Remote studio dates is a series of conversations with artists, curators and researchers to document and explore coping mechanisms for isolation in the current health crisis. Each date focuses on one work, project, concept or dream, with digressions and slippages, without the need of ending somewhere but with the desire of opening something up.
Neil and I met a few years ago when I visited his studio, then in Soho, to return a sculpture. We spoke briefly and followed up with an interview for an ongoing writing project. Recently he has been giving us a glimpse into his daily routine on Instagram and I caught up with him to see just what life on lockdown meant in the Neil Gall studio.
A. Can you describe what an average day in the studio might look like?
N. Routine..routine..routine. I stick to ‘one’. So after walking the dog, I’m in the studio by 9.30am. I’d paint or draw till 1pm…lunch and another, smaller dog walk till 2pm. Work till 5 or 6 pm. Pretty boring, huh?
A. What has life on lockdown meant for you?
N. I’ve been lucky during this period. I’ve had my ‘moments’ like everybody else I guess, but on the whole I’ve kept working as usual. What’s different is that my family are here all day. I’m a ‘home’ worker and have a small studio at the bottom of the garden. I’ve been working there since around 2014…I think you came to the studio before, in Soho? It was a fairly generous size space, the current one is tiny but I like not travelling and of course home working is the new normal.
So, before this all happened I did not go out and about much anyway…it’s just got slightly even more so. However, this week I was due to be in Dublin as external assessor to the BA painting course at NCAD…So that’s obviously not happening…however the students have been working away and we will do some kind of Zoom assessment procedure early July. I like my twice yearly Irish trips…so hopefully things will return to normal next year.
A. Has your studio practice changed?
N. Well, it hasn’t really…I mean I have to stay quite focused, detached even from everyday stuff, to allow me to concentrate on an individual work that might take anything from a month to three months to realize. So, for example I started one big painting at the end of December which really was only complete early April! There was a tricky week or two…trying to stay on the case…wondering what was the point whilst the world appeared to be falling apart but on the whole I’ve stayed reasonably sane.
A. You’ve been sharing videos of yourself drawing and painting on Instagram, can you say why you wanted to start doing this and whether it’s something that will continue?
N. It’s true…I don’t think I did an Instagram video before lockdown…I’m not sure if it’s anything to do with the current situation…a desperate plea or shout to affirm I exist and am still working. I think it just occurred to me I could post a little film and it might be interesting to some people (one of them was re-posted by The Drawing Room) Also with my son back from university, well, I had a semi-willing cameraman. Yes, I’ll keep doing them.
A. Can you see a lasting impact of the past few months on your work and others?
N. Million Dollar question…and I can’t say or see how things are going to impact the actual work I make or anybody else for that matter. Although people are already trying to second-guess what artists will do, or what art will be more relevant and what will fall by the wayside.
I think on a personal level…I think I’m slightly more relaxed…work can take as long as it likes to complete…I’m trying things with drawing that I’ve not tried before for example…I mean there is less pressure. Nothing is going anywhere, nothing leaves the studio and there are no deadlines. I think it helps me to make better work and take the long-term view on its development.
A. What’s next for you?
Because I’m a Routine- man with a capital R…I can see how the rest of the year will pan out, in terms of how many paintings I’d like to make…how many drawings, how many sculpture…I mean…that’s how I think…regardless if it’s going to a show or not. I know some artists would hate this idea…but I am what I am. This might sound like a contradiction in regard to what I said in the previous question…but I think it’s important to complete things…if only to see where you go next…painting the same picture over and over without a resolution is a recipe for disaster…you’ve got to have an end point…it’s just pleasantly a bit more vague at the moment…Will a work finish end of February? March? April?
I would feel bad if the whole of 2020 resulted in 2 paintings and a drawing…I mean…you have to keep making, keep learning, keep developing and that takes a certain kind of drive So I’m hoping 2020 will remain productive and I’ll have a bunch of good things to release into the world 2021.
One thing I am doing during this period beyond the studio is that a project to do a book just on my drawings has came back to life. It was due to be ready end of 2017 but the publisher went bust, so now I’m working with a new designer to re-do the thing, add newer works etc. So this will come out with Ridinghouse…maybe end of the year, more probably beginning of next. I had also wanted to finally get a website, the galleries I work with, they only ever have, quite naturally, the bodies of paintings they actually work with…so each site never has a true picture of what I do. So I want a proper website that would give this overview…it’s got to get done…and it will, but in the next few months the book is the priority.