Inside the Artist's Studio

Sept. 1, 2015

These spaces do more than inspire creativity; they are tools in the hands of masters

American novelist John Updike once said, “What art offers is space—a certain breathing room for the spirit.” If that’s true, then the artist’s studio must provide similar occasion for the body and the mind to breathe life into what the spirit conceives.

The following studio spaces offer a glimpse into the world of brush and canvas and insights into the artists who occupy them.

Part Laboratory, Part Monastery
Los Angeles, CA

Enrique Martínez Celaya was trained as an artist as well as a physicist. This unusual pairing of disciplines not only informs his work—which is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, among others—but also the way he perceives his studio environment.

“The starting point is from [viewing] the studio as a framework and, coming from all my years at the laboratory, I looked at space, for instance, as partly a laboratory, partly a monastery rather than the factory, which is the more common way of people looking at the studio these days,” Martínez Celaya said.

As a self-described “exile” that has moved from country to country, Martínez Celaya designed all of his studios and considers his workspace as a sort of country where he belongs that is less a reflection of his personal tastes than his aspirations.

He describes the studio as “a space that can support the right kind of thinking and teach me how to move through the world in the right way, and reminds me of what I should be thinking about. So I tried to design the studios in a way that they will be more a reflection of what I would like to be than what I am."

The Siren’s Song
Tampa, FL

As the founding principal and president of the award-winning architecture firm of his namesake, Alberto Alfonso is pulled in many different directions. But the call of his art studio is one that he hears as an almost mythic Siren’s song, beckoning him to spend more time within its walls.

“I think it’s like the secret lover that you think about. You wish you had more time to devote to her,” he explained. “We have so many opportunities in the office right now for creative things that I would love to just be able to spend eight, nine, 10 hours a day painting. So maybe it’s like a siren, always calling,” he muses.

As an accomplished painter, his work has been featured at The Tuscan Sun Festival 2010 in Cortona, Italy, and his pieces were included in a collaborative exhibition titled, “Painting the Poem, Poeming the Painting,” at The Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Fla. His paintings are also installed in many of his clients’ architectural projects—and his studio serves as a place of inspiration for both, to a degree.

“I don’t really use it to make a direct connection to the architecture. In other words, I’m not doing paintings that are sort of project-specific that have to do with the geometries of the buildings or the work. In fact, I sort of go the opposite way, and I try to do things that don’t relate to the work, and use it to sort of unhinge that creative side of the brain,” he noted.

Of Light and Paradox
Bogotá, Colombia

If there’s one thing that Colombian artist Juan José Garcia Cano said he absolutely cannot live without in his studio, it’s the one element that makes all art visible: light.

“It’s definitely the light. Every moment the light is stable and gentle. Light has been, and it’s always going to be, an important part of my work. It’s never going to change,” he asserted.

Ironically, Garcia’s work often explores the truthfulness or “naturalness” of the visible world, “creating ‘simulacra’ that rely on a careful perceptive deception (trompe l’oeil) through painting,” according to ArtNexus.

In similarly paradoxical terms, Garcia describes his studio as a place that is both detached and yet inviting at the same time. “It is a huge cold place, nevertheless is [filled with] human warmth. With a quietness, I welcome people to my place, where everyone always wants to stay,” he said. “I feel so comfortable that I can express the best of my production. This Art Deco building inspires me [to] a depth [of] good feeling, which is aided by the coexistence between the artists.”

A Place for Friends
Helsinki, Finland

One of the world’s most well-known Finnish designers keeps a studio in a 100-year-old Jugend-style building in a former milk shop by the sea on a small peninsula in downtown Helsinki. If it sounds humble, it is—but that’s how Harri Koskinen prefers it.

“I have three rooms at the street level. It’s great to see everyday life from the windows, and the people I know stop for coffee every now and then,” said the celebrated industrial designer and design director of iconic Finnish glassware manufacturer, Iittala.

His aptly named studio, Friends of Industry, offers product and conceptual design as well as exhibition design, and is a space Koskinen initially shared with two colleagues. Today, he credits his staff for keeping the studio performing at its best and has plans to add a showroom and shop to the existing studio in the fall.

Koskinen’s design is characterized by practicality and strict aesthetic criteria. His studio fosters this creative process in many ways, he said, not the least of which is a comfortable sofa-bed. “I have a proper working desk but the ideas flow more freely when dreaming on the couch.”

Although his studio features “a lot of raw material, clutter, books, [and] several projects maturing in the middle of the process,” Koskinen strives for simplicity in his designs, aiming to bring out the best qualities of a product or space and to let them speak for themselves.

About the Author

Robert Nieminen | Chief Content Director

Robert Nieminen is the Chief Content Director of Architectural Products, BUILDINGS and i+s, sister publications of Smart Buildings Technology. He is an award-winning writer with more than 20 years of experience reporting on the architecture and design industry.

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