Withered leaf – drawing by Linda Sgoluppi
My husband’s Alzheimer’s has been taking up more of my life, I am his carer or caregiver, (the term for this activity is dependent on where in the world you live.) I was told that deterioration in this horrible disease is in a series of steps rather than down a slope and so it has proved to be. Those steps appear suddenly and I find that my life has changed yet again.
I’ve not been able to paint for nearly half a year, not just the disease but also circumstances surrounding working space. However I am ever optimistic, at least as far as my painting is concerned, for now I draw a little when I get an opportunity. I also have an exhibition of paintings called Plato’s Cave at 78 Derngate Northampton until 18 December 2016.
My husband now goes to a care centre for two part days a week and when I have my new studio I will use that time to paint and who knows I may be able to work a little in the evening.
My new studio is going to be at the end of the garden at home and is due to be started this coming week. I am told it won’t take too long to build once the considerable ground works are done. Foundation piling will go down to nine metres and I can sure see the truth that is often mentioned on the architecture programme Grand Designs that so much of the costs of building are sunk into the ground before a building even gets out of it.
There was some resistance to the planning application for my studio from a few neighbours. Objections mainly based on the contention that a view of the local church will be lost from across my private garden from some distance at the other end of the street. Yet the architect and I were very mindful of the studio’s position and worked to design something that sits happily on its site. Historic England and the Council’s own conservation officer saw no problem with our plans.
In one objection a neighbour used an image of the Mona Lisa and a tic-tac box to make an analogy about seeing the view across my garden to the local church from the aforementioned distant view. The Mona Lisa was to represent the Church, the tic-tac mints box was to represent my studio. It was claimed the tic-tac box at some distance from the Mona Lisa ruined a view of the Mona Lisa.
In fact the only view of the church that can be seen from the point in question is of the Church Spire and the only way that would be lost is if we were to build a Shard-like high building. However the reason I mention this is that it was a piece of art, an image of a famous painting that was used to try to prevent my studio from gaining permission. The irony was not lost on me.
I’ve recently read Van Gogh’s Ear – The true story by Bernadette Murphy. Among other things the author describes Van Gogh’s studio space in Arles, and how that space was so important to him and his work. It was to that space that some unkind groups went to stare in the windows at him after one of his breakdown episodes, yet now there would be few that don’t recognise Van Gogh’s work and the creative value of it to society.
It’s easy to see a work of art in an art gallery or museum and forget that its making wasn’t made in some high-falutin corporate type space or its medieval equivalent, yet just about every artist has to have a studio space of some sort or other. Art does not just materialise, it has to be created, there has to be certain conditions for its creation.
It was good to work on how the studio would be with a very good architect. So much of what we admire from buildings in the past was considered avant-garde, or just different at the time they were built and now we, rightly, want them protected. New buildings can sit very happily with old buildings and so often look better than pseudo-architecture that blights much of new building. If we constantly temper our architects with planning rules that have little value other than to avoid change then there will be little in the future worth preserving.
Artists have to function in their everyday life, my everyday life has changed beyond what I could have imagined and it is not a change I sought or wanted. I want to continue my journey as an artist, I have to continue my journey as a carer, so I need to reconcile those two things. I hope that the new studio will help to do that.
Sunset on a Church spire from the churchyard – Linda Sgoluppi