This Saturday Fox and Squirrel art walkers were treated to exclusive access to artist studio’s in Brixton. Low rents, available space and its proximity to Camberwell College of Art and Goldsmiths make it an ideal area for artists to base themselves in. We entered into this private world of the artists’ studio, visiting Eve Ackroyd, Eleanor Purseglove, Phoebe Mitchell and Sarah Praill.
The former three artists are based in the Stockwell Road Studio complex which sprawls over one floor of a commercial building. Each space had an entirely different feel, and we explored the role the studio plays in each artists practice. Each painter reflected on the role of photography as a starting point for much of there work, necessitating a great deal of research in books, and their own image making. Eve’s paintings are powerful and indexical works abstracted from found images in magazines and newspapers. She reflects on the saturation of image in our culture, and the way in which they frame experience. For Phoebe formal gardens and Rococo paintings form a starting point for her oil paintings, which are made through a process of stripping back layers of paint until the perfect composition is achieved. Eleanor’s work centered on hotels and their multifaceted cultural meanings – in her paintings these spaces are abstracted interior images which play on the hotel as an exotic destination, and a seedy or menacing interstitial space. Each artist felt that they were at a moment of transformation in their work, the privilege of visiting them in their studio is that we were able to gain an insight into this moment – something a gallery experience excludes.
Sarah Praill’s studio was above the hustling arcades of Brixton Market itself. Her space was permeated by the delicious smells of the restaurants below and the sounds and music of the food halls. The space was dotted with small ‘presences’; sculptures and drawings made from studies of objects in the British Museum.
We ended the walk with a visit to Photofusion, London’s largest independent photography space. To see the first solo show of artist Natasha Caruana. Natasha’s work is grounded in research, drawing from archives, the Internet and personal narratives. The exhibition shows four bodies of work, The Red Purse, The Other Woman, Married Man, and the more recent A Fairytale for Sale. The group was especially drawn to Married Man, a series of photographs documenting occasions when the photographer arranged dates through dating websites designed for married men to conduct affairs. Each man was photographed so that their identity would be concealed, and in addition Caruana recorded the conversations secretly, using a digital recorder hidden in a red purse. The artist questions the men as to why they are willing to put their legally binding relationships at risk, while also questioning what an artist’s ethical responsibilities should be.