Thursday, 9 September 2010

ABRACADABRA! The mess in my house disappears


A new dawn breaks in my kitchen

The work surface used to look like this  on a bad day (out of focus, the way I prefer to remember it)

Where I used to blog  

Where I would paint on the dining table which gave me an excuse to eat standing up at the fridge

Bingo! The reason it's all changed

I took over a spare bedroom and all this was beautifully made for me by Colin Failes, a multi-talented man who worked on the massive Armada paintings for the House of Lords [here].  I had a bit of a flouncey moment when the pinboard stuff arrived and it was a cold slatey blue.  Colin looked perplexed but set about giving it the subtle trompe l'oeil effect you can just see here.  I should have got him to sign it, dammit.  I can only describe him as a class act, suggesting  the wide plan-chest drawers and a fold down table to the right of the picture. 

This isn't quite the end of the story. For a number of regrettable reasons,  I have just decided to give up my studio in Bermondsey and that's full of canvases, paint, books, drawings, a  mountain of paint-spattered old clothes, a glorious easel on wheels, my virgin's couch (a Vono 1950s studio bed that's past redemption) and a pommel horse I upholstered at art school.  I stood there last night and practically wept.  Where the hell will I put it all? 


My MA (Textiles) show at Goldsmiths College, London 2003.  The series of paintings entitled 'Calamity Fixes Her Makeup' are in the Ernst & Young Collection but I am stuck with the pommel horse entitled 'Last Chance for Horseplay'.  It's conceptual innit.

I produced the screen-printed fabric myself which contains illustrations of how to sit in a ladylike manner  from a 50's beauty book.  Someone else did the upholstery, which is beyond my pay-grade, in an attempt to morph the horse into a dressing table like the one I had growing up.  I am still kicking myself for not making it pale lilac instead of pink to match the ground in the paintings. I am proud to say that it was recommended for the Warden's prize but the poor man said he didn't think he could live with it in his office.  I could hardly blame him.  Shall I put it in my bedroom and use it as a clothes horse?

[Last two images courtesy Gerard Williams.  All artwork © Rosie West]


  1. It's not that I'm jealous of your new office - I'm still using the dining table - well, actually I am jealous. I've been trying to lure carpenters here to make new closet interiors and doors plus making me a desk with storage in the library closet and one might think in this economy that they'd be lining up at the door at the slightest hint of work ...

    So, where are you going to put all the studio stuff? By the way, I have no idea what a pommel horse is - a weakness in character, I know, but there it is.

  2. Well, I did have to wait months, BLUE, for that miracle to be achieved and very lucky that dear old Colin agreed to do it. The studio stuff will probably go in our attic and be a headache for another day, another generation if I snuff it first. Might have to sell the easel on ebay.

    Ah a pommel horse. It's what those male gymnasts in white vests and stirrup pants (ohh) disport themselves on - handstanding on the handles and weaving their perfectly poised legs in and out of the arch of their big strong arms.. better leave it alone now. As kids we just used to ride them. hmm.

  3. This impressed me on so many levels. The candid sharing of the original
    chaos and squalor, the reorganization of your office hideaway, the enviable
    arrangement of storage and the versatility of the design.
    Lastly the improvements being carried out by a talented person who
    is both muralist and carpenter! Why stop there when you can engage the
    Archbishop of Canterbury to cater your next buffet supper?

  4. Thank you Mr Worthington. I am grateful for your kind remarks. I was beginning to worry that what you called 'candid sharing' was in fact ' tediously solipsistic'.

    I will with the Bishop of London and work up the ecclesiastical ladder, perhaps.

  5. Have you ever seen Sir Eduardo Poalozzi's studio which was recreated in its entirety at the Dean Gallery (I think) in Edinburgh. Your previous display was clearly in good company for such things! Artists' studios have to be messy by their very nature. I hope over time your new space will measure up accordingly.

  6. A week or so ago I posted a quote from Jane Austen, "An artist cannot do anything slovenly" - and I think as an artist we can, however your wonderfully ordered space is a tribute to you and an inspiration to me.
    I am in the depths of a slovenly desk and it is really messing with my inner artist.

  7. The pommel horse would be the perfect spot to sit and read an old tract my wife found at a Goodwill store some years back. It was titled "Christian Boy's Problems", and warned of the deadly results of self-abuse.
    Sadly,by the time I read it, It was too late for me. I'll never get that "depleted nervous energy" back.

  8. Dear Rose, what a transformation! Doesn't it feel amazing when you've done it? I used to "life laundry" my friends entire houses. I done loads of them and I've found it very rewarding. They've always been so gobsmacked by the results.

    I'm sorry to hear you're giving up your studio. Do you have enough room in your garden for one of those garden rooms? My neighbour has one, it's very Swiss Family Robinson and he paints in it a lot.

    I love your work. The pommel horse is cool. I totally get the joke and that fabric print is genius! I had a dressing table like it too when I was a child, a kidney shaped one with pink and white curtains.

    Speak soon, hope you're having a great weekend xx

  9. Columnist: Yes, I have seen Paolozzi's studio. I am pleased with the orderly nature of my new domain but depressed that the loss of my big studio marks the end of making a proper mess and the death of my ambition to be a 'serious' painter. If I am honest, I have veered more towards writing and illustration - and advancing years and loss of energy, fuckit.

    PVE I guess I've always done 'slovenly' and will no doubt continue to, despite resolutions to tidy up my life. However, one of the most useful things a visiting tutor at art school barked at me was to take care of the actual work and not kick it around a dirty floor!

    rurritable - your very funny comment did not disappoint, as ever. I was hoping to get a female performance artist to do something with my horse but it never happened. The Christian Girl's Problem might be a runner?

    Christina - Thank you. I had three sisters and a mother, and we all had a kidney-shaped dressing table. The notes on my profile mention my Goldsmiths work as marking the point when the tomboy (Calamity Jane) is expected to attend to the matter of becoming a young woman. The dressing table idea marks that transition into self-consciousness. PS I don't suppose you'd want to life laundry the problem of my old studio?
    Only joking!

  10. You should receive some kind of medal of honor for courage and bravery. We are in the midst of a project that keeps morphing larger and larger and we have been living in this chaos for two years! I sigh at the beauty of your organized studio. Sorry you had to give up your other space. Downsizing can be a bit of a bitch. Hell, organizing anything is a bit of a bitch! Did you read about the woman, a hoarder, whose husband reported her missing for days only to find she had died in the middle of her chaos and no one could find her. Good lord, give me the courage to organize this place!

  11. Home - thank you for a nice tribute to my temporary sense of order. Talk to me later when I'm on the verge of topping myself in the other part of my empire. That is a horrible story. I knew about the woman who was killed when her paper cuttings avalanched on her from above. I've almost known that one!

  12. How marvelous to find yourself so well organized! And getting there was a big project, it appears. That pommel horse is sheer antic craziness and quite delightful! Reggie

  13. Reggie: I suppose the pommel horse is crazy in its seriousness!

  14. Oh dear. Your before looks like my after. I've been running around the house all morning, shouting abracadabra, but nothing happens.....


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