Monday, January 11, 2010

Remembering the Studio

Guest Blogger:
Mathew Paul Jinks

When I was 8 years old I had the greatest studio of all. A big room in the middle floor of an old Victorian house. It was across the hallway from my parent’s room, ans was a space for junk to be stored and for me to hide away in. It was a messy room, full of everyone’s throw away things, and a big draughtsman’s desk my father had rescued from an unknown source. Big tea chests lay scattered around brimming with stuff. Tea chests were good for moving things in and my father had brought many of them home from the shipping docks where he worked. On one occasion when running for the phone (the old type that brrrringed and brrrrringed) I slashed open my inside leg on the rusty tin corner of a said tea chest, I was wearing shorts for school and I still have the scar to this day.

My father brought home many office type things including rolls of fax paper or dot matrix paper that I would use to draw on. Long panoramas of fictional landscapes were created on thin rolls of paper that stretched on an on until my imagination ran dry. I had a fascination with primal elements. I would start fires in the garden to see how things burned and I would create slow dripping waterfalls in the ‘studio’ fascinated by the action of displacement and siphoning with gravity. My father had ‘gifted’ me a steam engine, but it was really for him. it came with a set of tools for sharpening and cutting and polishing, but I just loved to watch the steam turn into energy from a simple flame.

When I was studying photography in Glasgow many years later, I briefly had a studio in an old prison cell in the East end, and then later at The Glasgow School of Art the studios for the photo students were housed in the old psych ward of a hospital. My studio was shared with another student named Giles and it was once used as a slop room for cleaning and bedpan changing. Various parts of this building were haunted. Windows are important in the spaces I use. This slop room studio had a big window that looked across a street which was a very steep hill. At lunch time you would see runners training wearing back packs up and down the hill past the window before then returning to work.

My first studio had big Victorian sash windows that had hooks to lift the windows open, just big enough to fit two fingers under.

Though I would frequently romanticize the notion and call them studios the spaces I have used have been far more useful when treated as a home away from home, or indeed when they have been located in my home they become full of artifacts and objects that feed and nourish my eyes and hands. I relish the placement and orchestrate the movements of things around the room.

I briefly had a space in the Feather lofts building in Chicago, with fantastic views of the train tracks and downtown. The windows were wonderful, but a wholly unproductive space in the end, the hallways always smelt of Nag Champa, it had to go.

My UIC Grad school studio was very blank and wrought with the expectation of production. They were big private studios with lots of light with little to no character and a vengeful AC system. When I am forced to make a space for myself things never work out, when a space develops naturally it of course feels right. I would be happier in a garden shed as a tinkerer and a thinker than in a grand production space of lofty ideals.

My current space is at home, half living space half ‘stuff space’, surrounded by remnants of research and projects, all feeding off each other and breeding more ideas; this is the studio that works best for me. My work is no longer centered around a unique productive experience, the fickle nature of my research requires me to keep ‘stations’ and work benches ready. This ready-ness or ‘on duty’ state gives me a comfort to explore other potentials. I recently read the book Remainder by Tom McCarthy in which the central character loses his memory only to rediscover it through a production of intricate re-enactments of his fragmented memory flashes. He orchestrates these ‘scenes’ to be acted and staffed 24 hours a day constantly in a state of theatre. Much like the Kaufman film Synecdoche.

Knowing these scenes are being re-run somewhere gives him the security to explore other potential meanings in his memories. Occasionally he returns to the sites to witness the accumulation and detritus of the process. This he records and annotates in a vain attempt at a creation of a research practice based upon fictionalized memory traces. This is how my studio functions.

"My work performs culture and collects memory.  My installations, videos and performances appropriate  and de-regulate social and historical constructs: self,  nation, history. I use image and language as formal  stand-ins for the latent territories that underlie these  constructs and the thresholds that link them".

Mathew completed his undergraduate studies at The Glasgow School of Art in Scotland U.K, in 2005.  He then moved to the U.S and completed his MFA as a University Fellow at the University of Illinois
at Chicago in 2008. Mathew has exhibited both in the U.K and the U.S. and is currently exhibiting at Gallery 400, Chicago, for it's At The Edge Series, show entitled “On Sundrun”.

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