Yesterday, I was very lucky to be given the chance to join Sandi Macrae on Roaming Rooms tour of artist’s studios and galleries in East London. It was great to be given the opportunity to hear artists talk so openly about their work and be part of a group with a wide range of viewpoints and opinions.
We began the morning by visiting the studio of John Stark who is showing work at the moment at Charlie Smith as part of the Demonology exhibition. His small works of landscapes and figures are painted with fragile detail and have a uniform, almost jewel like flatness to their surface. Stark’s work is heavily influenced by his abundant knowledge and interest in the history of painting which is evident in the immense skies and disappearing terrains he paints. These landscapes seem to be from another time and place (or just as possibly from no-time and no-place). We talked in detail about one image of a monk beekeeping; of sinister presence of another outside the limits of the painting; of the Flemish scenery; of the light and a brightness coming through the many layers of paint and glazes; of how the monk’s costume would not have seemed out of place on a road worker figure from our society and, most interestingly, of the way in which monks would devoted their days to prayer and activities such as bee keeping or ale making, as a sign of their devoutness to God and their religion. There is something of this echoed in Stark’s own practise, the time and concentration to make these paintings must have a meditative quality to it, as the monk’s activities do.