“I like the critical mass of people and also, of course, the art galleries. If you’re having a bit of a block the best thing you can do for yourself is to go and see some art.”
Katie Pratt is an abstract painter that makes a variety of size paintings ranging from two meters to a standard A4. Her oil paintings progress from a chaotic beginning towards meticulous, systemic order. Imagery is generated through successive strategies which recall how material inconsistencies within the paint have been categorised and organised, in an intricate correlation of complex networks. [Katiepratt.net]
What is your definition of studio space?
You need to be able to think there. So, you need to be able to eclipse a certain amount of the outside world and ideally, I prefer it to be solitary. I’ve always worked in a community of artists which is great, but I like to have my own door so I can shut them out and you need to have walls and you need to have good light. And also, you know at the moment, we’re all working from home, well I use predominantly oil paint and you really shouldn’t be using oil paints at home, so somewhere that doesn’t have any living accommodation. Somewhere where you can get away, with ventilation for health and safety reasons.
Collaborative/ communal studio spaces are on the rise, do you believe this formula can work?
From my perspective and from the perspective of a lot of professional painters you need to have wall space, you need to be able to put large canvases on a wall. An easel doesn’t really work for large works, so the problem with sharing an actual space is that there’s a kind of an optimum number of walls, so you have to build walls, which can stop it from being collaborative.
Where I work, there are about fifteen artists, and it’s artist-owned as a cooperative. So you can’t sort of like trade it as property, but you can sell your share in the studio. So pretty much what you pay for it, so very ‘keep’ really. There are other artists there, but they don’t sort of like come into my workspace and I don’t go into theirs, although we do all have keys to each other’s in case of an emergency.
But I think it’s quite nice to have discourse, to be able to have someone there. You know if you’ve finished a body of work or an opportunity comes up and it’s not quite right for you, you might want to pass it on to someone else. So I do think it’s quite good to support each other.
Do you believe that London has an impact on your art?
Yes, but I suppose, there’s a lot of artists here. It’s easy to get materials, because it isn’t easy in smaller places and also lots of, you know you’re much more likely to get a studio visit in London, than elsewhere. I suppose I’ve been slightly shielded by the punitively high rent, since I moved into this artist cooperative so for some people, you know, London is no longer feasible. They just can’t afford it. It’ll be quite interesting to see what happens to property prices in the coming years. If property prices kind of tank a bit and artists can maybe have a bit of breathing space as a result of the current catastrophe.
Would you ever consider moving out of the city?
Well, I don’t think it would really suit my personality, I don’t really get on well. I think I would move out if I were going to another big city, like Glasglow, or out of the UK, Berlin or somewhere. But I’m very much a city person. I like the critical mass of people and also, of course, the art galleries. If you’re having a bit of a block the best thing you can do for yourself is to go and see some art.
Do you think it would impact your work then if you were to move out?
It probably would for me, yes. I mean I’m not saying necessarily detrimental because you always manage to find, you know contingency. You find ways of making it work for you. It wouldn’t be my choice, but if it was forced on me maybe I would find a way to deal with it.
What do you think the future of studio space will look like?
Well, it’s really hard to tell at the moment because we got this emergency. We’re just going through redevelopment at our studios actually to make some more future proof kind of sustainable, introduce our own energy production, maybe some solar panels because our building is old. It’s a Victorian, and just to build it up to a contemporary building recs would be a start. So we’re kind of going through a development anyway at the moment.
How do you believe we can ensure artists remain in London, in the future?
The set up I’ve got is pretty ideal because they fought off a compulsory purchase order before I moved in, but that’s really the only thing that we’re vulnerable to, because we own the site and you know, charges go up, but there’s no real reason why we should have to leave. I suppose if there were more kind of organizations like that where there was a kind of -rather than having a landlord giving you a short term lease, which works only for the landlord. If there were more kinds of places which were artist-owned, more cooperative owned, or if landlords see the value in the contribution artists make maybe, rather than just gentrification.
How do you think artists can collaborate and communicate with developers in London, to try to maintain that cultural community?
Well, I think with anything, you always have to start with your mutual interests, you know, like what’s the ideal scenario. I mean there’s been a lot of developments where artists get the ground floor because they can’t really, everyone thinks they’re going to be burgled if they have a flat on the ground floor. You know, some artists have a computer or power source or whatever, but normally there isn’t that much that’s of value to other people in there, in our studios.
And also, maybe more collaboration with communities and the council rather than just between artists and developers like what the community needs, what’s important on the local level and what the council, you know, thinks the community needs.
That’s a very abstract answer, isn’t it?