The Present Tense exhibition was, for me, about studio space. The following texts are from a PDF I made for the exhibition.
I have raided my photographic archive for evidence of the importance of an appropriate place to work—creatively. To work in a studio, apart from a space where I can leave things in a state of developement, I find that I need privac
privacy, peace and one’s own choice of audible company i.e. music, radio or silence.
My first studio, in the 1960s, was also my bedroom. As a fairly typical teenager, it is where I would repair for privacy, relaxation and exploratory creativity. In my room, I could play records, listen to the wireless, read, take photographs, draw, paint, work on college projects or just play (experiment).
A work-surface in my bedroom, in my parents’ house, on top of the North Downs—my first workstation. Note the Patterson 35mm developing tank (used to develop the film from which this print was made), the ex-GPO insulator used as an ashtray, pin-ups (“home-made I’m afraid”—to quote Kate Walker), and my pencil box (ex-cigar box) which I still have.
As above but with some of my etchings (one of which features the room itself complete with pin-up, mirror and a representation of my little Exa IIA SLR camera—with which I made the this photograph), home made easel and paintings on hardboard stacked behind the bedhead. The naked torso?
It is my bedroom after all.
My next ‘dedicated workstation’ was at college where I was studying graphic design. It was a place where I worked alongside other graphic design students but I had my own pin board where I could display both my work and my own chosen idols. A pin board, for me, is very important—it’s where dreams are displayed.
First year Graphic Design studio, Maidstone Art College. It was a temporary accomodation in a purpose built gymnasium (two years, while the new art college was being built). Each student had a place to make, store and display work (and pin-ups). (Clocksprings was the fictional name of a town in a western film that my friends and I made in the mid ‘60s and this was the town’s nameboard. I still have the nameboard, I still have those friends and the 16mm film is still awaiting digitisation.)
My next studentship was in Birmingham—a one-year, postgraduate course in film animation— This time, I had a desk and a drawing stand and more pin boards.
The Post Graduate Graphic Design Studio in Gosta Green, Birmingham which housed a Rostrum Room with a 16mm Irwin rostrum camera, an editing suite and projection facilities. c.1970.
The tutor that taught me was not over zealous and consequently, was not re-instated at the end of the year. As is the way sometimes, I was offered the job of part-time tutor which I undertook for four years. I had an office (with a fridge), the rostrum room and an editing suite as well as the studio in which the students worked. Employed for two days per week, I attended most days working with students and on other projects related to film and animation.
The editing room—equiped with a 16 mm Miniola editing machine, Acmade Film Pic Sync editors, Murrey viewers, winders, clip bins, projectors and a small Bolex rostrum for tests and experimentation—where I worked as a part-time tutor for four years but spent most days in the studio environment working on various projects.
In the rostum room with Ola who was making an animated film about Saint Vitas Dance.
I still had a bedroom/studio—again, I could play records, listen to the wireless, read, take photographs, draw, paint, work on college projects or just play (experiment).
Bedroom studio in Blenheim Road, Birmingham with recent paintings, HMV gramophone and photo of Helena. c.1974.
Following a PGCE(AE) teaching course, I became an in-house graphic designer for a company concerned with ‘traffic education’. I started work in an open plan office at a desk opposite a secretary who name was Janice (if I remember correctly). Later, I had a small corner of a stockroom/warehouse in which to work (in a one-time Turkish baths building). Eventually I persuaded them to install me in a studio where I worked alone—listening to the wireless and playing records and cassette tapes.
Graphic design studio at Kent Street Baths, Birmingham—self equiped with Goodmans Pro Power, infinite-baffle speakers (self-built and still in use), old Bush record player, cassette player, restored valve tuner/amplifier (yellow) and the company’s Nikon F2. c.1982.
During the next three years (1983-1986) I was a freelance graphic designer with my own studio and darkroom.
The front room studio space in Station Road, Birmingham. I have just started drawing for the painting Background of Blues and newly purchased a print of Portrait of Sylvette David in Green Chair by Pablo Picasso which I later had framed (and I still have).
Same room with headphones. Background of Blues which I no longer have (it was on permanent loan and has since been accidentally destroyed) is progressing and the painting above is Flash in the Pan which was once shown at the Icon Gallery in Birmingham. (After Background of Blues, I did not make any paintings until I started on my present series Morning Tunes in 2012.)
My graphic design studio and darkroom in Highgate Square Craft Centre the Old Fire Station on the Moseley Road in Birmingham. Three years a freelance graphic designer—things are visibly piling up including the red door from a spare Ford Corsair. In the darkroom, apart from my photographic enlarger and associated equipment and materials, I had an Agfa Gevaert Repromaster Photo Mechanical Transfer camera and Copyproof processor which I jointly owned with Rhonda Wilson.
After twenty years of full-time teaching in a further education college (1986-2006—art studios, graphic studios, photographic studios) I became self-employed again. This time, as a artist and fine-art photographer. I joined APEC Studios in Hove where I shared a studio with a succession of artists. I especially enjoyed preparing for Open Studios and exhibitions which became a challenge. c.2006.
Video recording Title Roll for the first time in my APEC studio in Hove. The hand-built, Heath Robinsonesque, motorised dolly travelled four metres over two hours, followed by wheeled table with computer to save ‘straight to disk’. The dolly was powered by the motor from the Copyproof processor which rotated a cog-wheel at eight RPM which I geared down to an almost imperceptable movement of the dolly with Meccano cog-wheels and chains.
This pinhole photograph is entitled Bernard G Mills Dancing the Madison for the Duration of the Record. I think that is self-explanatory.
Open Studios weekend. The exhibition was Rear Window and it was to reflect each artist’s relationship to film and cinema. So I dug out my stuff and made an installation as well as hanging some related photographic work and showing films.
I left APEC and joined Phoenix when my wife Monica died, leaving her work in her studio. I moved into my present ‘inherited’ studio in 2013 where I work to this day.
My studio at Phoenix Art Space. I now have Monica’s archive and my work in the same space. I am still working on her archive—digitising everything piece by piece. I do my own work and work for other people—mostly photography of artworks such as paintings, sculpture and ceramics. The studio is just an eight-minute walk from home and I am usually in most days.
NDE or the Alphaville Experience: Got to Keep Moving. As an associate member of APEC, I was invited to show some work in an exhibition/open studios event which was given the title Fidget. I decided to produce something new for the exhibition and that would relate to the event’s title. This was photographed in the corridor outside my studio in Phoenix. I was sixty-nine years old when I made this and somewhat concious of life expectancy. The corridor reminded me of a scene in Godard’s Alphaville and the light at the end reminded me of… well, the end.
Gradually, it all came together. Unlike Abba (I have a Dream, 1979), I don’t believe in angels. (But fantasies persist…)
(Contemplating the completed photograph I considered the attraction of being welcomed to death by an angel as a Psychopomp.)