What does the ideal studio look like? How much time does an artist spend in his studio? Is it a sacred place? This week in 'The artist’s studio' it’s Albert Rubens (78 years old), who has been working in his studios in Tielt (Belgium) and Provence for fifty and forty years respectively and is represented by Callewaert Vanlangendonck Gallery in Antwerp.
Do you go to your studio every day?
I don’t go there every day, I'm in my studio every day, since I my studio and home are under the same roof. I have two locations, and that has a history: during my last year at Sint Lucas in Ghent, I was looking for a large studio, and I found it in the city where I was born, in Tielt, in West-Flanders. There was a huge attic in a building that I could rent, and I had also housed my screen-printing studio there in the meantime, I am talking about the mid-sixties, around 1967/1968. Three years later the building was sold and I started looking for another studio, again in Tielt. I was able to buy a very large empty mansion, the former home of a textile manufacturer. Gradually, I established my studio there and started living there with my wife. I've had that studio for fifty years now!
A few years later, in the seventies, we were travelling in France and visited Provence. We fell in love with the beautiful nature and bought a house fairly quickly in the village of Esparron-de-Verdon, where I still partly live and work.
What time do you leave for your studio, and how: on foot, by bicycle, public transport or car?
I divide my time between Tielt and Provence. I taught at a high school, and had a lot of annual leave, and we took advantage of that by travelling south as soon as possible. I stopped teaching at fifty-five, and have had more time since then, now I'm in France half the time, two months here and there. Due to the pandemic I was there a little less, but this has now been resolved.
Do you keep to certain rituals in your studio? Music or silence?
My studio in Tielt is very spacious, the one in Provence is slightly smaller. In the studio I have places where I prepare studies, and a part where I carry out works. I produce my work in mt Tielt studio, which boasts a large window with a view of my garden, and I use the same system in France: a small room where I make studies, with a window where I have a view of a valley. I don't listen to music when I study and design, but I do when I work out my studies. I listen to every style period: like medieval and electronic contemporary music… I listen to all good music. My father was a violinist, I got the music from him, I also play the piano.
My works are not accidental. Everything is drawn in advance in my diaries. I make a selection during my studies, and when it is clear how I am going to execute the designs in full size, I transfer them to canvas, paper or another medium. When I am executing those works, the music can be a bit loud, according to my wife.
How important is light to you?
When designing, I usually sit by the window. In Tielt my window is facing North and here in Esparron it’s exactly the other way around, facing South. That valley is very stimulating.
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?
It never stops. Creativity does not stop at five, my work is constantly going on. But I do like regularity, in the sense that I don't have periods of weeks when I don't do anything. I don't work every day, but I'm always busy mentally. I spend a lot of time in my diaries, to which I attach great importance to because – as I said before – the definitive works stem from them.
How much time do you spend on average per day in your studio?
Sometimes I start around 6 in the morning and spend an entire day in the studio, but it is also possible until late at night, I don't have fixed hours. I'm at home, then it's easier to walk back and forth. Work and home are intertwined, and it is interrupted by contacts with galleries, to participate in symposia and exhibitions.
Is your studio a sacred place?
Of course, it's a sacred place. A place of peace and quiet. In principle one can work in any place, but it is a pleasure to be in my own studio. When I'm traveling I can also put something on paper, but that's different.
Do you receive visitors there; collectors, curators or fellow artists?
Yes, since my studio is also my home, people regularly drop by: friends, collectors, curators, gallerists. At times there are heated discussions, but in the end it always goes in the same direction: the things we are doing creatively. We discuss the work I'm working on, other artists and exhibitions, the evolution and changes in the art world. I also still have contact with people who are studying; I think it is important to be able to work with motivated young people. After my studies in graphic and plastic arts, I wanted to continue studying architecture, but circumstances prevented this from happening. Architecture has always fascinated me.
What is the most beautiful studio you have ever seen?
I was a close friend of François Morellet, who lived and died in Cholet, in the department of Maine-et-Loire. I am still in contact with his wife. His studio made a big impression on me, it is an immense house, a castle, so to speak. He lived in his studio, just like me. The house, the studios and the depot, are in perfect order and of unparalleled beauty. I came into contact with him through Le Disque Rouge, a gallery in Brussels, near the Sablon, with which I worked very closely for years and which only showed work by people who were working in our direction. I am now speaking from the late 1960s to the late 1980s. I have been to many of Morellet's exhibitions, in Berlin, Paris, New York…
What does the ideal studio look like?
My studio is the ideal studio: living and working together. There is no retirement age for that, I'll be working there until the last breath.