Take a look behind closed doors into the birthplace of creative visions, as we explore the studios of four artists who are part of our latest show What’s Up / Seoul ‘12 Masters’.
The American sculptor Alexander Calder produced large scale hanging mobiles, as well as colossal stationary floor sculptures which he called “stabiles”. Having studied mechanical engineering in his early career, Calder often produced works using large sheets of metal. By introducing a delicate new slant to his art form, Calder became the pioneer of ‘mobile’ art and changed the landscape of 20th century sculpture.
In 1933, Calder and his wife Louisa bought a farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. It soon became a hub for the avant-garde and a place where European émigrés, intellectuals and bohemian artists exchanged ideas. Inside Calder’s glass and cinder-block studio, the air is crowded with his hanging mobiles and an array of materials. The seeds and traces of his creative process are scattered on the studio floor, with rows of supplies, cut metal sheets, metal rods and many other materials. His kinetic sculptures move continuously through space and time, carefully weighted to achieve balance and harmony. In October 1930, Calder visited the studio of Piet Mondrian in Paris, he was deeply impressed by a wall of several coloured cardboard rectangles that Mondrian carefully repositioned in his experimental compositions. This experience marked a pivotal moment in the sculptor's move towards total abstraction and kinetic sculpture. Calder’s studio becomes a fascinating wonderland where his convention-breaking sculptures and installations come to life as playful colourful forms.
Included in our latest show, La lune (1963), is one of Calder's incredible creations made within his Connecticut studio.
La lune (1963)
Giorgio Morandi, a protagonist of still life natura morta painting, was known for his tonal subtlety and the unifying, atmospheric haze of his images of everyday household objects and familiar landscapes, all of which are at once mind-expandingly simple and complex. Working alone in a small room in Bologna, Giorgio Morandi asked profound questions of modern painting by seeking to understand the structure that underlies the process of representation.
His exceptionally crafted still life paintings range from traditional representational images to a new minimalist aesthetic that remained the core of his creativity. His natura morta compositions are arranged in horizontal planes, against neutral backgrounds, just as he set them in his studio. The studio is filled with objects and tools that reflect Morandi’s meticulous approach to his craft. His work depicts unremarkable elements of daily life that convey a profound sense of his introspective personality and exploration. With painstaking precision and technical care, Morandi’s sparse palette, clean lines, and careful brushwork imbued these banal objects with a mesmerising painterly beauty and timeless simplicity. Working in silent concentration, Morandi’s studio became a sanctuary for meditative contemplation where he worked to shape the body and harmony of his work. One of his exquisite natura morta drawings, included in the ‘12 Masters’, demonstrates Morandi’s extraordinary manipulation of chiaroscuro and the mysterious quietude and serenity which goes beyond the canvas. Morandi’s gentle experimentation modernised still life painting and revitalised ideas that have re-connected painters to the old masters of still life and landscape genres.
Natura morta (1941)
The dreamscapes of the Brazilian painter Lucas Arruda are characterised by romantic washes of paint which blur the boundaries between abstraction and figurative imagery. Working from his spacious light-filled studio in São Paulo, Arruda says his transcendental landscapes insist on “the idea of landscape as a structure, rather than a real place”.
He draws inspiration from J.M.W. Turner’s late work, the uncanny landscapes of Venezuelan artist Armando Reverón and the tranquil harmony of Giorgio Morandi’s works. These diverse influences emphasise the mathematical and metaphysical impulses behind his work. Arruda’s mastery captures the fragile sense of landscape evoked from memory. His observation of nature was inspired by countless trips to Barra do Una, where Arruda developed a strong relationship with its beaches and tropical forest. In his studio, he experiments with washed out colours, palettes of greys and beiges. Like Constable’s clouds, he plays with the relationship and nuances of every colour. His landscapes have a desire to burst beyond their limits and he creates a variety of pieces and sizes that suit the landscapes. Arruda describes this process as “building a score from a sequence, from colour, from sizes and from distances”. Through meticulous thought and keen sensitivity to nature, Arruda’s works evoke a transcendent and emotive response in which chaos manifests an escapist desire for abstraction.
Andy Warhol’s legendary factory also known as the “silver factory” was a volcano of 1960’s creativity. His factory was a hub for New Yorkers from all walks of life. Musicians, socialites, models, film stars and free thinkers came to unleash their creativity. It became famous for wild parties and influential experimental artistic expression. As Lou Reed of The Velvet Underground noted: “I was a product of Andy Warhol’s Factory. All I did was sit there and observe these incredibly talented and creative people who were continually making art, and it was impossible not to be affected by that.” This was the space where Warhol would film his convention-busting ‘screen tests’ of famous friends, including Bob Dylan, Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp. At the same time, Warhol was pioneering a mechanical approach to his art in the factory.
Warhol’s 1982 Dollar Sign series, of which one is currently exhibited in our ‘12 Masters’ exhibition, epitomises Warhol’s mass production technique and reflects his fascination with the intersection of art, wealth and consumerism. To produce silk screen prints, Warhol would simply transfer his stencilled designs, allowing him to reproduce a work multiple times and at a greater speed. The Factory vividly captured Warhol’s collaborative approach to art and everyday life and demonstrated his interest in running a successful business. As a Pop artist, Warhol re-defined what an artist’s studio can be. Rather than an artist working alone in a studio, the factory showed that artists work as a team. This has provided a model for artists such as Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst, who employ hundreds of people in their studios. But Andy Warhol’s hive of artists and provocateurs, on the fifth floor of 231 East 47th Street, became the melting pot for art in the mid 1960s and the catalyst for one of the most creative chapters in 20th century art.
Dollar Sign (1941)