Q10. Your studio?
My studio is chaotic. At least it looks that way. But under the chaos, there is definitely some kind of order because I seem to know where everything is. If somebody comes in and starts trying to tidy up, it’s a catastrophe because I’ll never be able to find anything again.
So there’s a lot of table space, but almost every inch is taken up by drawings, photographs, paints, brushes, books, small sculptures, painting trays and tools. There are bits of furniture dotted around, drawers overflowing with references, memorabilia, papers, more drawings, shelves wrapped around the room with more books, more papers, little castings and abandoned sculptures. Plastic bins are exploding with silicone rubber moulds and then against the walls, there are odd stretched canvases, some hanging, some not.
As you look around there might be a painting of a black-maned lion behind a portrait of my wife. Propped against the walls on top of desks, lie gilt ornate frames in different sizes. In the middle of the studio, two or three easels stand like pylons holding the current project under the light of two fluorescent standing lamps. Two simple carved chairs sit around, daubed with pigment, as I wipe off excess paint onto the fabric. The mouse of my computer has suffered the same consequence, as has the computer come to think of it..
It’s under these conditions that I work with a passion and some sort of order.
Over the last forty years, I have moved my studio at least thirteen times, probably more. Every home the family has lived in, has had a studio and it gets re-assembled with every move. All of them end up looking pretty much the same though…chaotic! No frills, a place to work in, but most importantly, it has to have the right feeling.
We’ve only moved so often because we’ve had to. Either politics or illness or something else has demanded it. I choose to work close to my family and my home, as opposed to anywhere else. Even though I might have two studios, the main one will always be at home surrounded by the people I love, coming in and interacting with me and my work all the time.
Moving around so many times has afforded me the opportunity to experience and paint a truly varied subject matter. My studios often reflect the area and the mind set I’m in. My London and Kent studios were characterised by people, commuter projects and portraits, while my studio in Zimbabwe highlighted my wildlife interest with the Matusadona Mountains and Lake Kariba being some of my favourite destinations for inspiration. I’ve had four studios in Cape Town from which I’ve painted a variety of subjects including wildlife and figurative work, which is becoming more of an interest to me.
I don’t often have clients in my studio and certainly no meetings should take place there. My friends and family are always popping in of course, but it’s not a place to have a business meeting or sort things out. My studio is much more than just a place to work, it’s a living diary, a place to meditate or begin a journey. It’s a place of sanctuary, solitude, creativity and spirituality.