When I first moved to Bathurst I was desperate for studio space. I lived in a tiny lavender flavored cottage on Devonshire Lane with my new tortishell cat and a strange collection of art making things. I’d nurtured a talent for collecting art making things. First there is one stitch, handkerchief, linoleum sample, knitting needle… then there are one hundred. As art making and I breathed together, the tiny cottage shrank. I was making at a furious pace and thought, if I can make all this in a tiny space, imagine what I could make in an enormous space.
So I walked town looking for space, talking about space, asking about space. I worked at the local library and one day a paint speckled guy told me he had space and invited me to look. The space was just down the road, a lunch break walk away. The day dripped with summer and I was wearing my light blue work shirt. The shirt was sweat activated and turned dark blue on contact with mild exertion. I stood brazenly in my splotched blueness in the Tremain Mill car park and yelled his name up to the third floor window so he would let me in.
It was an amazing space, heavy with the smell of oil paint and making. I remember thinking how strange. How strange that I made things in a tiny cottage just over there and never realised that one block away and three flights up, there was another human also making things. I looked down at my leaking blue work shirt and wondered if I would leave a trace in this space. That was almost a decade ago and we were strangers then. In the years that followed we moved into a larger cottage together. I made art at home; he made art at the mill. Our lives were art filled.
I still call that space Steve’s, even though the lease has been in my name for four years. It’s a big, fantastic space filled with wonderful things. It’s the space I dreamed of when I first moved to Bathurst, a space for making enormous things. I learnt many simple truths when Steve died. I learnt that space doesn’t make art. And so each year I decide to move out of the studio. It is greedy with my money and taunts me during the hours I spend working for a local youth organization. I don’t go there for months, then I do and I’m back in that space that still has a trace of me. Brazen shaped and splotched with blue.
I didn’t make art after Steve died. Time swept around me and I stood very still, hardly breathing. I’d lost my shape and when I looked down my trace was only just visible. I’m making again now, the pace fuelled by those years of stillness. The two projects I’m working on would benefit from an enormous space, and whilst the part of my thinking that attempts numerical rationale knows that keeping that space is not possible I can’t leave that space just yet. I can't leave because I haven't finished what we started.
When Steve died he left the contents of his studio to me. Much of the finished work has now been gifted to his family but there are vast quantities of work in progress. These pieces were created for something enormous and wonderful. It is this work that I now plan to resolve, and I can’t imagine doing it without that space. The proposed work will be exhibited at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery for six weeks in 2016.
I too have hundreds of finished and unfinished works in the studio. I have nowhere for them to go if I move out. It makes sense to see if they can be the way I keep this space. They were not made to live in boxes, wrapped in bubbles. They were made to live on other’s walls, in their homes, next to where they eat and sleep, bicker and love. Each week I will choose one of these works and post it here, for sale. And in this way I hope to keep the studio. My current lease runs out in February 2015, so I have a tiny bit of time up my sleeve... and a whole lot of love. Hope to share it with you.
Welcome to Studio Keeping.
Studio Keeping: A small project to keep a big space. Funds raised through this initiative will go directly to keeping the third floor of Tremain Mill as a studio space while Karen works through the estate of deceased artist Steve Kirby. This project will culminate in a very special art making experience at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery in 2016.