Work from the Posture series has left the studio building, its on show – which means its finished, complete. Any sense of satisfaction doesn’t immediately follow, rather the debrief, the autopsy, the learning curve, lessons to be reflected upon. It takes time to make sense of exhibition, the work that is on show, the work that was left out, the work that remains in the studio itching to get out which needs attention now. Getting the work out into the world feels good, for when artwork reaches audience, its special and kind of final. It’s also hard work, distinct from the making of the work is the detail of presenting, something that any artist will be will familiar with.

It was a suggestion from Sam Wingate whilst visiting my studio in June that led to the work being put on display at The Common, Old Bethnal Green Road in London. The Common is a very particular, unique space, and one in which I can feel the architectural attention to detail immediately. The unusual combination of cafe and architectural practices Common Ground Workshop and Collective Works in one space was immediately of interest. The cafe is both hospitality and work space. On visiting the space over the summer the contextual fit between my work and The Common was immediately apparent. Negotiating the exhibition opportunity was straightforward so I extend my thanks to director Mark Sciberras and to Sam for making the introduction.

As an artist I like to have a combination of easy wins to balance the proposal writing, funding and exhibition applications and the more difficult projects. Self generated opportunities that come from recommendations and introductions from friends still take work but the long timescales and what sometimes feel like mysterious selection committees of established galleries can be bypassed. Obviously established exhibition spaces are great, they come with existing arts audiences, support, exhibition fees (sometimes) transportation of the work but they can also be elusive. The Common has a high footfall and feedback about the work from architects at the opening was positive, they also made great suggestions that i am following up. The conversations that accompany exhibitions open the work out into new directions. And there is nothing quite like having a deadline and one which is not too far in the future to help with the final 10% of decisions that need to be made to finish work so it is ready for exhibition. Full reflection needs to be undertaken but I like seeing the work in the space, it fits well. It contributes something to the context and concept.

So if after reading the blog you feel intrigued to see the work then please do go for a visit – great coffee, food and art on offer.

Showing until 9th January 2015
Cafe open Mon-Friday 8-5pm and Sat & Sun 9.30-5pm.
Check the website for opening hours over xmas holidays!

Work from the Posture series on show is now being developed further with a new project Posture of Making a research and development project which is centered on working collaboratively with ergonomics scientist Dr Valerie Woods. Exploring the workings of the creative practitioners body when engaged in art making.

Postures of Making is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, restaurant Pied à Terre and Norfolk County Council Arts Project Fund.


Playing a game of 6 degrees of separation is infinitely engaging and surprising. With this game usually there is a target person as the end point but I have no such ambitions, only that the journey be unexpected and interesting. Each person I meet I ask to refer me to another and broker an introduction so the spread – geographical, and conversational reaches beyond what I alone could plan. I was delighted when Gill Hedley suggested the artist Alasdair Hopwood and facilitated an introduction. Over the summer I travelled to London to meet Alasdair, currently a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow, in the Wellcome’s new Hub space.

The Hub at Wellcome Collection consists of arrangements of desks and surfaces which promote dialogue, formal and informal furniture, a large table, different types of spaces for different types of activities, juxtaposing colours – the antipathy of a workaday office. It’s possibly on the way to being an ideal studio if such thing exists, large and light with space to breath and room to think. The hub houses a specific research group and additionally other Wellcome Fellows can use also the space facilitating further cross discipline conversations. In his role as a research fellow Alasdair uses the Hub 2-3 days per week with the remainder of the working week spent at his studio in Fulham. At the centre of Alasdair’s practice is dialogue, listening, questioning. From our conversation I can see why he is an Engagement Fellow for Wellcome, his conversation is reflective and targeted with an openness to questioning what he knows.

Hub is a word increasingly used, and particularly creative hubs have become part of our contemporary vocabulary. By definition it’s the central part of a wheel, rotating on or with the axle, and from which the spokes radiate. It’s also a place or thing that forms the effective centre of an activity, region or network. It’s no surprise then that so many hubs exist or are in development, it seems that segregated working in certain sectors possibility isn’t the most productive. Where research and innovation are the central focus interdisciplinarity is increasingly seen as a pre-requisite for the encouragement of symbiotic relationships.

Once settled in comfy seats in the kitchen area, I started our conversation by asking Alasdair about how he works and if a dedicated spaces comes into his practice. He talked about how having a space outside of the home had become increasingly important, aiding his ambition of trying to find the healthiest way to work. The studio he has in Fulham is 5 minutes from home facilitating an ease of access usefully delineating between home and work life. Within his practice he draws upon a variety of ways of working, so it’s logical to extend that variety to the spaces he works in. Different spaces facilitate different ideas in Alasdair’s practice, processes, serendipitous events and conversations all feed into the mix. There are times when he can imagine working without a studio, being without a dedicated workspace, embracing the a nomadic work style with laptop and ipad, settling into cafes and restaurants.

Alasdair talks about how for some artists life and work are so intimately connected (and he remembers being like this himself) that work and home time slide into one another. Working at home can easily take any person over the threshold of working full time, but with so much of art practice unfinished until it is shown or shared with an audience it can become dominant to such an extent that it can feel as if one can never escape it. Alasdair has found having outside spaces in which to work facilitates his working in a more effective manner, “work is work and home is home”, as far as this is possible for any artist. Alasdair is very clear in his articulation that such boundaries and professionalism are important mechanisms to prevent becoming enslaved to practice, much akin to any other self employed person on some levels. When at the Hub it’s the brief chats over coffee that Alasdair has found to be really illuminating – the incidental can be as productive as the formal ‘sharing’ which may involve presentations. Alasdair is keen to explore how learning methods from arts education; the critique, tutorials and seminars could be used within this type of setting. Being able to say things which may sound basic, or to admit uncertainty even when the contributor might feel they should know better, could all be part and parcel of being at the Hub as it would be in an educational setting.

When Alasdair started at the Hub, he just wanted to listen and get involved in conversations and think about how he can fulfill his role beyond that of a conventional artist in residence. Rather he sees his role as contributing to the discussions, introducing speakers to the staff at Wellcome, from artists through to scientists, around topics of health and sustainability. He admits to not making any art yet and when he says it, it does feel like a bit of an admission but actually it is his very presence within Wellcome that has an artistic influence.  He comes from a place of being an artist with all the training, knowledge and questioning that includes. At the core of Alasdair’s practice is a history of public engagement activities spanning a 20 year period which allows him the opportunity to share his ways of working around trying to communicate complex ideas to a general public.

I asked Alasdair about working in and across two spaces, at Wellcome and in his studio, and if his work is separated through different activities in different spaces. He replies “it’s all meshed together at present”. Within research and project development activities his main tool is a computer, such devices continually facilitate multi location working, encourage ideas and influences from unexpected quarters. Currently he’s writing a feature film and so working in different environments is having a positive impact, all the variety in conversation feeding the fictional world he is creating.

Alasdair is thinking about what he can bring to the scientific arena at Wellcome and to see where it leads. Informed by some research I had undertaken into a talk Alasdair had given I probed him about the role of the artists in a scientific setting and if indeed The Hub was a scientific environment. I am surely not alone when thinking about what science looks like to be envisaging test tubes and bunsen burners, these objects are not present in the Hub for this is a different kind of model of scientific enquiry so how does it work? Alasdair explains how the Hub is focused on cross disciplinary collaboration, the starting point is always an engagement with scientific enquiry and then what emerges from that engagement is where he considers it starts to get really interesting. Artists have been engaged to reflect on certain aspects of scientific enquiry such as ethics and mediating research to the public in interesting ways, critically reflecting upon it, in addition to trying to find the human voice within an enquiry.

The Hub method of providing a centre of activity, bringing together voices from different professional backgrounds is perhaps rare within the places where artists traditionally have their studios. Artists don’t as yet feature in research parks, or within university departments as standard and continual features and so opportunities to generate connected and innovative thinking are unfulfilled. Within The Hub at the Wellcome Collection connections are nurtured and developed and ultimately, we hope, result in far reaching in-depth enquiries and scientific developments with positive impact.


It started with an invitation to a Studio Soirée, followed a month later with a visit to talk in more depth. It’s no overstatement to say that walking into Chris Jackson’s studio is like walking into Aladdin’s cave. Its hard to know where to look first, an overwhelming feast for the eyes. Grotto like, intricate, eclectic, the work intrigues and delights, fostering a sense of wonder. Indeed in previous work he has taken inspiration from Maarten Van Heemskerk’ set of engravings about the Seven Wonders of the World.

When I ask Jackson about his studio he replies how the space feels at the moment “dysfunctional and overloaded. The work has built up to such an extent its starting to feel oppressive”. There is little opportunity for the eyes to rest on an empty space but it is easy to move about.  The walls are punctuated with visual references from Tarzan magazines and biblical scenes to classical figurative sculpture. The studio is also awash with materials, collections of toys, cardboard, paints and finishes, small objects of unknown function and origin sit together, sparking ideas and connections. This space is a place of alchemy, from a distance the final work doesn’t reveal its components, only on closer inspection do these parts become identifiable, and in some cases familiar. Jackson’s process involves working on 3 or 4 pieces simultaneously and can take up to a year to complete. He considers most of the work to be 90% finished, its the promise of an exhibition pushes many an artist to settle the work into a state of being done with.

Jackson finds himself in the predicament that many artists do – the work is almost ready to go – but where does it go? He remembers his studio being in this condition before, uncomfortable, overcrowded. The solution? To photograph everything and then junk the lot. A painful process but a necessary one, liberating the space ready for new ideas and constructions. This studio is dedicated to the physicality of making, materials are conjoined resulting in a spectacle of scenario’s that stride unapologetically between religious belief and evolution theory.

With a sculpture practice comes the issue of distance and how to gain space from the work.  Jackson considers the differences between art forms, “with paintings they can be turned to the wall’ offering creative breathing space. With this sculptural work the objects remain in plain view, at the time of my visit one is covered by a cloth but that doesn’t by any means render it unnoticeable.

What was Jackson’s motivation for initiating the Soirée I wondered, as most, if not all the time he works in the studio alone. ”I wanted to hear what people think about the possibility of them (the sculptures) being in another context”. It’s clear from my outside perspective this work needs to move on and outwards beyond the confines of the studio.  Opening a studio pushes the artist to answer inevitable question; where are you planning on showing them? The answer is currently unknown but the act of opening the studio shares the work with its first audience and the next logical step is to find another audience and then another.


Part of my last trip to London included a visit to see Sam Wingate in the print room at London Metropolitan University where he works as a Lecturer on the textiles course. He was working up some new prints for an exhibition Fabric of the City which is now open at the Cass gallery. Screen printing is both simple – pulling pigment mixed with a binder through a screen, and complex – appreciation of what makes for a good image to use, coating and exposure of screens, lining up multi-layered prints, achieving a consistent covering through the angling and pressure exerted on the squeegy, understanding surface be it paper, fabric, plastic. The integration of skill in each of these aspects (and others i haven’t mentioned) is essential to the creation of a successful and holistic piece of work that looks complete and not like a series of processes.

The print room is a very particular studio environment. Within an institution or organisation it needs to be kept clean. It needs to be respected because its a communal space, a central resource. Be neglectful of cleaning up after yourself and its others peoples work that can suffer. When I asked Sam about what he likes about the print room his response is quick “ its the equipment and the machinery. The processes of printing and exploring the potential of those processes”. When Sam studied at Degree level there were print rooms for Fine art and print rooms for Textiles, here at London Met the print room is a shared resource across a number of courses which Sam says “increases the learning potential”. It would be difficult to disagree, as cross discipline dialogue must surely be one of the greatest benefits of studying at any institution, so much of learning is about discussion of ideas, processes and context from different perspectives. Additionally some of the freest and fullest conversations can happen when engaged in manual tasks and processes. With the hands fully occupied the mind travels somewhere else, ideas spread into unknown territory in a way different from an interaction in a lecturer theater or in the union bar. Sam will be studying Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art in September when i will visit him again to see how the studios and facilities are set up and managed.

Having explored screen printing at art school, I feel, after a break of 20 years, it’s time explore screen printing again. The work I am producing indicates a connection and so I will be checking out the courses at Norwich based social enterprise Print to the People.



Studio Visit: Townley and Bradby

My first visit with artists Anna Townley and Lawrence Bradby was at their home, followed by a visit to their workspace at Outpost studio’s with Anna. Referencing their extended research project ‘artists as parents as artists’ I am seeking to explore ‘home as studio as home’ and how this connects to their external studio space. My conversation is predominately with Anna with Lawrence joining us later.

Townley and Bradby’s recent project shown at the Minories in Colchester Everything, All at once, All the time, explored what they coin as the ‘the exploded studio’. A term they use “to describe how their practice occupies small periods of the domestic routine, sharing thinking space and living space on equal terms with cooking, washing, cleaning, parenting” (1). The exhibition presented film, drawings, activities, discussion, performance and events to communicate their findings from an investigation into the relationship between art making and family life.

When asking Anna if they have ever viewed their home as a studio she talks of an upstairs bedroom window ledge that was once her studio space, Anna tells me, “I drew the view from the window, it was the beginning of the work, a bit everyday”. Dovetailing creative activity with the repetition of domestic tasks and the activities of a family home is a skillful activity. To claim a part of any shared home for oneself can be a difficult endeavor to secure. What then does the separate studio space facilitate?

Their studio at Outpost is one of a series of booths in a former open plan office. Sometimes the children come to the space, sometimes Anna and Lawrence visit together, sometimes separately. It has no radio, no internet, no music and if no-one else is using the space, no conversation either. Anna describes the significance of having a period of time when she is not talking but drawing, in silence. This is the striking juxtaposition to the home environment where the family of 5 interact, live, laugh, argue, play, eat and sleep. The studio signifies and amplifies silence. There are limited domestic interruptions, no washing up to do and no clothes to hang on the line. Essentially it offers a refuge from the intensity of their subject matter, a place to take a step back. It is this removal albeit temporarily from the context of domestic and daily life that defines their work as art practice and not just a family who are creative.

The Boyle Family used “wherever they lived as their studio” and as an extension of that “family and friends were co-oped to help whenever there was a big show going off and an event to put on” (2). When art making and art thinking happen within a domestic space perhaps it is inevitable that it becomes a co-authored process. How can a discussion be separated into a series of single person credits? To do so would go against the purpose of discussion itself, a collaborative and at its best an open act where the unpredictability of topics and ideas expressed is welcomed. The Boyle children were always part of the studio, engaged in expeditions, working trips and hanging exhibitions. Later they opted to remain part of this family art making team (3). They continue to work under the Boyle Family authorship but are distinctly different to Townley and Bradby. The Boyle Family create work which is predominately outward looking, geography, geology, biology. It would be overly simplistic to say that Townley and Bradby were solely inward looking. Their exploration of the everyday connects to what Ben Highmore describes as “the potential ability of producing, not difference, but commonality”(4). In his book The Everyday Reader, Highmore quotes Lefeovre, who considered the everyday extensively “everyday life is profoundly related to all activities, and encompasses them with all their differences and their conflicts (5). By focusing on the everyday the work has a universality which enables it to travel beyond the specifically personal and introspective.

Initially this artistic duo worked without a studio, money was set aside to support meetings in cafes because “we have meetings and talk a lot”. Now they have the studio this can be the location for meetings “its different from home more central, more neutral space and means we don’t have to bring people into our domestic lives”. This is interesting as Townley and Bradby’s work is all about showing domestic lives and activities, albeit in an edited and considered manner. The studio affords them the choice, conversations may take place around the kitchen table or at the studio. The choice of location would I imagine depend on the nature of the discussion and the people involved.

There are some activities which are undertaken at home, email correspondence (although drafts may be composed in the studio) and editing of film footage. Anna also has drawing kits around the house facilitating the Daily Observation Series (2011 – present) where small objects and children’s ensembles can be recorded before they are dismantled and reconfigured in the days that follow. These simple packs of paper and drawing implements Anna call Micro Studios are prepared so she is ready to take advantage of opportunities to draw during the day.

Sometimes Lawrence works on his own projects and has recently started a reading group, focused on discussing critical texts which have been selected by the group. The studio has been the venue for one of the gatherings. Lawrence also uses the studio as a valuable opportunity to spread out information provided by artists commissioning his writing. He is able to lay notes and ideas out in the space to aid planning. Having this space to stretch out is important and contrasts with his alternative work space referred to as the McOffice – which may be the local McDonald or another cafe, the only prerequisite being a free wireless connection so he can work.

Lawrence describes their work as “an anthropological activity, gathering data about the creativity happening at home”, Anna adds “we use home in a different way (to the studio), involving people and the children”. They go on to describe how by moving away from what they are immersed in, they can understand more. Establishing distance underpins reflection. The work has to be formed, shaped and considered in terms of how to show the work to an audience and some of this processes is supported by the studio.

When Anna and I arrive at the Outpost studios she takes time to show me some of the other occupied floors of this former office block. The variety of work that can openly be seen is somewhat overwhelming. I can imagine myself wandering around for hours, looking into spaces in a distracted state, forgetting why I was there or what my own work was about. Familiarity likely overcomes this natural artistic compulsion to be nosy.

Townley and Bradby’s space is large with windows that flood the space with light. Anna repeatedly calls the studio a dumping ground but I find it far from this. There is order and interest, much interest with plenty of objects with potential, to be made into artworks or used in workshops. One side of the space even has a limited colour palette; wooden table, easel, cardboard, unpainted constructed walls. Visually it is very easy on the eye, not far removed from something engineered for an interiors magazine. Importantly though this is not a display space it is a place of work. Some old work is stored here, but also new materials lay in wait. Anna shows me a box of small packaging boxes, the intended purpose yet unknown. They, like much of Townley and Bradby’s work, tell of personal family stories of pain relief and head lice treatment, of tooth cleaning and the application of luxury skin preparations. I have long been fascinated by the notion of studio as luxury item, cherished but used in small doses, uneconomical and impractical on many levels but nevertheless desired.

For these artists home is both site and subject matter. The external studio provides an essential separation from the intensity of working in this way and a space to be in silence.

1. Colchester School of Art / The Minories, Townley and Bradbury – Everything, all at once, all the time Accessed 8th June 2015
2. The Boyle Family Accessed 8th June 2015
3. ibid
4. Highmore, Ben The Everyday Reader London, Routledge, p2
5. ibid