Saturday, 2 July 2016



I’m drawn to writers’ and artists’ studios. I love seeing the paraphernalia of their trade as if somehow the magic dust will rub off on me. 10 years ago I visited Tolstoy’s house in Khamovniki. The wooden house still painted its mustard-yellow colour, is a warren of rooms that reflect Tolstoy’s idiosyncrasies. He takes to shoe-making, lifting dumbbells and starts riding a bicycle at 67. The legs of his bentwood desk chair are cut off shorter so that he can be closer to his work and when he’s not sitting at his desk, he stands and writes at an upright one.

On a pamphlet I find this quote: ‘I don’t see how one can write without several rewritings. I never read my works after they come out in print, but if my eye ever catches an occasional page I always think that this passage ought to be turned that way, and this idea needs quite different wording.’ Sounds familiar!!!

Last week, I visited Joan Miró’s beautiful 50's studio outside Palma on a quiet day when I felt he had just walked out of one of its brightly painted doors.

It's an airy space filled with honey-coloured 50’s furniture, trestles, tables, easels and a large bentwood armchair. A stone wall at the back of the room is laid out like honeycomb. His overalls hang over the banister, brushes stand leaning in china bowls and I can almost smell the turps on the rags that lie about. Paintings are stacked everywhere and pinned up on the walls are notes and sketches curling at the edges. On a table top is a pine cone, a majolica bowl, bits of rock, some glass bottles and a metal pencil sharpener with a winding handle screwed to the table.

In the anti-room, glass-fronted, old schoolroom type science cupboards are filled with an assortment of masks he has made, bread sculptures, delicate skeletons of a bat and a frog and strangely shaped metal pieces. 

Up on a higher level under bent pines and past huge argave plants there’s another studio – an older terracotta-plastered farmhouse with a beautiful studded double door. On the walls are rough drawings of sculptures that will later emerge. 

The air seems permeated with the essence of the man. I’ve added another layer to the Miró I know through paintings and from his sculptures at the Fundació Joan Miró Museum on the hill above Barcelona. William Faulkner’s conviction that the writer’s duty is ‘to help man endure by lifting his heart’ comes to mind. My heart is lifted not by a book (although also by a book – because I was reading Per Pettersen’s Out Stealing Horses) but by a calm, airy artist's studio in Palma.

In these past few days of political chaos, calm is not such a bad thing. Perhaps we can hold on to this great encompassing spirit that Miró seemed to possess, where he reached out and engaged with everything in the world – encompassing and not turning away from it.

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Heather Dyer said...

How lovely. I love studios too, so inspiring.

Joan Lennon said...

Yes. Thank you.

Sue Purkiss said...

Lovely. A breath of fresh, calming air.

Penny Dolan said...

Studios seem to hold inspiration in their very air.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

I think it has something to do with what artists collect around them. And writers too... not only as a talisman but for inspiration. I found myself looking at the strange bedfellows of Miró's tablescapes and cupboard collections trying to unravel the thread. In the end I concluded he was fascinated by texture and form in all objects however mundane.

CarolThompson said...

Thank you so much for re-sending Di - I though I would be the only one!
Just love it - how fortunate he was to be in that wonderful space looking outwards.
I particularly like the drawings left embedded in the plaster walls, held in the actual structure of the building.