A Quick Tour

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...I finally finished the film-with-the-clockwork-man-in, which is now called Tour. (Pause for existential moment - did I have trouble naming this because I don't really know what it's about?) (No, OK good) Usefully, tour is (in French) a masculine noun meaning a tour or a circling, and a feminine noun meaning a tower. So if anyone happened to know that small fact it would be very appropriate. Mind you, I watched a film in some festival or other, marvelling at the irony of entitling such a dark and apocalyptic image "Gift" and constructing a bridge of meaning before realising it was the German gift - poison. (In my defence it was by an English filmmaker). Fortunately, even in English, it will still mean tour.
There has also been a flurry of festival submissions, (speculative, hopeful) and now I am looking at some randomly assorted possible projects; possible book illustrations , a probable animations, a piece of glasswork I am mildly terrified by the scale of. But this year, for the first time ever, I actually do feel like hibernating instead. It is shriekingly cold, and the house is too comfortable. The workshop shed would be far too cold, even if the electrics hadn't died in there. The downside of having the studio(s; I have the luxury of a clean room for animation/ computer stuff and a dirty room for glass, sanding, glue...) at home is that its too easy to sit down to work in Pyjamas, or get distracted by home things like shopping online or sorting Christmas. Also, there is the temptation to want the studio room to be comfortable...tidy because it is part of a house, and you don't want to clart up the walls with oilpaint or walk chips of glass all over the house. Or annoy the neighbours with incessant drilling... But I have become very disciplined, determined and tried to develop the ability to focus tightly - to concentrate on the screen or the worktable and not notice that other stuff. To be completely immersed in the work to the point of tunnel vision. But it makes me think about the importance of the room we work in, the studio. Woolf's Room of one's own.
workspace at Kingston Art Group

Last weekend was the annual open studios in Newcastle, a chance to take a tour not only of the work people are up to 12 months on, but also the way that they are using their spaces. Some huge and spare like Mervyn Peake's raft of floorboards. Some insanely small, but with an excellent light. Some cosy with armchairs, music and kettles. and some with a very jealous-making array of shelves, custom shaped for the collection of tools and materials kept there... Many artists "when they get to my age" head for the home studio as it is warm, convenient, paid for...and you dont have to put up with all the bullshit studio politics that some places have. It's accessible, open 24/7, and never creepy if you are working at 2 am. The obvious downsides are the lack of community and feedback...but also the lack of edge. Edge flavoured with the filthy, tumbledown, cheap, and repurposed; riotous with activity ...except when tumbleweed is blowing through the studio corridors and everyone is working at their "other" job. Tense with the opposition of immersion and hyper-self-awareness. And this year, I found the work overall less edgy, more design-y...less experimental...well, we all need to make a living and some of the artists had queues for the credit card machine. While others...were not there. The edgy stuff that doesn't sell is not helped by open studios - but then how do we get to see it? I don't want a tour of studios to be a retail experience but a chance to understand and enjoy ideas, work in progress, the process of the practice. For me it's a gallery, or maybe a show-and-tell; something very hard to do in a home studio where the intimacy and domesticity is a tangible barrier for visitors.

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