A Century of the Artist's Studio
What is the allure of the artist's studio? The artist's workspace could be a garage, an abandoned factory, an attic, a back bedroom or the kitchen table; where ever it be, it is where the creative magic happens. The exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery explores these spaces through a mixture of installations, recreations, photographs, film, paintings and sculpture.
Admittedly, the whole thing does feel like a slightly bonkers mish-mash. But to my mind, the chaotic clutter felt so right for the subject matter. I don't know if I was just in the right frame of mind – and hands up, I do have a huge soft spot for the Whitechapel – but I fell for this show hook line and sinker, while I think Emily would say, that she enjoyed many of the photographs and some of the individual recreations but didn't 'get' the point of the show in its entirety.
There are plenty of well-known names (Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, Barbara Hepworth, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Egon Schiele, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore, I could go on ....), and then names that were entirely unknown to us from across the globe. The show loosely takes two themes: the ground floor at the Whitechapel explores the 'public studio' (which artists have embraced as an exhibition space) and upstairs the 'private studio' (an artist's private space and sanctuary for experimentation). To be honest, there seemed to be some overlap and I'm not sure the themes are entirely helpful or critical to the visitors (especially a child's) enjoyment.
Highlights include the pairing of Henry Moores and Barbara Hepworth's studios upstairs. Kim Lim's studio nearby is fascinating with its tools and her exquisite carvings. Any child will spot – and be amused by – the abandoned flip-flop sculpture shoved under Hassan Sharif's wooden unit. Don't hurry past the quieter, less in-your-face works on the walls: the photographs of Picasso, Matisse, Calder, Giacometti, Tinguely downstairs are wonderful and there's a beautiful Wilhelmina Barns-Graham painting of her studio interior in the quiet room upstairs.
Maybe the supposed narrative of this exhibition was a bit lost, but the process of creativity is seductive and it feels original and creative and it made me want to get my paintbrush out!
A Century of the Artist's Studio: 1920–2020
Whitechapel Gallery until 5th June
Anya Waddington 24th February 2021