Want to see art outside of the commercial galleries? Or maybe like me you have lofty dreams of starting your own art collection. This weekend take a trip to South West London from 25 November to the Wimbledon Art Studios, Winter Open Studios Art Show. The open show sees artists opening up their studio spaces this weekend, giving the public the chance to explore a treasure trove of new works. There’s an eclectic mix by up and coming, as well as established artists, photographers, ceramicists and textile designers.
Community and the artist
The Wimbledon Studios aim to provide a spring board for working artists, which couldn’t be apt in today’s dire financial climate. The studios are the largest, single site art studio complex in London and Britain. This fantastic project is not merely about the singular artist and the creative community within, Wimbledon Art Studios aim to give local people the opportunity to view and appreciate contemporary art, whilst building links with the resident artists.
The opening night was bustling with proud parents, artist’s friends and locals. The last open show attracted over 5,000 visitors and I suspect they shall hit they figure or more this year.
On the preview night studio workers were happy to talk about the spaces and I was impressed by the colour map brochure produced for the show. Plenty of friendly guides and artists were on hand when I lost my bearings in the rabbit warren of corridors and stairways, so be warned you may loose yourself but find an interesting artwork in the process!
The entrance, which bridged the two buildings in a temporary structure, displayed some key pieces including Kate Kelleher’s eye catching painting, and a sculpture by Kevin Herlihy who uses found and recycled mediums. There were also some small board works for sale to raise money for the studios upkeep. At £55 a go, I decided to snap up a board by Jayson Lilley. Other artists you should stop by at – Darryn Eggleton‘s amazing animal paintings and Alison Pearl‘s delicate and seemingly impossible objects made from paper.
Inside the spaces
As I tottered around with my new art work I explored the studios which are spread over 2 areas. The main Red Studio building, originally a paper warehouse, opened with just 6 artists renting spaces in 1993. Now, the original warehouse consists of over 100 studio spaces and in addition there are now 60 studio spaces in a newly, purpose built ‘Blue Studios’ building, on the same site. On 1st November 2011 an additional 55 brand new studios were opened in a reclaimed section of the warehouse. Now the site has over 200 artist tenants. The close proximity of the studios make it feel homely, it felt like I was stepping into a person’s private space, almost like their bedroom, a definite plus side away from the clinical commercial gallery spaces.
The artist and the studio
Is a studio site like the one in Wimbledon an ideal place for an artist to gain recognition though? And do the resident artists actually like the makeshift space in the built up industrial estate in Wandsworth? I asked Idun Eustace, an resident artist at the Wimbledon site who is displaying her pieces for the show.
Idun has been at the studios since 2007 and first exhibited during the autumn show. Idun lectures in life drawing and oil painting for EAL, Ealing, West London. Her works of semi-abstract still life evoke many influences from the Norwegian landscape where she was born and brought up.
What do you think of the new studio space that opened in November 2011? So how does it compare to other, more formal, settings you’ve shown at? Such as gallery spaces/fairs?
The new space (as a whole) has got a nice feel to it & is much more spacious than the studios in the old Red Studio building – Although my new space has no natural light ,I feel this doesn’t matter so much, as I look upon it as a challenge to see how it changes my work. There are studios with natural light but I chose this one for the space as I want to run life drawing classes from there as well as paint.
Do you feel the studios are successful in terms of building a creative hub for emerging artists and also for artists to sell their work too? Or do the more traditional roots of art fairs and private galleries, like the Affordable Art Fair, work better?
I think it’s a little hit and miss sales wise – sometimes you sell and others not. The good thing about the studios is that they don’t take a commission on sales whereas fairs, such as AAF and other London Galleries take 50 %. It does give merging artists as well as more established artists a great platform to sell their work.
Where do get your ideas for pieces? Whilst travelling around London, or more abstractly?
I draw a lot and source ideas almost everywhere – e.g. If I go in to London on the train (with my sketchbook) I will look out of the window and take a mental picture and draw it immediately, or when I’m on holiday (usually to Norway), I always have my sketchbook (and camera) handy. I also sometimes draw and paint from memory so these may be more abstract – I look on the drawing process this way; if you’re an artist you ought to draw as its part of the process of painting. Painting is really drawing with your brush.
You are trained in many different disciplines, painting, printmaking, life drawing, photography, graphics, illustration & textiles. Do you or would you ever incorporate these into you pieces?
I do use photography as reference only, whether it be a design ref or a colour reference – I have used printmaking in my art but not currently – I do however like the way Munch used print making as reference/addition in his art and have recently been looking into this. I’m quite interested in African tribal art textiles. I have also been toying with the idea of introducing burlap/hessian in my work but at present this is embryonic only. I am looking at the work of artists like Tapies and Sandra Blow for inspiration.
You are quite active on Twitter, do you feel artists have to embrace this more so now? Have you felt the need to use it more?
I feel the use of twitter is essential to reach out to a wider audience and think that one’s got to advertise oneself, no-one else will do it for you and hopefully one’s twitter followers will RT and thus reach more people – so it can only be a good thing. You have to grab opportunities as life is too short.
Idun’s works feature at the open show till 27 November and she is also planning to run classes that will be available to artists at the Studios as well as outsiders, contact her here for more information firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @idunart
The Open Studios Art Show at the Wimbledon Art Studios is open to the public till 27 November Friday 2pm – 10pm
Saturday & Sunday 11am – 6pm. For more information about the show and the artists see click here.