One month in of a two month residency. I like to think I’m getting to grips with Berlin life but then again, I find myself in a coffee shop ordering a croissant as I don’t have the German for another snack to have with meinen kaffee!
The area I’m in is Freidricshain, East Berlin. The studio is situated near Boxhanger Platz, a square where markets flourish in the weekend buzz, buy a bike, have brunch and snoop through the bric n’brac.
The Takt building itself was once the labourers housing block and on our floor were the landlord offices. My room, Fr. Luckmann the secretary’s office. The building is comfortable and warm against the lingering cold winter. The lively Biergarten directly beneath my window, mean earplugs and eye mask are a necessity, especially at weekends when closing time is anything between 4-6am! So embrace the old adage ‘if you can’t beat them join them!’, conveniently Berghain Club is 10min walk away and open all weekend!
I feel that my time in Berlin is already having a huge impact on my work. I usually know exactly what I’m doing in the studio and have a bank of ideas tucked away in my head, notebooks and journals. So I arrived in Berlin with ideas but also with an open mind, and by the time we had done our introductory presentations in the first week in the studio, I had come up with new plans…
My work over the last 18 months had focused on how changing one element in my painting set-ups can change the whole body of work. I work with controlling the lighting and changed the lights to blue. After a few days in the new studio, I realized the brightness of the daylight coming through the windows was something to be worked with rather than trying to control it and over it up. Letting the daylight dictate my practice while I’m here.
I put blue plastic gels on the windows and let the sunshine through, creating a blue glow in the studio. But this is as much control as I have over the light in the room. Some days it’s dull and gloomy and more a deadening blue haze than a glow and therefore very hard to be in the room. On bright sunny days the whole room is luminous and fresh. At night I use lamps which are covered with blue gels.
The studio changes as the daylight changes throughout the day, creating dual distinctive character to the space. Also at night, outside the blue windows can be seen from up the street, another colour in the grey tenement block.
After I put up the gels on the window I had about 10 days of thinking, trying to continue with some of the work I had planned. The influence of having little control over the light really affected my painting process… so I’m now stuck with a rather large unsuccessful work on paper and an unfinished self portrait.
My interest is now focusing more on the space itself, documenting the studio as it changes and develops. All of which will come together in a catalogue and series of photographs. This is tying in a few of my on going interests; documenting my process and also the context in which work is produced and exhibited. I think sometimes just having the space and time to explore other interests gives you the confidence to push through ideas, trying out the things that you’ve been procrastinating about back in the safe confines of your studio.
A major benefit of being on the residency with 8 other artists, is having various areas of interest and expertise between everyone. So while finding your way around photoshop and trying to remember the long past college years, you have someone nearby to troubleshoot with… for example!
The residency is a very productive situation. Everyone is here to work and also to see Berlin so there’s a 50/50 split between studio time and socialising time. Everything revolves around art anyway, so really you’re always networking and discovering new project spaces and galleries while out.
A month in, I’m very happy with my progress. Even happier with the development of my work… sleeping and working in your space can induce a few moments of cabin fever, but in general the intensity means you unknowingly never switch off from your art, and work/ideas get completed and moved through at a faster pace. The Open Studios at the end of the month allowed for this reflection, closing a chapter so to speak, and also give the time to stand back, re-focus and develop on the strengths appearing at this half way stage.