Arriving at my studio the morning of Open Studio I see a huge gathering of people with barrows, carts and trucks. They are all buying coal. Studios are often tucked away in corners of the city far from the gentrified realm of the galleries; art happening in the midst of life. The meydan (open square) just outside our studio is also the site of many a late afternoon wedding, and countless football matches. I buy my bread and cimits just round the corner, from the local bakery that wafts its warm smells across the neighbourhood. On Friday the open air vegetable market is where I do weekly shopping. Across the road on the Bosphoros the fishing boats are aflurry for the winter, an ever-changing spectacle as I encounter it on my morning walk or speeding along on a minibus. Tea is to be had a few footsteps into the traffic, but a great place to draw. And all this makes its way bidden or unbidden into the work.
It’s the season of Open Studios when artists get to take stock and also clear stock in their studios.
For the studio visitor it is an opportunity to gain some insight into what makes an artist tick and to see just what exactly is it, that they do in the studio all day. It takes away some of the rarefied atmosphere of the gallery, and gets behind the mystery of the finished piece. They get a glimpse into the delicious process of sketchbooks, rough drafts, botches and brilliance, struggle and triumph and sheer hard work that are the grist and grain of the artist’s life.
An apt quote here from David Hockney I am an artist who is always working. I know some people think I spend my time just swimmng around or dancing in nightclubs. That’s fine. But I don’t actually. I work most of the time. ”
Visitors to an open studio are wonderfully curious, even about the business side of things… “How does an artist price their work?” Often visitors are completely unaware of the high commissions that galleries take on an artist’s work, sometimes well earned but sometimes not. In Istanbul galleries routinely expect a gift of an artist’s work from the exhibition. And so an open studio is an opportunity to enlighten and educate collectors or prospective collectors of art.
An Open Studio is also often a space where artists get to assert a hard-won independence, an arena of work and play where they have independence from the gallery, or various galleries or consultants with whom they work.
And with that ,I am off to the Art Fair ,Contemporary Istanbul, to enjoy being on the other side as the viewer. Here I will sidestep the punted mega-artworks, in my quest to discover artists who in the words of David Hockney, “love the world with new eyes”.