Book review: Artists @ Work

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Artists @ Work

By Richard Wolfe & Stephen Robinson (Penguin Books, 2010) $72

The painter Richard McWhannell stands in his studio observing his model through a pair of binoculars—reversed. Liz Maw is seen not at an easel but holding the painting as she applies paint. She is physically linked to the artwork as she creates it. Sculptress Elizabeth Thomsen is photographed with a blowtorch and wearing latex gloves.

Artists hard at work are the subjects of this long overdue publication. Some of the 24 artists’ studios featured here are a blizzard of the stuff of art, others are temples of order. An artist’s studio is perhaps the trump card in the function versus form argument. The mélange of ideas, materials, keepsakes and books are marshalled for one purpose: magick!

What this book achieves is to reveal the artist’s cave—that solitary zone where the artist thinks, prepares and then creates the miracle that is art. It is essentially a picture book about what takes place in the womb before an artwork is born. Photographer Stephen Robinson has achieved that rare feat of becoming invisible in the artist’s studio. The interface between environment, camera, photographer and me has become like gossamer and I can linger, quietly observing the artist at work.

Hamish Coney is a director of art auction house Art+Object