The Red Studio After Matisse

Matisse learned to allow his subconscious peripheral vision to dominate the central macular in order to see more and to notice his emotional responses to colour, as inThe Red Studio (1911) .

Henri Matisse,  The Red Studio,  1911

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911

Matisse’s The Red Studio was a major inspiration in the transition from my previous body of work, The Nail House Series (2018) to the work I am making now. The Nail House series interrogated photographs circulated on the internet of architectural holdouts, where people refused to make way for new developments. Translating the images into paint was an act of slow archival resistance, an intervention against erasures on digital platforms or city streets. Using a limited palette of just three colours and a restricted scale, the paintings resisted both beauty and stature, they too became “nails that stick out”.    

The Red Studio After Matisse

Laura Hudson The Red Studio After Matisse: Studio Building, West London, 2018

Matisse’s The Red Studio provided a way to think about the interior spaces, not just of the nail houses but of other interior worlds and the ways in which they might be depicted as rooms or psychological spaces. In his essay of 1908, Notes of a Painter, Henri Matisse writes ‘Now that I think I can see further, [rather than be satisfied with the passing colour sensations of a moment] I want to reach that state of condensation of sensations [...] Nowadays I try to put serenity into my pictures (Matisse, 1908)’.

I also want to record a ‘condensation of sensations’, but while Matisse was looking for serenity I am attuned to friction and disruption.

The Red Studio After Matisse, follows the same spatial structure of Matisse’s original, however I replaced the artwork on the walls with my own paintings of nail houses. On the left, where a picture was leaning against the wall in the original, I punched through the wall looking out onto Grenfell Tower, a social housing block that had been clad for visual appeal with substandard materials. When a small fire started in the tower, it spread uncontrollably around the building via the external cladding and caused many deaths. By including the image of Grenfell beyond the window I hoped to allow the reality of life to encroach on the artist’s studio, and suggest that the studio is not an ivory tower, as in Matisse’s world, but part of a wider social context in todays.

I learned a lot of formal lessons by working from Matisse; reverse-lines - In Matisse’s Red Studio the red ground is painted up to the lines that describe forms, flat areas of colour and using peripheral vision to look at space.