The Home of Art
I recently stumbled across an amazing website that had compiled hundreds of photos of artists, showing them in the working environment of their studio spaces; some posing for portraits, some busily oblivious whilst lost to the task at hand. It is fascinating to see the environments in which these well known works were created, and a privileged insight into the creative process of some of the world’s most creative minds.
I am very interested in the relationship between art and the studio. To stand in the studio, to see the weight of the tools, the racks of materials, and the roughly hewn wear and tear of the surfaces, is to understand more intimately the process of the art’s execution. To walk the distance from the house to the workshop, to catch the glimpses through the trees to the surrounding landscape, and to read the spines of the novels in the library, is to understand more intimately the process of the creative conception. The physical and cultural context of these studios, their architecture and their geography, often leave traces within the pieces themselves.
As all curators and gallery designers well know, the context within which a work of art is viewed can effect an enormous influence over the enjoyment and experience of a piece, whether it be a solidly grounded site-specific work with a deep connection to its landscape, or designed as a part of a traveling exhibition, due to be appreciated in a hundred different gallery spaces across the globe. However it will always bear the traces of that place where it was conceived and crafted.
For this reason one of my favourite gallery spaces of all time is the Trewyn Studio in St.Ives, home and workplace of Dame Barbara Hepworth for some 25 years, up until her tragic death in a fire on the site in 1975. The workshop is very much presented as it was left, full of roughly sawn stone blocks, neatly stacked and awaiting a closer acquaintance with the walls, shelves and drawers of tools – hundreds of implements of every shape and size, the wands that conjure the impossible.
In the studio’s secluded courtyard garden are several of Hepworth’s most prized pieces, several large-scale bronzes she developed, informed by her earlier mastery of stone and timber. Experiencing those mottled blue bronzes against the lush green of her Atlantic coast garden is to know her work more faithfully, and see a glimpse of the lifetime that gave birth to these wonderful sculptures.