Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Studios : 1987 - 2012

I have been thinking about all the studios I have had over the years...from 1987 until where I am today. There have been some fantastic ones, always interesting, and many friends made along the way and many long hours put in, often in cold & leaking studios !
I wish I had photos of all my old studios,although I probably didn't start documenting my studios until many years into being an artist. I will try & hunt down as many as I can find, and eventually add them here, but this was well before digital photography & now living overseas, I am not carrying all my old photo albums!
The Studio List :( Very Approx dates!)
1987 : Lt George St Fitzroy This was my first studio in Melbourne once completing art school (1984-86)Moving to Melbourne and being confronted with trying to find a studio, somewhere to live and a part time job were all daunting when I didn't know the city very well.I remember moving in to this decrepit old studio and trying to start my work, heading out into the unknown from my art school days. I started drawing straight away to just get started and to be working each day. The space was small, I had to set up my own lights and find furniture on the streets to set up my desk etc, milk crates were forever a constant studio companion. From memory, there were approx 10 artists in this ground floor warehouse, with most in little attendance, apart from Anne Bennett who was extremely well set up & professional in her space.(There was a couple who lived on the first floor( junkies )who kept large snakes, and were often overheard in tumultuous arguments, & they managed the studios. We all had to depart those studios in a desperate hurry one day!) .. Fellow artists included Hugh Wilberham & Anne Bennett.
1988 : The Stables, cnr Lygon & Elgin St Carlton. Some of us from the Lt George St studio moved together to this old blue-stone stable behind the petrol station on the corner of Lygon & Elgin St. There were no lights or floor coverings downstairs,the walls were bare dirty bricks and stone which we had to roughly paint white to lighten the place up and find old offcuts of carpet to lay over the rough stable floor. There were large wooden stable doors which let the only light into the space, otherwise improvised lamps were set up! It was hard going to this dark studio each day and trying to find the motivation and belief in my work, and trying to figure out which path my work would take. It was still early days out of art school where I felt I had to unlearn a lot of what I was taught, and to try and find my own visual language and meaning in my work.
1989: Duke St St Kilda. I didn't know a lot of artists in Melbourne as I hadn't been to art school there. Having come from the country, it took me a while longer to feel integrated into inner city living and working as an artist.This was my first studio in St Kilda, the area I would live in for approx 25 years, but often my studios were on the other side of the city where there were a lot more warehouses for cheaper art studios.This was a large warehouse,with studios on the first floor, up rickety stairs on the outside of the building. In those days, the streets around there could be dodgy especially arriving & departing on my pushbike late at night. I had a decent sized space, but I remeber it was often quiet lonely with the other artists not there much as everyone was juggling part time work as well. Fellow artists included Ross Laurie & Albin Mueller.
1990 : 60 Beaconsfield Pde. Friends of mine from Warrnambool art school lived at this rambling house.At the rear of the house were some old large wooden sheds where a number of us had studios at various times including Rod Spinks, Sean Loughrey, and Ewen Coates, which I think he had converted the chook house into his studio! I would ride my bike along the beach road to the studio and often work long hours and sleep in the studio as well, although the mice limited my overnight stays!
1991: Rear of Chasers Nightclub in Prahran. Artists were always on the look out for better or cheaper studios to rent. This was an old warehouse, up some narrow stairs in the back of a dodgy street, behind the pumping nightclub.... They were small spaces & dark I dont think there was any natural light here! Fellow artists included David McLeod & Christopher Heathcote.
1992-1993: 15 Marine Pde St Kilda. This was in the days when St Kilda was still a cool & creative place. I set up my studio in my home which was across the road from the beach, when the rents were still cheap and the flats were rundown. We used to be able to walk across to the the beach with our pots of tea & dinner and not be bothered by hoards of tourists! Fellow artist Angela Brennan was set up next door & upstairs was Max Delaney & Adam Bunny. It was a very creative time in the studio when I started working on my script paintings.
1994: Dickens St St Kilda. After returning from 6 months of back packing around Europe, I was broke & set up studio at home again... Artists & creatives Eliza Lee Gunn & Vicki Ballard were in the building, musicians & fire twirlers were our neighbours. It was a great place to live although the studio at home was quiet small so I was keen to find a studio out of home.
1994-96 Oxford St Collingwood. This was the start of the days of having a proper studio and enabling me to become more professional with my work and the amount I could produce from a decent studio. It was great to be surrounded by so many lovely artists all working hard in their studios. This was the first time I had really encountered this. The social aspect as well as the constructive criticism and feedback we would all give each other was a great help in developing my work.There were many long long raves about art and our work as well as star gazing from our fire escape stairs with magnificent views across Melbourne!
This place was a massive 4 storey warehouse of studios. There was a great bunch of artists here including Rosetta Cozza, Tim Gresham, David O'Brien, Carolyn Goldberg, Robyn Mountcastle, Richard Morrison and Steve McCarthy. Again, I was still riding my push bike from St Kilda to Collingwood to get to the studio, weaving through the city traffic, down St Kilda Road, and often home along the beach road at night.These rides would later inspire my series of minimal night sky charcoals and oil on paper series.
1997: Brunswick St Fitzroy.. Another good studio space and in a fantastic location, right in the heart of Brunswick st culture.It was on the top floor above The Black Cat Cafe. A few of us had defected from the Oxford St Studios to set up here: Rosetta, Carolyn, Steve and David. Brunswick St still had an alternative feel with lots of artists & musicians around and grungy alternative cafes & bars.... and I was till riding my bike from St Kilda to Fitzroy... I remeber beig a bit disillusioned with my painting here and so I set out foinf hundreds of small works on paper, in oil & pastel.. searching for ideas and a language to express whay I was after...the work became more and more minimal and softer, still with a landscape feel about it.

 1999-2004 The Bowling Club Studios St Kilda. Finally after many years of traveling from St Kilda to Fitzroy for a studio... I found one in the heart of St Kilda, next to Luna Park. The old Bowling Club was turned in to a community Vegie Garden and the club rooms were converted in to artists studios by the local council... I finally had a good studio near home, so all the hard traveling could stop. Now I could whiz around a few blocks on my bike and be at the studio in 5-10 minutes. This is where my work started to take off. After some struggling and lost ideas, I was influenced by the year of writing I had done on my family and upbringing... in a large family of 12 on a dairy farm. This inspired me to go back to my roots, to what I know , to paint the landscape I grew up in. It was 1999 when I did my first charcoal of cypress trees, followed by a large oil painting which was accepted in to the prestigious Wynne Prize for Landscapes at the Art gallery of New South Wales. I was exhibiting and selling all my work through Metropolis Gallery in St Kilda, directed by fellow artist Linda Gibbs.My art career started to take off. Soon after I was taken on by Flinders Lane Gallery, where I have had sellout shows ever since. There was a great atmosphere at the studios and particularly the Veg Out Gardens, where I could step out of my very fumey studio for some fresh air. Fellow artists included Christophe Stibio, Giz James, Salvatori Lolicato & Pete Groves.

 2004: Stanley St Warrnambool. Feeling a need for some fresh air, I relocated to Warrnambool and found an old house with an attached old Milk Bar I could convert in to my studio space. It was a massive workspace, very close to the sea, cliffs, river. I culd walk to the beach and along the cliffs yet had to endure a very cold and windy winter which Warrnambool is well known for. Unfortunately I found it a bit too isolating on my own and I didn't produce a lot of work there, so I moved back to the city.

 2005-2009 : Lt Collins st Melbourne. After a stint in the country I was ready to be back in the city again. I set up studio in this brilliant old building on the top floor, with towers & turrets and wrought iron balconies in the heart of the CBD, on the corner of Lt Collins & Elizabeth st. The only downside was there was no lift and 3 very high floors of stairs to combat each day. It was great being in the heart of the city, with lane ways of cafes below and Degraves Lane & Centre Place nearby for great coffee, food & company.My local art supplies were a quick 5 min walk away, especially handy when you are in the middle of painting and realize you have run out of a colour. A lot of work was produced here and many long hours spent, this was also the time I was taken on by my second gallery, Tim Olsen Gallery in Sydney. Since 2003 I was able to stop working a part time job and live off my art. I eventually went from a small room to a much bigger one to a massive one in this building! It was a time when I got a lot more serious and professional about my practice, and now finally had my own separate studio to work in. Fellow artists and friends who shared this floor ( all in our separate rooms) included: Deb Klein, Hannah Bertram, Miso & Ghost Patrol & Anselm Van Rood  

2008- 2009: Vision Building Downtown Abu Dhabi. I was now dividing my time between Melbourne & Abu Dhabi due to my partners work as lead architect on 2 hotels on Yas Island. In this time I had a small studio set up in our home in Downtown Abu Dhabi, where I worked on small pictures that were easily transported back to Melbourne, and some time spent in my Melbourne studio working on the large canvases for my upcoming shows in Melbourne & Sydney.

 2010: Metro Arts, Brisbane. After our years in Abu Dhabi, we relocated to Brisbane and I found a brilliant studio at Metro Arts in the heart of Brisbane . I could catch the City Cat catamaran from our home in Bulimba to the city and walk approx one block to the studio... again up 3 flights of stairs but at least there was a cafe on the ground floor. It was so lovely traveling to work along the river each day and to be surrounded by so much lush tropical greenery after our years in the desert. Paul was working nearby in the city so we could meet for lunch most days.It was a beautiful light filled studio, where I made good friends with fellow artist Mandy Ridley and produced a lot of work.  

2011: Lt Collins St Melbourne. There was a short stint back at this studio in the largest,light filled & probably best studio I have ever had.....It was a very large space where I could spread my work out, and really get stuck in to the painting. It was great to be back amongst the lane ways although I could have done without the cold weather! I made a lot of work here and then we relocated to Dubai.

 2011- Present. Old Town, Downtown Dubai. Presently I am set up in my studio at our home in Dubai. It is a much smaller space than I am used to , but there is beautiful light, internet & much needed air con & cafes are nearby within walking distance! Dubai doesn't have Artist studios set up like I am used to in Melbourne, and the rents here are exorbitant. Also with the extreme heat for 6 months of the year, it is easier to be working from home, limiting any travel, and staying in air con. There are more challenges here for me working as an artist. There are not the professional art supplies here that I am used to, so I have had to freight in a container with a years supply of art materials. The art supply/stationary shop here does have some materials I can use, but mostly they are hobby materials, and not the quality I am used to.It has been a challenge working with different materials especially my paint medium which I use so much in my glazing... I was not able to ship my toxic medium here, so I am learning new techniques and getting used to the oil paint medium I can buy here. I am still to find a way to freight my artwork back to Australia for my show in Sydney later in the year, lots of logistic and customs issues . In the meantime ,I am working everyday in the studio,painting my next show, listening to great music on my ipod, going for the occasional coffee and taking lots of photos.


  1. Wow! Kathryn,
    Great to catch up on what you have been doing. Amazing life changes and adventures. And my gosh, the paintings look fabulous.
    All the Best in prep for the show.
    Cheers, Jacqui

  2. Hi Kathryn,

    I'm a young artist just starting out here in Abu Dhabi (from the States). Would love to meet you whenever you have a moment to spare! This post was very engaging, inspiring, and admirable. The discipline and dedication is obvious.

    Amira Rahim