One-car garage, part 1

Studio with primed panelsI want to bring my blog down to earth a bit and talk about stuff I’m actually doing once in a while, even (especially) the mundane stuff. (I still want it to be about art, so I won’t write about hoovering or going to bed). In honour of the one-car garage that I work in, I’m going to call this occasional series One-car garage. In it, I’ll describe what I’ve got up to in my garage/studio (I also have a spare bedroom, in which I work a lot, and a shed).

Today, I primed a number of 82 x 120cm hardboard panels to paint on. They all have to have three coats of acrylic gesso. I prime them on an easel and then have to find somewhere to stack each one, so that it doesn’t have anything touching the wet paint and so that Ioana can get her bike through when she comes home. My garage is on the north side of my house and through it is the only way to the back of the house. This means it has two doors facing east-west and is also the only way that all the dust picked up by the west wind can go east. So it’s always full of dead leaves and general dust. Which is great for wet paint. Fortunately, it wasn’t windy today, so my paint is safe. It is hard manoeuvring big wet painted panels around in a small space and the sense of clutter doesn’t make you feel creative. I also hung a big piece of Tyvek up on the wall mounted easel I have. This stuff creases really easily. It is also as light as silk and the slightest air current causes it to billow all over the place. I had fun and swore a bit trying to get it clipped onto a board on the easel. That was enough for one afternoon. The end.

Paint it red

Garage studio
One-car garage, with space to get wheelie bin through

I saw a little interview with Anthony Caro yesterday and it struck me for a couple of reasons. Jacques Maritain, the philosopher, said in one of his books that artists aren’t very good at talking about the process of intuition and inspiration in the creation of their art, compared to poets and other writers. This, I guess, is true, because the business of a writer is to put into words things which are difficult to put into words and this gives them their tools to dig beneath the surface of the experience. Artists’ reflections begin and end outside of the realm of words. In the interview with Anthony Caro, I liked the fact that the language he used to explain the process of the creation of his sculpture Early One Morning were all very down-to-earth and humble. He said that he wanted to make a sculpture that was ‘stretched out’ and ‘like a dance’, not like a ‘block’. That’s good. That’s fair enough. That’s as far as it goes. But why did he want to make a sculpture that was ‘stretched out’? Doesn’t matter. He also painted it red because it didn’t look very good green and his wife suggested painting it red. I find it takes a bit of confidence to admit that one’s reasons are sometimes very simple (maybe it took less in the 1960s – it seems to have been in many ways a much simpler era in art than now, or, at least, it seems that way to one born later, like me).

I’ve just been messing on looking at gallery websites and reading artists’ statements. None of them say things like ‘I wanted to make something stretched out’, or, ‘I painted it red because my wife told me to’. Why not? Why shouldn’t we admit that art is simple, in a way? I think it’s a sign of lack of confidence that the language of art (especially artists’ statements and gallery press releases) seems to have to hang on the coat tails of academia and adopt some of it’s tone (‘My work is an investigation into…’).

Artists’ intuition is something that interests me a lot (I have a confession: I just do things because they come into my head and seem right). That’s why I like Jacques Maritain’s writing on poetic intuition, because it allows there to be something going on below the surface (in the pre-conscious), which is hidden from you (why do certain things come into my head and not others and what makes them seem ‘right’?). The problem is that it is very difficult to know if what he says is really true, but at least it chimes with my own experience.

The other thing I liked about the interview was that he made the sculpture in a one-car garage. Wow, I work in a one-car garage! There’s hope yet! I like the colour red, too. Might paint something red.