The Artist’s Studio: Evan Woodruffe

Is your studio near to or far from where you live?

Not having a car, proximity is reasonably important. For the last seven years, my studio was about 25 minutes’ walk from my apartment but I’ve just moved and now it takes me about 40 minutes. The walk is pleasant and allows me to enter into a mind-wandering state that is useful both as mental preparation for the studio and to unwind afterwards; however, I wouldn’t want it to be any further away.

How much time do you spend there during an average week?

My studio days are Friday to Monday. If there is no imminent exhibition deadline, I try to stay away from the studio on Sunday, using the time to research and write for proposals, catalogues, etc. A studio day is around eight hours, but can be up to fourteen when the pressure is on. Art production is plainly just hours in the studio, so without a regular and decent concentration there, work doesn’t get made.

What does an average day look like in the studio?

I like to get stuck in straight away, choosing what and how from the various pieces within a few minutes of arriving, depending on where my mind and body is at. Preparing surfaces can be very calming, as it’s physical, repetitive, not difficult and marks a beginning. Working on a big picture is also physical and repetitive – the patterned areas can take hours of repeating the same motif – but requires much more psychic energy. There is a certain lunacy that needs to occur, a shift into a constant state of expectation, working and watching, finding a space where the irrational and rational run side-by-side. I need to have a certain amount of energy for these. Smaller paintings are less daunting, and I pick them up when I need to explore without being swallowed by the image.

I need to have a break from the studio after a few hours, so a short walk to Lot 23 for excellent coffee and food clears my head and allows me to put a concerted effort into the second half of the day.

What materials do you always have on hand in the studio?

I’m a complete materials nut, and have to have a wide range of material possibilities to call on. The benefit of a studio is that I can store a large amount of gear, so that even though I may use a small selection at any one time, I can change or augment those tools on a whim. I always have my brushes (several hundred… is that wrong?) and paints. I’m less concerned about substrates. If I ran out of paper, canvas, and panels, I could always paint on the walls or the floor.

Do you let other people/artists/dealers into your space or do you prefer privacy?

In a shared studio, privacy is redundant; however the space is a work space, so any visitors are usually there for a specific reason and leave shortly afterwards. If I’m working late, my honey has been known to drop off food parcels but doesn’t stay. We have no couches to hang out on, so it’s not comfortable for anyone who’s not working. Of course, when any of us have a visiting dealer or other professionally interested people, we make it as pleasant as possible by tidying the spaces and making coffee or something stronger if they prefer!

Do you make better work when the studio is tidy or chaotic?

With so much stuff and a limited space, I like to keep everything where it should be, so it can be found when I need it and it’s not in the way when I don’t. There is too much potential for damage from wet substances, sharp objects, falling objects, trip hazards and spills for the space to be physically chaotic. It is more important for the chaos to be internal. An ordered studio allows me to be chaotic with the art work.

What are the best aspects of sharing a space?

A shared space is always active. Each time I arrive there, even if no-one else is there, the space has changed; new works have been begun or completed, furniture has moved, there are signs of productivity. This keeps the space vital and makes getting the day started so much easier.

Being in front of the work for hours is solitary, so it’s good to have the ability to share some observations, gossip or news with someone who understands art making. It’s the starting point of the artists’ community.

Do you play music while you work?

Usually the radio is on, either with the National Programme or bFM – these are the two stations everyone can agree on listening to. If I’m alone, I might play anything from Nigerian guitarist King Sunny Ade to English trip-hopper FKA Twigs, depending on mood, but I also like silence. Music can quite strongly influence objectivity, so I prefer silence when I’m in a critical stage of working, just to make sure I’m seeing as clearly as possible.

Describe your studio in one word…