New book takes us into artists' studios

  • 13 March 2012

An exciting new book lets us into the homes and studios of Britain's most influential artists, allowing us unprecedented access to the lives of Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry and many more.

An exciting new book lets us into the homes and studios of Britain's most influential artists, allowing us unprecedented access to the lives of Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry and many more. Iain Zaczek reviews Sanctuary: Britain’s Artists and their Studios.

Many people still harbour romantic notions about an artist’s studio. Even today, the idea conjures up images of a large, brightly lit space, with a bohemian air of clutter and disorder. This weighty tome – a hefty 600 pages – soon banishes any such preconceptions. It focuses on the working practices of around 120 of the country’s most prominent artists, revealing a remarkable diversity of opinion. For Antony Gormley, the studio is ‘an industrial unit, an asylum’; for Richard Hudson it is a ‘battleground’; while Yinka Shonibare regards his as a ‘mini-community’.

The structures themselves are certainly a far cry from the chipboard cubicles at art college. Both Shirazeh Houshiary and Nigel Cooke married architects who designed their stylish workplaces, while Peter Joseph is based in a gorgeous, purpose-built studio nestling in the Gloucestershire countryside. At the other end of the spectrum, several artists describe their spaces as glorified sheds. Their places may look functional enough, but some are clearly intended as showcases for the artist. Whenever television crews descend on Grayson Perry, he quips: ‘Well, I’ve spent hours making this look like a studio for you.’

The main body of the book consists of lively interviews with the artists, giving details of their aims, their inspiration and their daily routine.One of the particular delights of Sanctuary is the superb photography by Robin Friend. He has interpreted the theme in its broadest sense, giving a flavour of the artists’ work and the general setting of their studios. His images are so striking that this could easily be mistaken for a coffee-table book. However, it is much more than that. For anyone interested in modern British art, it is a gold mine. 

Sanctuary: Britain’s Artists and their Studios by Hossein Amirsadeghi and Maryam Homayoun Eisler is available from Thames & Hudson for £48.