing stages and openly discussed.
By contrast I also have a small private studio space in Talbot Artist Studios. A cell, a singular experience and while other artists are in the building, we mostly work away, privately in our studio spaces. I paint in mine. I work on at least twenty paintings at one time. I move them around a lot. I place them differently each day. I burnish them back, erase, and replace. I find myself in a constant state of flux, rarely sitting, juggling the winning and losing of making and painting. The studio is opposite Connolly Station so I can hear Dublin heave outside my window. I relish my time here.
So shut down comes after March 17th and we were given a few days to come into Talbot studios to get what we needed to continue to work . My studio is roughly 6ft x 8ft, a little space, which when I had to leave became a big space in my head. Likewise, BCPS closes its doors. I decamped to the middle room of my family home and I made a list. Many of my fellow creatives, I later learned, made a similar list. I saw a stretch of time in splendid isolation, I would produce a vast new body of work, possibly learn a language and finally finish Finnegan’s Wake.
Sadly, the reality of a pandemic with rising death tolls and the heroism of front line workers, rendered the middle room studio and creativity a little redundant. This lasts a month or so. The first years finish their year virtually. The middle room is now an office. I move to working with third year printmakers completing their degree. Students and I are on Zoom, we collectively peer into their makeshift studios: sheds, gardens, front rooms, bedrooms, under the stairs and kitchens. We have long conversations about what can be made in the domestic space, raw materials change, there is new currency in ordinary things.
We discuss ideas and we make work, in spite of, the Corona Virus.
So this is the new thoughts around what is a studio. The studio is an action. A force. A place to invent and be curios. It’s a needed action. We need invention and curiosity.
The studio comes home; my middle room works. I complete four new paintings for a virtual then actual show with the Olivier Cornet Gallery. I had been invited by The Graphic Gallery to produce a new print based on the idea of the Human Heart. I remember then that this new piece has been trapped safely in the Black Church Print Studio, in a special press where it has been drying and flattening. It is called Chamber.
The Studio is a creative action in spite of circumstance.