My Home: Stella Vine, artist

A luxury home holds no appeal for Stella Vine: what she really cares about is living in the heart of Bloomsbury. Tessa Williams-Akoto reports
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The controversial artist Stella Vine lives and works in her studio, which overlooks the British Museum in Bloomsbury. Her paintings of Kate Moss are currently on show in Hoxton, EC2

I found this place by accident, after a relationship hadn't worked out in Spain. Two years ago, I drove home the day after Christmas, with everything in the back of a Luton van, including my son and all our belongings.

We had missed the Bilbao boat and managed to catch the last ferry back from Calais, and when we got in to London, we just ended up opposite the British Museum. I remember seeing the "to let" sign from a distance, and thinking that it looked interesting. I waited for about a week until I managed to contact the landlord.

We stayed nearby, in a hotel in Montague Street, and as I couldn't make a mess in the hotel, I was painting in the van because I had to get work ready for a show in New York. As soon as I saw this flat, I knew it was for me and I moved in right away.

There are a lot of things I like about living here. I have my office at a little café round the corner, called the Camera Café. I don't have internet access at home, so I go there for my e-mailing most days. In the summer, when the British Museum had its special African garden, I would sit outside in the morning, having coffee surrounded by the baobab trees - it was wonderful. It's a very simple flat. I don't even have a proper bed; there's just a mattress on the floor.

There's no heating and I only just got the lighting working properly recently. My bedroom is off the hallway, and I have two cupboards, which are full of Marc Jacobs dresses, and my shoes are spread out all over the place.

I have a soft, white rug by my bed, which I got from Habitat, but other than that it's very spartan. It's not because I can't afford luxuries that I live like this, but more because I'd much prefer to spend my money on a nice coat rather than curtains.

I need to have the light for my work, and as the windows are huge, it's very bright and excellent for painting. I have a patchwork quilt, which I got from Portobello Market, which I put to use as a blind in my bedroom.

I also have a blue electric guitar near my bed - bought for me for my birthday by my son, Jamie, who is a musician - in case I feel inspired to play.

Books are my one luxury. I have a lot of large coffee-table-size art books, in the shelves above my bed, about people like Warhol, Basquiat and Velasquez. I buy loads of magazines every day, including Vogue, Grazia and Heat. They get stacked up by my bedside, and they inform a lot of my work. When I was in LA earlier this year for a show, the one thing I missed most about the UK were all the trashy magazines we have here.

My working hours are not that conventional. I often get up about two in the morning and do a painting, and then I'll have a bath, and then I often feel very hungry around 4am, so I'll go into Soho and have a meal somewhere like Balans. That's what I love about living here - there's always life around me.

I would be very lonely if I had a studio in an empty warehouse in Hackney or thereabouts. I like to see things going on, and this is a very old-school arts area.

The neighbours beneath me are both artists and have lived here more than 40 years. Howard Hodgkin lives around the corner, and some of the dealers that worked with the original Bloomsbury group are also still in the area.

My studio is in the sitting room, and the white walls are covered in pages ripped out from magazines. The people and the pictures change all the time. Sometimes I have nothing on the walls, and if I get really fed up, I take everything off and just write on the walls. There are canvases everywhere, and all my paints are on one side of the room.

I had been painting Kate Moss for a long time, both before the time of her crisis and during it. I felt very strongly for her - she's a hard-working mum and it seemed as if suddenly the world turned against her. Holy water cannot help you now is painted in very warm pretty colours and part of The Beautiful and the Damned exhibition, and part of my current Fame show. The Priory painting is also something that means a lot to me; I have phoned them up myself to find out more about checking in.

When I'm working, I like to have the television on and listen to music. I like to watch old films. Meet Me in St Louis, Cul-de-Sac and Buffalo 66 are some of my favourites.

The kitchen is off the studio - that's where I store all my daylight bulbs, wash my brushes and very occasionally cook. I don't have a fridge or a washing machine. I tend to just buy new underwear when I need it, and I practically live in Wagamama. I know that if I had a fridge, I would buy lots of lovely things and then forget about them.

This area hasn't got that cool, East End hip thing, where everything is new, but it has some history. I'm quite an old-fashioned girl, and I like all the Bloomsbury group connotations that this place evokes.

My heart is in the centre of London and I think I'd find it hard to live anywhere else. I do love Fitzrovia and, ideally in the future, I'd like to have a house there. I love looking at the blue plaques. Who knows, there may be one for Stella Vine one day.

Fame, 8 to 24 December, daily 1-6pm, except Sundays, 2-7pm, The Dragon, Leonard St, Hoxton EC2;