Girling, Sheila (10 of 13). National Life Stories: Artists' Lives
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Interviewee's studio, London
Girling, Sheila, 1924-2015 (speaker, female)
Westley, Hester (speaker, female)
Part 10: [Session Three, August 12th, 2009] [01:35:57] Resuming London life upon return to UK. [0:02:01] Preparations for AC’s Hayward exhibition; SG’s studio space at home and first studio at Georgiana Street; health problems related to acrylic paint fumes; SG’s watercolour practice. [0:04:45] SG’s experience of watercolour painting through JRH; description of painting watercolours outdoors; the equipment and application of paint; SG’s preference for seascapes; time spent on watercolour paintings; SG’s choice of watercolour paper. Why SG likes to work alone; why AC doesn’t use watercolour. SG and AC’s discussions about painting at the end of the day; the fate of unsuccessful paintings; SG’s attitude to her paintings. Why artists are asked to donate works; the trials of the creative process. [0:12:38] How speed of application in watercolour painting determines nature of work produced; CG’s admiration of SG’s watercolours; CG’s emphasis on rapidity of working process; what SG learnt from watching AC’s working practice of working and reworking artworks. SG’s working practice in studio; working on the floor with acrylic paint; the significance of Triangle Workshops. [01:16:24] SG’s return to painting and abstraction; the difficulties of starting over; SG’s perseverance. CG’s critique of SG’s exhibition in Acquavella Gallery in NY; reasons why CG wanted SG to paint watercolour landscapes. [0:21:19] SG’s response to CG’s opinions; nature of CG’s interaction with SG and AC respectively. Reason for AC and KN’s dispute; CG’s tendency to play off artists against each other. [0:23:48] Occasion of DS’s fatal car crash; maintaining transatlantic connections; reason why SG stopped exhibiting with Acquavella Gallery; SG and AC’s decision to build barn in upstate New York. Annual trips to live and work in the barn; AC’s studio assistant, Jon Isherwood. [0:28:46] SG’s studio in barn; work done in studio. Reasons for selling barn; issues over AC’s health; the hard work involved with barn. [0:32:05] Description of how Triangle Workshops came about; Robert Loder’s initial involvement; how SG and AC ran the workshop between them; the international reach of the workshop; SG’s responsibilities; anecdote about painter John Hoyland; the nature of the accommodation; paintings made during that time. [0:36:30] SG’s experience of Margie Hughto’s clay workshop in Syracuse; experimental nature of SG’s work with colour and clay; SG’s move into collage at Triangle Workshop in Barcelona. [0:39:25] SG’s approach to collage. Description of SG’s working practices; how her paintings developed; the manipulation of paint on canvas; working with ideas; mixing colours and importance of palette; the importance of accident and chance. [0:43:09] Determining scale of work; advantages of working on canvas on the floor; the use of a lifting table; the process of hanging canvas to reassess it; making alterations; SG’s use of mixed mediums: acrylic and gels. Mentions painting currently on display at RA and use of materials to achieve its effect. [0:47:31] SG explains significance of collage in her paintings; how AC’s sculptural techniques have influenced her painting practice; the advantages of using collage; the influence of Japanese art; the extent to which the extensive travelling with AC has influenced SG’s painting. [0:50:05] Impact of India on SG’s work; sources of inspiration. [0:53:20] The tension between abstraction and figuration in SG’s paintings. [0:54:58] How SG positions herself in relation to 1960s debates on abstraction; her distance from the practitioners of pure abstraction; SG’s focus on her own personal direction. [0:59:23] Extent of dialogue between AC and SG regarding debates around abstraction and figuration; AC’s lack of inhibition in his art making. [01:01:22] SG’s attitude to palette; the centrality of colour in her practice. Selecting scale; the process of making a small scale collage. SG discusses the issue of glazing works; the reason why she uses a heavy ground on her canvases; her attitude to studio assistants. [01:06:51] Description of daily studio routine; the importance of painting by natural light; the question of framing paintings. [01:11:29] The significance of an artistic community for SG; her preference for a solitary working practice. Extent of dialogue about work in progress between AC and SG. [01:14:12] How SG situates herself in a painterly lineage; how she identifies herself as a ‘painterly painter’ and what this means. Extent of SG’s interest in conceptual art practices. [01:18:29] Discussion of the place of women in the art world; the challenges that face women artists. [01:21:43] Involvement of SG’s sons in her artistic life; her current collaboration with TC and PC’s practice as painter. [01:24:52] The advantages and disadvantages of being the spouse to an artist of AC’s stature; the reciprocal nature of the relationship. Possibility of correspondences between AC’s and SG’s work. [01:28:54] Future projects; the issue of critical recognition; SG’s attitude to selling her artwork; SG’s retrospective exhibition at IVAM Museum in Valencia in 2006. [01:34:29] SG’s attitude to the recording of her life story.