In The Studio: Richard Deacon, artist
'Having too many people around made me feel paralysed'
Saturday 14 July 2012
Richard Deacon is constructing what looks like a campfire with nails. I ask how many nails, and he says instantly:"157." They were displayed in Deacon's Welsh Pavilion in the 2007 Venice Biennale, and have been stored here in his studio in a prosaic plastic storage box. "I found a nail on the beach in Newcastle and I had it cast," Deacon says. He has taken them out today as they are to be photographed for Bronze, the forthcoming Royal Academy show.
Deacon was born in Wales and came to prominence in the 1980s alongside artists including Richard Long, Alison Wilding and Tony Cragg. He won the Turner Prize in 1987.
Deacon now works on an industrial estate in Herne Hill. His is the smartest unit in the estate, a double-decker. He moved here in 1991, leaving Brixton, where he had been in a shared space. He is the only artist-tenant, unless you count the furniture-maker next door. He says he likes "working where other people are doing other things." The estate is "very vibrant and quite social", he says, though he is often away, having been for the past three years on the teaching staff of the prestigious Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. The faculty reads like a who's-who of successful artists, including fellow Brits Cragg and Peter Doig.
Downstairs, alongside a pile of wood, stand a rack of shapes that resemble the upturned hulls of rowing skulls. It is almost eerily quiet. Deacon likes to keep the place to himself. He goes away to work with people, he says, reeling off names of collaborators in various places – Matthew Perry in West Norwood for bending wood, Gary Chapman in Bletchley for steel, and Niels Dietrich in Cologne for ceramics. What he does want, he says firmly, is a place that is "private" – and then he looks at me, correcting himself: "semi-private." In the past, he says, having too many people around has "made him feel paralysed." But because of this, "the place has become somewhat merely a depot and not an active studio".
Going upstairs, we stand in front of shelves covered in objects. I am drawn to a carefully arranged group of miniature animals. He tells me he started to collect them when his children were small "as I was frustrated by Playmobil and how few animals they had. I collected them from all over when I was travelling." I point to some fossils and gourds nearby and say I can see the influence of these forms in his work. "Yes", he responds, "there are the shapes, the typology, and somehow the representation of history. And there is sentiment involved as well; some of these toys were my mother's and some" – he points at a lurid plastic Marge Simpson –"well, I find her hair interesting".
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election
- 2 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The golden age of TV comedy is here
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
From Marvel to Star Wars: The rise of cinema’s shared universes
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'