My wife and I have recently signed off on a deal that will allow us to have a great deal more space in the near future. We will be moving to a home that will allow us to quadruple our current space and give us each a new studio along with separate areas for our family and friends. Needless to say we are excited about the possibilities this will offer and it has me thinking about a number of the spaces I have lived in and likes and dislikes of them.
And more interestingly, how they affected my work as an artist.
Living in Japan, I became enamored with the idea of life being composed through time rather than through space. What this means is that one looks at their home or their living space, not as defined spatial places (bedroom, dining room, etc.) but as times of day. I lived for a long time in a simple 2 room apartment in which one room was a kitchen/dining space and the other was everything else. Laid out as a square with tatami flooring, the room regularly transformed from workspace, to living to bedroom by the movement of my belongings throughout the day.
Although I say enamored, the truth is I may have been more in love with the idea than the reality. As a painter, I am always spreading out. I like having my tools around my studio space and I like having space to step back from things. Most of all, I like to be away from other people and the inevitable distractions that them.
In Japan, I saw my medium change, and while this was in part due to the various materials that were available, I think a large part was the space I worked in as well. Most of the time in Japan I gravitated to small media, ink, water color and acrylic paintings with tiny brushes. I kept things mostly confined to a desk space, and it wasn’t until I moved into a larger space that I began embracing messier materials and larger formats.
Despite having a fair-sized studio, my overall living space in the US is currently quite cramped and I see that having a big effect on my work. My wife, daughter and I share a 1 bedroom apartment in a tiny suburban town. We are at the best of times working (or playing/trying to crawl) on top of each other. And while this has the benefit of creating a constant flow of ideas back and forth, it also means we are constantly shifting our work to accommodate things outside the work.
On the one hand it should be obvious that more space equals larger and messier work. But looking more deeply at how I set up my space helps me see that there is a greater effect then just size. There is actually an opening of the mind that occurs with the opening of a space. I see my ideas flow more freely, my hands grow more wide-ranging and graceful in a larger space. When I cramp down physically my ideas, my line and approach all follow suit.
Everything feeds off of the space and begins to speak in the work being made. Its an interesting exercise to approach your space and look for things that are affecting your work that you may not yet be aware of. How do you enter? How do you sit? How far do you stretch your arms? Where can you move and where can you not? What colors are here and why? And where on your work do you focus most readily? Is there anything you find you do differently now than you did in a previous space. What would you change in your space now, that could have the biggest impact in your work.