Thursday 12th February 1998
at Bonner Road Studios
Where were you born and when?
In North London in 1951 and we lived in Chalcott
Square, just off Primrose Hill near Regents Park. My earliest memories
were daily visits to the zoo, and being taught by extremely strict
nuns at a local infant school. My first word was wallaby (which was
my favourite animal) At the age of six years we moved out to the country.
I moved back to London when I was seventeen and started college and
have lived here ever since.
Which art school did you attend if any?
I went to Central school of Art between 1970
and 1973 and then went to the Slade from 1973 to 76.
When did you first move to the east end of london?
Well I moved into the East End really through
the Acme Housing association when the opportunity of a house and studio
combined became available while I was at the Slade in 1976.
Why did you move there?
Because of Acme.
Were you helped by an organisation?
Yes as I said I was helped by the housing association,
and at the time when I was a student I had been in a road accident,
I was on crutches and I was temporarily disabled and I was given a
property quite quickly.So, I was doing up the studio and a house hobbling
around. The house was the one still here in Approach Road.So I have
been at the same property all that time since 1976.
Approach Road 1976
How did you fit in?
I felt that I fitted in quite well, I had lived
in just about every part of London, South, West, North and I felt
that the East End had a strong creative feel. We were a small group
of artists initially and we used to meet regularly and discuss art
and life in the East End. It was very very different to any other
part that I had lived in, some other artists in the street were Noel
Forster , Robin Sewell, Dave King, these were some of the original
artists, then the group grew. I think one of the things is that lots
of people leave college and they stick with their college friends
because that is their link, I didn't really stick with mine though.
Suddenly we were all meeting so many people it was such an exciting
Did you feel part of an artistic community?
Very much so and there was Acme Gallery which
was then in Covent Garden which provided very strong links for artists.Also
the Whitechapel Gallery and Matt's run by Robin Klassnik.
Can you remember events that led up
to you living there?
Well I found out about Acme from mutual friends
who were artists William Raban and Martyn Hallam and I knew other
artists living in the East End and I liked it very much and felt very
drawn to it. It was convenient to get into the West End , there was
the park,and I got very interested in the boxing community based around
York Hall, Bethnal Green.So, I was delighted to be offered a place
Did you exhibit work in the east end
and if so where?
I have had a one person show at The Showroom
Gallery in Bethnal Green, I've been in The Whitechapel Open at The
Whitechapel Gallery and of course the open studios here at Robinson
Road.More recently I have exhibited at Flowers East in Hackney.
Did you have the studio and the house at the
No, I worked in the top floor of the house in
Approach Road for the first five years and then I had a studio at
Martello Street for a couple of years. At Martello Street I met Ian
McKeever, Robin Klassnik and Mike Panton. I got a studio in Bonner
Road in the early 80's which opened up links with other artists like
Tony Whishaw, Eric Bainbridge,
and Kay Maclaurin. Being so near to Approach Road was perfect.
Flowers East 1998
Why do you think so many artists collected in
the area between these years?
I think it was availability of short life property
and cheap rents partly. Also a lot of artists felt that people in
the East End were real people and there was something very unpretentious
and unspoilt about the area. I think artists were drawn to it.
Has your work changed in during this period?
Yes, it has although certain things have remained
and remained consistent. There are certain threads that have run right
through since I was at college.Also I have been practising Tai Chi
now for ten years. I used to get blocks and couldn't work from time
to time. Now there is just a continuous flow of work that comes out
of me.When I am working I think of drawing energy up from the ground.
I don't worry about whether anyone will like it but it has to have
some honesty. You have to confront your fear. I want the work to have
an alertness but be non aggressive and yielding. An architect who
purchased one of my small paintings once said that every time he goes
into his office now and looks at the painting on the wall he feels
more centered, focused and his attention is brought into the present
in some way. In that sense it was a successful painting. I have not
been so directly influenced by being here it has been more the interaction
with other artists and groups.
Why did you stay/move?
Because every time that I go somewhere else
it doesn't seem to have quite the same pull for me.I still feel that
living around here is an enriching experience.It is conversations
that you have with people in the street over 20 years, the local people
here are very special. Actually that interaction is more important
to me now than the interaction with other artists. When I first moved
here the artist contact was very important, now its those little chats
with local people that are more important.
Was the local council helpful?
Yes I did get a Tower Hamlets Award once, that
was very useful for purchasing materials.
What do you think happened during these years?
Well. I think it really was Acme Housing Association
that was instrumental in making it happen, because of the short life
property. It wasn't just them, there were other organisations like
SPACE who had warehouse properties such as Butlers Wharf.I think artists
are drawn to areas which are perhaps going to be demolished in a few
years but have cheap rents. We were attracted to being involved in
building something up from nothing. artists have always been good
at finding spaces that might be in isolated areas but have real potential
for cheap studios. Property developers somehow seem to follow artists
around and take over.Then property starts getting expensive and the
artists move on.Butlers Wharf is now a really trendy area and very
expensive. I still think around here in Bethnal Green it is pretty
much unchanged apart from The Approach Gallery now which is attracting
huge groups of people. In the New York Times recently they listed
The Whitechapel, White Cube and The Approach Gallery as the three
best galleries to visit when you are in London.Sometimes there are
hundreds of people outside when they have an opening.
It used to be Harrys
bar didn't it?
Yes he retired but still goes in there and helps
Do you have a memory or anecdote ?
I do immediately have a memory about moving
into that house and stripping all the walls down to the plaster. There
has always been a beautiful light in that space and in some ways I
almost preferred it like that with thebeautiful dappling of light
on the rough plastered walls. It made me think that you actually need
nothing, just to be in that space. The experience of living in Approach
Road was very colourful and varied. I remember one morning waking
at 7am to hear Irish Guardsmen playing bagpipes in the middle of the
street and then, when I looked out, there was an elephant in the front
garden pulling up the geraniums with his trunk.The Indian family down
the street had hired a young elephant from Billy Smarts circus as
part of the ceremony for their sons wedding. The elephant was very
naughty and kept pulling away and getting into peoples gardens. Another
time there was panic in the street when a maniac started shooting
at peoples legs as they posted their letters in the post box.It turned
out to be someone with a sawn off shotgun who lived in the house opposite
doing it for his own amusement.
What is different now?
The streets in Bethnal Green are quiter now
and things have changed in the art world as well. I think young artists
are much more hungry for a show now, whereas in the late 70's we didn't
expect so much. We did lots of talking and had lots of discussions,
we were very ambitious and were searching for things but it was different.Post
Thatcher, different framework, people leaving college now are more
Musgrove takes a dialectical step, affirming the tradition of the
icon and the halo, while cancelling it at the same time in her acceptance
of the heritage of the autonomous abstract painting as it derives
from the practice of Denis, Malevich and their successors" Stephen
About the work:
The work intially , was born out of an interest
in Taoist philosophy and in the meditative quality of Russian icons.
I aim for a stillness; an arrested moment in time, perhaps alluding
to what is referred to in Buddhism as 'Bardo Time'. The still moment
before the pendulum repeats its movement, and swings once more.
The small paintings were originally made seven
inches long, the length of my hand and therefore related to my body.
Pure pigment was used on the surface of gesso panels and the intention
was to achieve the same colour saturation and intensity as the raw
pigment had in its pot.
The diptychs are about duality. One panel might
draw energy inwards, whilst the other simultaneously reflects the
light outwards. Prussian blue, representing a deep space, a void,
infinity and absorbing light, and the other, gold leaf, having its
own internal light and directing its energy outwards. The blue also
stands for anti-matter. Yves Klein declared that he sought in his
work to 'represent immateriality' and that 'the world of the soul
was pure energy'.
My titles sometimes refer to metaphysical states
or allude to duality, for instance 'Hama' in Greek means; 'together,
all at once, both together and at the same time'. 'Inter-Vallum' is
Latin for the 'space inbetween, interval of time, pause, difference.'
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