1. What’s the room and who uses it?
The room is on the 8th floor of the Nicholas Building, which was designed by Harry Norris and built in 1926. For the past year I have had the privilege of being its caretaker and using it as my studio while the permanent tenant was overseas.
2. What do you do (or did you do) for a crust?
I work for an antique dealer and I’m also studying classics and archaeology.
3. What goes on in the room?
In this room I spend a lot of time alone. Reflecting, reading, thinking, day dreaming, writing, drawing, tearing pages out of magazines, painting and making collages.
4. Favourite piece in the room and why?
My favourite piece in the room is the little statue of St. Agnes. You can tell its St. Agnes because she is always depicted holding a little lamb. She’s the patron Saint of gardeners and rape survivors (among other things). I like to think of her as an early Roman eco feminist! I used to spend most Saturday mornings with my mother driving out to Saint Andrews market. We would drive with the car windows open and listen to the bell birds on the way. It was probably one of the last times we went to the market together. We found St Agnes buried in a pile of junk at a stall, amidst candlesticks, screwdrivers and old tobacco tins. I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. She was missing a foot, so I had the little stand made for her.
5. Anything on your wish list that you would love to add to the space?
More time! Unfortunately I’m moving out this weekend. Although, I know the artist who was here before me has missed his studio, so I’m happy for him. I’m also very grateful to have had it for the time I’ve had.
6. Describe the room in three words.
Sacred. Secluded. Sanctuary.
6. Why do you love this room?
There is a little black and white photograph of the artist Vali Myers that sits on a shelf above my desk. My older sister Stella took it when I was about 13. It was the only time I ever met Vali, I was too enamoured to say anything. Vali died a couple of years after the photograph was taken. Vali Myers had a studio on the 7th floor of this building. Her friends and studio volunteers attempted to preserve her studio exactly as it had been left following her death in 2003. Apparently it was Vali’s wish that her door remain open and her work accessible to the public. It was around this time, at the age of about 16 that I began visiting her studio. It felt special and magical, like an escape into another world. Her drawings and watercolours adorned the pink walls; her books in piles covered the floor. I remember picking up a book on whaling and spending hours reading it. There was also a little lamp in the form of a ship that sat on low table; its tiny globes lit the room with soft warm light, whether morning or afternoon. Her artwork really spoke to me at that time in my life and I will always admire and respect her relationship with the natural world and her representations of dreams and the realms of the spirit from an empathetically female perspective. I remember the last time I went to visit. The door was closed. A sign had been tacked on explaining that due to a lack of funding the studio was no longer. I burst into tears right outside the door. It saddens me that the legacy of an artist such as Vali who made such a unique contribution struggles to be preserved, although it’s not surprising considering her anti establishment, anti art world perspective and the fact that she was a female.
It feels like a sort of serendipitous gift to have been able to create work in the same building that meant so much to me growing up and was home to an artist who inspired me in so many ways. This building is filled with fascinating histories, each room has its own biography.
I also love this room because I come here to be away from everything else. I think artists need places to do that. I can’t help but feel concerned for the future of spaces like these and others as it becomes increasingly impossible for artists to have access to affordable studios. But then again, just downstairs on Swanston St there are so many people who are without a home, I’m aware of how privileged I actually am, the housing crisis faced by so many is of far greater concern.
What’s one lovely memory you have whilst being in the room?
Getting take away Indian food from Flora downstairs on my way home from work, eating it on the floor, then taking off my shoes, putting on some music and drawing until late into the night.