What does the ideal studio look like? How much time does an artist spend in his studio? Is it a sacred place? In the series 'The Artist’s Studio' this week: Eva Spierenburg, whose work is currently on display in the group exhibition 'Hidden Remains' at Galerie Fontana.
Do you go to your studio every day?
I would like to, but on average I am there around four to five days per week. On other days I do computer work at home, and I teach. When I prepare a bigger solo exhibition it quickly becomes seven days a week.
What time do you leave for your studio, and how: on foot, by bicycle, public transport or car?
I get up early, but often start the day quietly with tea, some e-mails, reading, shopping, and then leave around half past nine for the studio. My studio is located in a kind of warehouse on the edge of Utrecht, in the green. With good weather, enough time and energy, it's a nice bike ride from my home in Zeist. Cycling past farms and fortresses it is good to dream and think. After an intensive working day I really have to stop earlier and eat more for the way back, so often I take the car again. This way I can also pick up material on the way or in between, so that I can continue working immediately.
Do you hold on to certain rituals in your studio? Music or silence?
The first thing I do is make a cup of tea and while drinking I look at what I've done the day before and decide how to proceed. Then I put on work clothes; overalls in winter or loose dress in summer. Both are stiff from the thick layers of paint, plaster, acrylic resin, sealant, etc. I like that both my work and myself collect and carry the traces of the making process.
Then I set to work, in silence. Music distracts me too much and sets the mood, I don't want that. The only thing I can tolerate in my studio in terms of music is the drumming of the neighbour; that sounds through alley and walls like a kind of heartbeat – a monotonous physical rhythm that can also be ignored.
The layout of my studio depends on what I'm making; there are mobile work stations and temporary structures for installations. When I'm working on an installation, it becomes packed quickly as I am constantly shifting, gradually creating new combinations between the different parts. In recent months I have mainly made sculptural paintings; the floor is nice and empty and while the wall gradually becomes fuller.
How important is light to you?
I have long thought that light was not so important to me, despite my painting background. For several years I had a studio without windows, with only artificial light and a low ceiling. My work partly adapts to the environment in which it is made. In that windowless low studio, many paintings were framed darkly and clearly. Later, when I got a studio with northern lights at the Rijksakademie, I realized that the light does matter, and the constant daylight gave me a lot of peace. At the same time, in that bluish daylight, my favourite red suddenly became very raw and bloody. Fitting with my work at the time, but also confronting with every brushstroke.
My current studio has a lot of daylight that moves with the weather; a mixture of direct warm sunlight and indirect cool light. I like this variation, to be able to see the work in different ways.
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?
In my mind the work always continues, in busy periods I even dream about it and wake up with new ideas. There is little distinction between my art and life; that's the only way my work can materialise. This can also be too obsessive and exhausting, so I also try to create distinction, to give myself and my work peace and distance as well. After all, reflection takes place at a distance, thus creating space for new things.
The actual making takes place in the studio; my ideas find their final form through interaction with material. I have a preference for materials in which the action is immediately visible, and the traces of the making are preserved. For example, I often pour acrylic resin into one-off moulds of wet clay, transferring action and physicality to the solidified result.
How much time do you spend on average per day in your studio?
Usually five to seven hours. I work quite fast, preferably in a state of hyper focus. At some point my concentration is gone and it is better to let the work rest until the next day.
Is your studio a sacred place?
Yes, in the sense that for me it is the most important place, where I am most in my element, where material is animated, where a kind of infinity reigns, where the elusive becomes digestible and everything comes together. And no, because it is not untouchable and perfect, because things are allowed to fail and break.
Do you receive visits there; collectors, curators or fellow artists?
Sure, but with gusts. When I'm in the middle of a process, I prefer to be alone and don't always want to talk about work: words can get in the way of the intuitive process. My crafting mode and social mode are quite far apart, so I to concentrate all the visits within the span of a few weeks. Then I clean up my studio and set it up again for each visit, in a way that suits the person who comes by and the occasion of the visit.
Occasionally I invite gallerists, but I haven’t had a permanent gallery for a long time. At Fontana, I am showing work for the first time – via curator Pieter Dobbelsteen of the former gallery CINNNAMON. Pieter stopped by a number of times for good conversations, but unfortunately closed down the gallery shortly after we decided to enter into a lasting collaboration.
What is the most beautiful studio you have ever seen?
When I think of the most beautiful studio, fragments of studios come to mind that together form the perfect studio: the glass wall overlooking a meadow in a ceramist's studio, the void in the old studio of a painter friend, the well-equipped workshops in a studio building in Utrecht...
What does the ideal studio look like?
A combination of the above, together in a farm-like building on the edge of a city. With separate areas for woodworking and metalworking, a dirty and a clean part, and lots of storage. It’s a studio where everything is within arm’s reach allowing you to work with different materials, but where you can also sit quietly and stare, dream and think.