Soho

The end of Soho artist studios by Michele Del Campo

artists studios dean street

ENGLISH: In 2010 an organization that provides studio space for artists offered me the great opportunity to rent a studio in Soho, a very central and fashionable area in London. Beside our building had to be built one of the underground rail stations of Crossrail, the biggest construction project in Europe, which will link the west with the East, passing through the centre through a series of newly excavated underground tunnels. From my window, just at the end of the worksite, I can see Oxford Street, perhaps the most famous commercial and turistic street of London. The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are just 15 minutes walking distance towards South, and so it is the British Museum, towards East. Also in the East, but just 10 min. away, is Covent Garden, and within the same distance are Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, towards West, and these are just a few of the many nearby touristic attractions. The same street where my building is, Dean Street, is full of history. For example, this street was regularly frequented by writer Charles Dickens, during his early career as an actor in the Royalty Theatre. In Dean Street also lived his childhood years Karl Marx, in very poor conditions, and his close collaborator Friedrick Engels. In Dean Street there was also a famous private club for artists and bohemians, The Colony Room, frequented by Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and, more recently, by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. But everything has an end, and the most central and sought after building for artist studios in London has been sold to a new company, owned by Crossrail. After receiving a very recent warning about the end of our lease, before 31st August all artists have to hand back the keys, and many of us are still looking for a new studio. For sure there won't be any more chances to be so close to the centre, nowadays artists studios tend to be in old factories in the outskirts, but my 4 years in Soho have been a privilege that I will always treasure among my memories as an artist.

 

the Crossrail worksite seen from my window in 2010. Beyond the worksite is Oxford Street.

ESPAÑOL: En 2010 una organización que gestiona edificios con estudios de artistas en Londres me ofreció la gran oportunidad de alquilar un estudio en Soho, un área muy central y a la moda de Londres. Nuestro edificio estaba a lado de una zona de obras que formaba parte del proyecto de construcción más grande de Europa, la nueva línea de trenes Crossrail,

    The Crossrail worksite from my window in 2014

que unirá el sur-oeste al nor-este de Londres, pasando por el centro a través de nuevos túneles subterráneos. Desde mi ventana, más allá de la zona de obras, se ve Oxford Street, la famosa calle comercial más turística de Londres. La National Gallery y Trafalgar Square están a 15 minutos andando hacia sur, la misma distancia que el British Museum, hacia el este mientras Covent Garden, siempre al este, está a tan solo 10 minutos, igual que Piccadilly Circus, al oeste, entre otros lugares turísticos famosos. La misma calle donde está mi edificio de artistas, Dean Street, tiene muchísima historia. En esta calle estaba el teatro Royalty Theatre, que frecuentaba mucho el escritor Charles Dickens, en sus comienzos como actor. En Dean Street también vivió su infancia Karl Marx, en condiciones muy pobres, y su colaborador Friedrick Engels. En Dean Street también surgió un club privado de artistas y bohemios, The Colony Room, frecuentado por Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon y, más recientemente, Damien Hirst y Tracy Emin. Pero todo tiene un final, y el edificio de artistas más central y buscado de Londres ha sido vendido hace poco a una nueva empresa, propiedad de Crossrail. Tras  recibir un aviso muy reciente, el día 31 de agosto todos los artistas tienen que entregar las llaves, y muchos no hemos encontrado todavía un nuevo estudio. Seguramente no habrá más posibilidades de encontrar un espacio tan cerca del centro, hoy los estudios de artistas tienden a estar en viejas fábricas abandonadas en la periferia de la ciudad, sin embargo, mis 4 años en el Soho han sido un privilegio enorme que quedará siempre entre mis recuerdos más entrañables como artista.

"L'Illustratrice" (The illustrator), oil on linen, 162x114cm

_MG_1938

freudandbacon

My studios, London and Valencia - the importance of the light by Michele Del Campo

artist studio michele del campo london Home studio, London

artist studio michele del campo valencia

ENGLISH: In the last few months I have started to spend long periods of time in Valencia, close to my newborn daughter and to my wife, for that reason I have rented a small space where I have set-up a new studio for painting. Valencia always feels like a special place to me, the sun, the countryside, the sea, the buildings, the warmth and friendliness of the people, all bear a certain resemblance with the cities in my South Italian region Puglia. Waking up even in winter with the sunshine filtering through the shutters is to me a luxury that has no price, and for a painter it is a bliss, even if the economical, political and social situation in Spain lately is not as bright as the weather, and that is a perception that has darkened the mood of my paintings, as I am very attached to Spain and to its culture. However now my frequent travels to Valencia have sparkled in me the wish for a return to that brightness that was such an important feature in my earlier paintings, when I lived in Spain (Madrid) and in fact I am starting to re-introduce it in my new work, and there is nothing better than painting the light in a city of light. Practically speaking, a sunny and warm city has many advantages for a painter, for example, it allows me to keep the window of my studio open even in winter, lessening the harmful effects of the solvents for oil painting, it also allows me to paint outdoors at almost any time of the year with quite steady conditions of light, or to organize outdoor shoots with models in sunny settings almost at any time and well in advance (in London I cannot rely on having a steady sunny interval even in summer). Moreover, the light in winter lasts much longer in Valencia than in London, which is important when I work from life, and the sun makes it more pleasurable to go out in search of new inspiration outdoors, and to me there is nothing better than the direct sunlight to enhance the shapes of people, objects and spaces (if the light goes away suddenly behind some clouds, for example, a scene that was very interesting can lose completely appeal and become ordinary and dull). For now this is only a temporary solution of a studio in Valencia, but it is certainly giving back to me those practical advantages that were missing since I moved to London and that will certainly be reflected in my new work.

 

SPANISH: Hace varios meses he empezado a pasar largos períodos de tiempo en Valencia, cerca de mi recién nacida hija y de mi mujer, por eso mis suegros me han alquilado un espacio donde me he montado un pequeño estudio para pintar. Valencia siempre ha sido un sitio especial para mi, el campo, el mar, el sol, la arquitectura típica, el calor y la amabilidad de la gente me recuerdan un poco las ciudades de la Puglia, la región del sur de Italia de la que provengo. Despertarme incluso en invierno con los rayos del sol que se infiltran por las persianas medio cerradas para mi es un lujo que no tiene precio, y para un pintor es una dicha, aunque la situación económica, política y social en España no es tan luminosa como el tiempo, y esa es una percepción que ha oscurecido el humor de mi pintura, ya que estoy muy ligado a España y a su cultura. Sin embargo, últimamente mis frecuentes viajes a Valencia han propiciado en mi la voluntad de un retorno a esa iluminación que era una característica tan importante en mis pinturas anteriores, cuando vivía en Madrid, y de hecho he empezado a re-entroducirla en mis nuevos trabajos, y no hay nada mejor que pintar la luz en una ciudad de luz. Hablando de ventajas prácticas en el trabajo, una ciudad soleada y caliente te permite tener las ventanas del estudio abiertas incluso en invierno, atenuando los efectos dañinos de los disolventes de la pintura al óleo, y de pintar al aire libre durante todo el año en condiciones bastante estables de luz, o de organizar tomas fotográficas con modelos bajo el sol casi cada vez que quieres y con antelación (en Londres no puedes confiar en tener el sol, o el sol constante, ni siquiera en verano). Además, en invierno la luz en Valencia dura bastante más tiempo que en Londres, lo cual es importante a la hora de pintar del natural, y el sol hace que sea agradable salir en busca de nueva inspiración en el exterior, y para mi no hay nada más fascinante que los contrastes que crea la luz directa del sol en la gente, en los objetos y en los espacios (a la hora de tomar una foto, por ejemplo, a una escena con iluminación solar directa, si de repente desaparece el sol tras unas nubes todo se hace plano y pierde interés). De momento en Valencia este pequeño estudio es solamente una solución temporánea, pero ciertamente me devuelve esas ventajas prácticas que había perdido desde que me mudé a Londres, y que ciertamente se verán reflejados en mi nuevo trabajo.

 

 

 

 

Variations in life drawing by Michele Del Campo

My weekly life drawings in my studio are becoming quite varied, and variation is an element that inspires change and development, important things that nurture creativity.

Professional ballet or salsa dancers, performing twins, comparisons between the clothed and the nude bodies, costumed recitals of great literature pieces and belly dancing performances are among the treats that I am introducing in every new session.

At the end of every session sometimes we have normally one or two longer poses of 20 minutes each and I take the chance to sketch with oils on scrap canvases or watercolour sketchbooks. Here you can see some of them:

My new studio in Soho by Michele Del Campo

The artist studio is a magical place, because it is where creativity runs free and takes shape. Diderot suggested that in order to grasp the profound meaning of an artwork one should see the studio where it has been created, spying on atmospheres, rituals, secrets. The size of a studio, the shape, the lighting, the location, the distance from home, all of these characteristics can have a big influence on the development of an artist's work. On the other hand, the artist intervenes on his working space to adapt it to his own creative needs, so, given a similar space, every artist will have a very different studio. Until few weeks ago I had always had my studio incorporated to my home, I could hardly think about living separated from my painting. I needed to have everything under control at all times, I could work at the times that I wanted, whether by day or by night, everything I needed was always there, at a door's distance.

Lately, however, I started to feel that a big room in my flat was not enough anymore for my needs and I decided to look for an even bigger space in London, although that meant that I would have to start commuting every day. I was also looking for a more socially stimulating environment, a place with other artists, where inspiration, experience and ideas circulate more easily.

Buildings dedicated to host artists studios normally are situated in more peripheral areas, often old factories converted into working spaces for artists. However my research coincided with the release, by an organization, of a great newly converted building in the middle of Soho, the sparkling heart of the city, to be wholly rented to fine artists. Among the big pile of applications from many artists there was mine, but I was lucky enough to be chosen to get one of the only thirteen available studios. Among my neighbours in the building are illustrious artists by the name of Neil Gall, Mark Wallinger, Laura Oldfield Ford, Nils Norman, Merlin Carpenter and Annie Kevans. It has taken a long time and effort to set up my new studio and now I look forward to start a new season with a new painting project.