Class Acts

Andrew Grassie's Studio, London

ArtSEEN Journal, December 2005

Last June I had the good fortune, along with ten other young artists from primarily the MA course at Central St Martins, to visit the British painter Andrew Grassie´s studio in London.  We were and still are a group called “painting club”, one of whose activities includes going to see artists in their studios. 

Upon entering the painter´s studio, which in reality is his home, Grassie quickly pointed out that his studio was in fact very small and consisted of his desk.  Yes, a desk-that is Andrew Grassie´s studio and not even a large one.  He proceeded to give us a slide show as most of his work had just been in an exhibition at Tate Britain and had sold out.  His presentation consisited of the work he did from his BA up until his most recent show. The fascinating thing about such a slide presentation is to see how an artist came into his stride.  Grassie it seemed had gone through every style immaginable before finally arriving on the small intricate realist tempera paintings that we are familiar with.  He was very open about his process and frankly it was extremely inspiring-there were years of work involved here,  a real genuine process of learning.  Afterwards, he allowed us as many questions as we wished and even went so far as to ask about our opinions regarding how we felt about being artists in London, and it was obvious that his interest was sincere.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this studio visit for me, however, was the realization that we were in “The Making of the Painting”.  “The Making of the Painting” is a work that depicts the artist´s desk/studio/home as well as a very small version of “The Making of the Painting” within the painting itself.  Looking at this painting now in reproduction strikes me as being very surreal, afterall it´s not everyday I get to walk into a painting.  I suppose what was so intriguing was the fact that every object in “The Making of the Painting” was exactly the way it was in Grassie´s home and vice versa.  The way the books were arranged on bookshelves, the desk with its five lamps staring down at the workspace below, the wheel of his bicycle just visible in the hallway, a glimpse of an old abstract painting on an adjacent wall, the chair in front of his desk etc.  When reading about Grassie´s work, I often come across something written about a painting-within-a-painting, so my experience would be something like a person-within-a painting-within-a-painting in “the making of the painting” with the artist present.  Oh well, its a bit confusing, but I will say that the experience was somewhat magical, like having the opportunity to go back in time and walk into Vermeer´s studio and have a nice conversation with him about his work over food and drink-Grassie gave us wine and quite a nice selection of hors´doeveres.

For the moment, however, I would like to return to the desk.  During the two hours I was at the artist´s flat, I just couldn´t get my eyes off of it, and in a way, I couldn´t come around to the fact that a contemporary painter could be working in a space that is also his living room-so whenever the artist has guests, like my group of friends, such people will inevitably be hanging out where the artist makes his work.  There are of course other artists who choose to work at home but it would seem few who choose to make it such an interactive aspect of their living accomodation; and it is this total sychonicity between art and life that pervades Andrew Grassie’s entire way of being which strikes me as exceptionally refreshing and indeed unique in a contemporary cultural lanscape defined primarily by the artist entrepreneur.  

Text  © Andrew Smaldone & ArtSEEN Journal, 2005


Andrew Grassie, The Making of The Painting (2003), Tempera on Paper, Courtesy Maureen Paley, London & Courtesy ArtSEEN Journal, December 2005

Scan of page from Pilot Issue of ArtSEEN Journal