Is it just me or is there a universal fascination with artists` studios? There is a certain voyeuristic thrill in being able to peek into the spaces where artists create their artwork. Its like walking into the artist`s head. Having never been to art school my experience of real life artists` working places is minimal and whenever I get the chance to check them out I grab it.
So finding myself in Dublin over the New Year break I was delighted to stumble upon two quintessential examples: the Irish portraitist and still life painter Edward McGuire, and the more famous Francis Bacon.
Nick Miller and the studio of Edward McGuire is currently showing at The Irish Museum of Modern Art (the IMMA) until 3rd April this year. http://www.imma.ie/en/page_236947.htm
The exhibition displays numerous objects from McGuire`s studio - the detailed colour guides he created, trays of mixed paint in multifarious hues, easels, his ubiquitous green visor and various other Heath Robinson-esque inventions to facilitate his painting: a wooden rack from which brushes could be hung, a form of camera obscura, an anglepoise-clamp-canvas holder.
Just across town from the IMMA in Parnell Square North is the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. This houses the remarkable studio of Francis Bacon, (donated from the artist`s heir John Edwards and executor Brian Clarke), painstakingly relocated from Reese Mews London and displayed lock stock and barrel in a marvellous display. The photograph at the beginning of this blog shows the original studio but the attached video links provide an interesting expose if you are unable to visit yourself. http://www.hughlane.ie/a-terrible-beauty-interviews . Bacon was born in Dublin and it is fitting that the studio now resides in the splendid surroundings of the Hugh Lane.
Bacon`s studio was located in the attic of 7 Reese Mews, up a precipitously steep staircase. There was nothing in the mundanely modest and tidy flat beneath to presage the chaotic discombobulation of the painting space - a mind-boggling clutter of paints, brushes, slashed canvas, photographs, source material, and walls upon which he had cleaned his brushes and tested colour combinations.
The studio has been meticulously recreated with over 7,000 items found and catalogued on a specially designed database and is unprecedented in museum practice. As the conservator Mary McGrath says in the introductory video to the 2009 Exhibition A Terrible Beauty "its like a latter day Egyptian tomb".
Bacon`s studio - partly through the publicity from this permanent display - has become something of an icon symbolising the immense complexity of the artistic mind. Its as if we are looking directly into Bacon`s brain at the process of creative cognition itself.
Part 2 of the fascination of artists` studios will look at the beautiful and grandiose Leighton House Museum in London which boasts a magnificent example of the genre.
In the meantime I leave you with a glimpse of my own studio in Tokyo. As this adjoins the kitchen and doubles as a living area, space and `clutterability` are somewhat limited!