From being too hot or too cold, too cramped, too busy or too lonely, to being so impressive and expansive it becomes an mechanism in own right with assistants and dedicated production zones, the artist studio is a varied entity.
Last month I visited the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art to see the Giacometti exhibition A Line Through Time. I have long admired Giacometti, particularly his drawing and this visit allowed me to extend my thinking to include the nature of his working arrangements.
On moving to Paris Giacometti took on a small near square dark room to use as a studio which he intended to move from but never did. In the exhibition a film Giacometti (1) shows the artist working in his studio. We see the agitated squeezing and stretching of clay, repetitive and compulsive working. Dressed smartly in a shirt, tie and jacket while all around him looks contaminated by plaster, clay, and dirt, it’s almost as if this space simply doesn’t matter, the intensity of his concentration excluding any need for comfort.
He worked in this room for 40 years until his death in 1966, surrounded by materials and drawings, by works in process and complete. Michael Peppiatt who wrote In Giacometti’s studio called the space “repository of repeated failure” (1). This cannot be viewed as a negative description, the unresolved or abandoned are above all necessary. No artist can consistently produce works which end up being finished, exhibited or sold. There must be duds, ‘failures’ back beats of work or activities with help to focus or loosen up the mind, these work are sometimes never meant to be seen or shared.
The determination to keep making work, what ever the space, what ever the circumstance communicate a conviction and an ability to not only manage boundaries but also exceed them and use them to advantage.
(1) Michael Gill (director), David Sylvester(producer) Giacometti Arts Council Film, 1967, 14 minutes
(2) Michael Peppiatt quoted here