In a special series, we asked artists associated with the RWA about how the COVID-19 lockdown has affected their life and work. The next artist is Academician and former President of the RWA, Stewart Geddes…
“…It’s still too early for me to judge how well my painting has functioned under the new circumstances. I continue to make work. That’s the important thing.”
“Early on during the pandemic, I made the decision to relocate the studio to one of our bedrooms at home. Having dismantled a bed and moved out all the furniture, I laid some plywood sheets to protect the floor, and deposited a stack of small canvasses, a selection of brushes, paints and other paraphernalia I’d brought back from the studio. I decided this was an opportunity – I’ve always liked G K Chesterton’s maxim that a nuisance is an adventure wrongly considered – to have a sustained period of working small.
“My initial optimism was quickly brought into question as the relation between body, gesture and canvas size as a mechanism for releasing ideas, and which is central to my improvised practice, felt awkward and hemmed-in on the small scale.
“There was also the backdrop of the disorientation that sprang from the Covid crisis itself – of the communal, psychological bewilderment it set in train; of simple human habits that had to be, and continue to be, suspended.
“An early casualty of the ‘new normal’ casualty (admittedly, a relatively trivial one) was a planned 10th anniversary Open at BV Studios. It had seemed appropriate timing for a studio sale. In its place I formulated an E-catalogue and sent it to people in my address book. Ironically, the ‘reach’ of the sale was extended around the country, and to my delight, it generated a lot of sales. It was interesting, and frankly a relief, after weeks of quarantine, to leave the city and drive around the country delivering paintings.
“It’s still too early for me to judge how well my painting has functioned under the new circumstances (an example of 4 of them are included here). I’ve begun to incrementally spend more time back in the studio in Bedminster, and now spend part of the week there, and part in my bedroom studio. I continue to make work. That’s the important thing.
“Like so many others, I was disappointed to miss the Wilhemina Barnes-Graham exhibition at the RWA. I understand it may be extended as lockdown is lifted. My own view is that galleries are not exactly football grounds (or horse racetracks come to that) in the way people stand cheek-by-jowl, and so audiences should be allowed back into galleries and museums relatively early in the process of unlocking.
“I’ll be back in the RWA as soon as I can. We should be under no illusion how fragile its bottom line is, so I urge you all to visit as soon as you’re able. And please, look out for the coming Secret Postcard Auction, and support it if you can.”
About the artist
Stewart Geddes is a renowned abstract expressionist painter, with work in numerous public collections including the Royal Collection and the Royal College of Art. Based at BV Studios in Bedminster, Bristol, he has shown widely in the UK and overseas. He also teaches fine art – recently as an Associate Lecturer at Bournemouth Arts University and at the University of Gloucestershire.
He studied at Bristol Polytechnic under Alfred Stockham in the 1980s, and later at the RCA. An Honorary Academician of both the Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy, Stewart was President of the RWA from 2016 to 2019.
Concept and interview by Laurel Smart