What does the ideal artist’s studio look like? How much time does an artist spend there? Is it a sacred place? This week in 'The Artist’s studio' series: Saar Scheerlings (Galerie Fleur & Wouter)
Do you visit your studio every day?
I practically live in my studio, so yes. A year and a half ago I bought a farm in the French countryside to live and work in. A lot needs to be renovated, so everything is now intertwined. Doing chores, doing work, gardening. Previously, I sometimes had a studio in the Netherlands, but then I mainly worked at home at the kitchen table. I like that homely atmosphere, which ties in with how art is a way of life for me, rather than a practice or work. Everything I do – including building my house, cooking or gardening – comes from the same source. It all belongs together and must be able to blend.
Eventually there will be a specifically equipped workshop and studio in the old stables, but for now it changes where I set up my temporary workplace in the house. At the moment I am on the first floor in the room where a bedroom and bathroom will soon be built.
What time do you leave for your studio, and how: on foot, by bicycle, public transport or car?
That varies, in the summer I like to get up early and get to work right away. In the winter I need more time to start up and warm up. Then the part of the day I am busy shifts to afternoon and evening.
I leave the house ceramic work. In this village, where perhaps forty to fifty people live, is also the ceramic studio and the artist in residence of Pieter Kemink. For a long time he was the ceramics specialist at the Rijksakademie. That is such a lovely place; there are often artists working on large or experimental things. When I work there I can easily get there on foot, it's six hundred meters away, yet I often still take the car! A ridiculous habit I've picked up from the locals.
Do you hold on to certain rituals in your studio? Music or silence?
Only when things get stuck do I need rituals, then I clean up and organize in order to be able to start again. And when I'm busy I listen to Nick Drake, whose music has a calming effect on me. Usually, I have some sound on, music, podcasts or YouTube videos. Recently, for example, French vegetable garden videos. These videos last forever, the French are so good at talking endlessly about a subject.
How important is light to you?
In theory it is important, in practice, however, I am in a dimly lit room. There aren't enough windows, so the table I work on most of the time is right next to the window. For my textile sculptures I choose the colours of the fabric and the yarns there, that is really impossible without light. The rest, the sewing and knotting, is fine in poor light. But that is something I want to tackle in the renovation, skylights will be installed in the roof everywhere.
What does your work process look like? Do you work everywhere and all the time or does work only commence the moment you enter your studio?
I can’t turn off my work, so it always goes on - especially in my mind. Sometimes I want to do two things at once; then I take a sculpture I'm working on to a nearby lake and sit there and work. Or in the car, or on my father's couch when I'm in the Netherlands.
When I'm busy doing odd jobs, the work gets a little more in the background. Like last winter, when I installed electricity. Sometimes the priority is to finish the house so I have a nicer place to work.
How much time do you spend on average per day in your studio?
From when I feel like it till the moment it's done.
Is your studio a sacred place?
No, I don't think so. It's my home and a place where it's all about being able to do what I want. I think that freedom or autonomy is sacred, but that is not tied to a place. A studio is just a practical implementation of that, where I have everything I need at my disposal and can close the door to keep unwanted outside influences away.
Do you receive visits there; collectors, curators or fellow artists?
Very few until now. I've only been here a short time and it also has to do with the primitive life in a renovation. I look forward to being able to easily invite people to my own guest house in the yard in a few years' time, to organize exhibitions and parties, and for artist friends to stay over and work here.
What is the most beautiful studio you have ever seen?
I haven't seen many studios yet, but I was once in Izhar Patkin's home/studio in New York; a friend of mine was living with him at the time. His studio is housed in an old school building with a courtyard in the middle of the East Village. There is a central kitchen, but there are also rooms hidden everywhere where people can stay. Fellow artists have often added things to the house: they’ve dyed the curtains or painted the walls, made the crockery, upholstered the chairs. Within the building there is a hall where he makes his large works. It is such a beautiful whole, a place where art is life.
What does the ideal studio look like?
It looks like the barns in my yard in a few years’ time. Lots of space, skylights in the roof, large sliding barn doors to the garden, a kitchen especially for dyeing fabrics, a clean light painting room, a wood and metal workshop, it has my loom installed finally, being able to try out 1:1 installations. In short: I have everything within reach to do as I please.