Nadine: We’re standing in a Reservoir backyard, in what used to be a mechanic’s workshop. My studio is one half of the garage; on the other side of the wall is Robert Bridgewater’s studio.
I used to have a studio on Smith Street in Fitzroy, which I started with Damiano Bertoli, Ricky Swallow and Raafat Ishak. It’s still running today. But after more than 15 years, I moved to Reservoir and needed somewhere closer to home.
It couldn’t be more different, but I’m embracing the difference, I love the difference. Back in Fitzroy, it was a very collegiate atmosphere with lots of exchange, lots going on, people dropping in all the time. It was a space for sharing and workshopping ideas.
Here you don’t get that traffic. I do invite peers to come and talk about my work at different points in its development, but it’s a much quieter, more solitary, focused practice. There’s absolutely no interruption, no one passing through, no distraction just outside the door. It’s a really different way of working but it suits me at this moment in my life and my practice.
When I moved in, I painted the brick walls white and put up more fluorescents so I could work at night.
During the day, though, the skylights are fabulous. If it’s cold outside, you can close down and batten the hatches but still have all that natural light filtering in.
My partner James Lynch, who’s also an artist, and I keep our archive in the mezzanine for all the catalogues, documentation and ephemera around exhibitions that we have been involved in. I also brought in plan drawers, where I store my old works on paper, and there’s plenty of room for source material like books, objects and found imagery. In the past, everything has been dispersed around various other locations, but now I’ve been able to bring it all together. It’s great to have everything at arm’s length and to remind myself of trains of thought that resonate in past work and into future work.
My time in the studio varies according to what’s required. I have children and drop them off at school in the morning, so that determines what time I can start. The day itself is interrupting by my teaching schedule. So I whittle away time according to other commitments in my life. There’s no absolute routine. I come in here at night a lot, often between 7 or 8pm and 10 or 11pm. But I also stop by in the middle of the day, too, so I can take advantage of all the light.
Not everything takes place in the studio – it’s more like a home base. Sometimes I need to do research outside of the studio, whether it’s at a library or a particular site or even just in the course of a conversation that enables me to draw ideas together. Some of the research, however, I can do here – that is, testing and developing compositions through experimentation.
There’s always a production phase at some point when there’s a deadline looming and there’s no more time to do any more investigations: it’s just time to produce the work. But there’s a caveat on that because the investigation continues through the production too. I can bring as much material and information together for that production period but when I’m in the midst of that unexpected things happen and changes are made. Sometimes the changes are about finessing and tweaking and adjusting and sometimes you reach a dead end within the painting or you realise that the way you’ve thought about the painting hasn’t translated to the way the making of the painting is happening so a radical change is required.
I didn’t think that painting would endure in my practice in the way that it has. When I left art school, I thought it would play some role, a minor role, and then peter out. But it has endured and not because I’ve pushed it to the front – it’s just presented itself as an absolutely thrilling and often overwhelming challenge to me, so much so that it’s persisted as something that I want to explore.
– May 2016