Margaret Olley exhibition

Creative Spaces to (F)Art

Recently, I went to the Tweed Regional Gallery. It was the first time I’d seen the Margaret Olley Art Centre – and I was not impressed. Her Yellow Room paintings were fantastic. Seeing the series together illuminates something about her style, like the way you need to see Monet’s haystack series lined up next to each other for it to come to life. But in the middle of the space was this awful recreation of the hat factory studio where she worked. Some art curator has meticulously recreated Olley’s workspace – every paintbrush (with dried paint cruds on the tips), half used palettes, tea settings, bowls of fruits, old books and vases of flowers. I’m pretty sure they’d even replicated the dust bunnies feasting on the chocolate boxes and the half drunk cup of tea. I drew back in horror while other visitors peered through the window to see the spectacle. Why, oh why are people so obsessed with artists’ workspace? I even saw an old couple breathing deeply to inhale the smell of oil paints and turps and then murmuring to each other, ‘Here’s where the magic happens.’

Margaret Olley exhibition


Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure the space was really special to Margaret Olley. Every artist feels a special connection to the space where they are creative – but it’s wrong to romanticise the process of making art. To simplify the artistic process to muses and inspirational spaces perpetuates the genius-of-the-artist myth. Which is great – I’m sure no artist would protest to such a stereotype; except when you flip the coin, and suddenly you’re the ‘starving artist’. Both representations lessens the legitimacy of artistic professions – allowing an elite few to rise like shining stars but for the majority of artists, it leads to poor working conditions, at times working for free because of misguided expectations.

Creative spaces are not magical faerie rings. Farting in these spaces will not disturb the muses … because they don’t exist.  Although  if you work in one of those creative co-sharing spaces, you will still probably disturb other people.

Here are some photos of my own studio space.



I’m super lucky – I have my own office to do all my writing and digital art work. Sometimes pigeons come right up to my window sill and inspire me with their courting rituals. I also have a second studio space where I do all my ceramic and messy sculpture work (this is super important because it’s a health hazard breathing in the dust)

Now show me your work space!



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