Interview with Anthony Whishaw
Thursday 26th February 1998
Where were you born and when?
I was rushed over to be born in St.Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London,
to be born in England so as not to serve in the Brazilian army. Otherwise
I would have been born in Sao Paulo.
Which art school did you go to?
Well, I went to Chelsea School of Art and then the Royal College that
was 1948 to 1952 and 1952 to 1955.
When did you first move to the east end of london?
In about 1979.
Why did you move there?
I needed to find another studio as my 'Space' studio in Primrose Hill
had to close down and I was desperate to find somewhere to work. A
small studio became vacant on the 5th floor in Wapping wall. Fortunately
after a few months the person next door left so I took over her studio,
it was seperated by some sheets of hardboard which I removed making
it a good working area.
Were you helped by an organization?
Yes, I was helped by Space.
Where was Space based then?
I think it was Roseberry Avenue it was 1979.
How did you fit in?
I always participated in the open studios which was an ocassion to
meet many of the other artists. Otherwise it was a case of isolating
myself in the studio, for painting is a solitary activity, unlike
theatre or performance art.
"Bujalcayado" 1988/92 168x457cm
"This painting again evolves from an experience of Spain. In
one of the many deserted villages, the artist encountered an old woman-the
last remaining inhabitant. At dusk sitting alone on a rock above her
village, she gives herself over to her memories.
The painting expresses the complexity of personality, the sense in
which we are all reliant upon the introspection of memory to define
our existence. The many facets of the personality are here represented
by multiple images of the single figure."
Keith Patrick 1992
Did you feel part of an artistic community?
Only perhaps at an unconscious level. I was well aware of large numbers
of like minded souls working in the various studio blocks nearby.
Do you remember events leading up to working
in Bonner Rd?
The lease at Wapping ran out and the property developers moved in.
However, I was lucky in that I had had an exhibition in the old Acme
Gallery in Covent Garden and so I approached Acme, which was a parallell
organisation to Space, and they had just got this old brush factory
where I now am.
Have you exhibited work in the east end ?
Yes I have been in some Whitechapel Opens and I have shown some paintings
in the LeMont Gallery but otherwise it has been showing in the open
Painting-Homage R.M." 1991/92 62x58cm
"Whishaw is fascinated by ways in which the mind reads the image
in art, as the eye responds to scale, texture, shape and format as
qualities of the art object. He exploits visual contradictions and
ambiguities, as between verisimilitude and imitation, or diversities
of representational convention , or trompe l'oeil and the incorporation
of actual objects."
Mel Gooding October 1997
Why do you think so many artists collected in
the area between these years?
Cheaper studios and Acme's policy to find houses for artists in which
to live and work in so that communities of artists started to develop.
Has your work changed during this period?
Oh yes,when you move studios you go through a conscious and a subconscious
re-assessment. I had to get rid of a lot of accumulated indecisions.
Why did you stay?
I love my studio for its size, I also however work at home where I
work on small paintings. That I have to commute avoids the paying
of bills, the shopping, the countless trivial things that at home
seem to postpone work.
Was the local council helpful?
Not to me in particular, but positively I hope to Acme, they can better
What do you think happened during these years?
I think artists who by the nature of their activity tend to work in
isolation have developed confidence in both the knowledge that so
many others are also dedicated and that their activity is quite normal
(as it is in Europe and hopefully now in a less philistine GB).
Do you have a memory or anecdote ?
On one occassion when I had my daily siesta on the floor of my studio
I lifted the blanket and out jumped a huge rat.I had such a fright
that I too jumped, on to a chair, a surprisingly conventional response.
What is different now?
I think there is more of a turnover of people moving into the studios.
" Enclosure"1996/97 61x86cms
Anthony Whishaw and the London Group:
More about Anthony Whishaw:
Other Educated Persons