Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A room of one's own

Inspired by reading Virginia Woolf's inspiring essay, A Room of One's Own, I have been thinking a great deal about the artists' need for space, time and money. Many of the artists I work with are not aiming to make millions but want to be able to keep producing, improve their practice and get their work out of the studio.
So what does it take to do this? I remember when I was an art student. Single, living in tiny bedsits and share houses with my easel sharing space with my bed. My tea often tasted like oil paints and my clothes were inadvertently decorated with traces of magenta, cobalt blue and mostly zinc white. At my most prolific times I was studying full time at art school while juggling part time work. Often this was two jobs- waitressing was the usual and I remember a particular busy time when I was also cleaning houses.

Painting would usually happen between 11pm and 4am; my favourite time of the day. It was quiet and I knew I wouldn't be interupted. Often I would have 5 or 6 half finished paintings hanging on walls or leaning against furniture. They became part of my environment and as I passed each one I would analyse, tweak and critique until I felt that the work was finished.

In hearing of the recent death of 88 year old Margaret Olley I remembered seeing a TV interview at her home which was a cluttered collection of canvas, colour, paints, brushes and remnants of food. I can't remember the interviewer, but can remember Olley's indignant response when he suggested that perhaps she needed to clean up. Like other artists homes I have entered, they are an environment to create in, a place that inspires and a home for the artist. Could it have been that way if Olley had had children or lived with a partner. Maybe not.

With cohabitation and the responsibilities of parenthood comes expectations and compromise; which both can impinge on the freedom of creative thought and practice. Time and space are the most valuable of all elements in igniting, concocting, mulling over and finally realising a creative vision, whether in print, paint or other.

But to make art we also need a place, a home or at least a room; as Woolf would suggest. To have this we need money. To have money we need to work. So there is the cyclical dilemma for a creative mind. Even if we look to the masters we see that, at least initially, many of them had to produce what the patron wanted them to. Only once they gained power through kudos and money could they afford to explore their own endeavours.

A Room of One's Own was originally published in 1925 and is an insightful exploration into the challenges for female fiction writers. What we can see is that the predicament remains and is an ongoing battle and balance for those wishing to create.

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