Hermit in the City-Interview with Michael Landy

ML_Art Bin_2010_Installation View_South London Gallery, London

Landy does try to visit his studio daily, largely enabled by living upstairs, but this is, admittedly, “only unless I can find something else to do!” He has no specific routine to speak of. “That’s the terrible thing, in a way, because then I have to create my own routine, I have to create myself, basically. Every day, when I come here, I have to think about what I’m going to do. And the worst bit, actually, is just sitting down and forcing myself to do it, because I get really distracted. But that’s it, isn’t it? It’s just me and it in the end and no one else cares. It’s always been a struggle. This is very typical for me. I go through cycles of being very productive and then not being very productive. That’s how it’s always been. And this is the worst bit, when you don’t quite know what you’re doing.

There once was a gallery that said they couldn’t make any financial sense out of me. If it were left up to me, if I were left to my own devices, the whole art world would be over by now. There’d be empty art fairs and empty galleries everywhere. I’m not playing the game very well. I’m not a very productive artist, basically. But that’s the way I want it. I’m happy being like that.”



Where does Landy draw his inspiration from, faced, quite literally, with a blank canvas? “I refer to some books, I read, and then my mind starts to wander. Most artists have postcards on the wall, or stuff to inspire them, but I can’t be bothered with that. I don’t have those kind of references, I usually chuck them out. I do have sketchbooks, though, and I write ideas in books.”

When Landy did his residency at the National Gallery, he had to derive his work from the collection, as that was his remit. “I wanted to engage the public, physically, very differently from when you look at a painting. Saints have such fabulous stories. There’s a lot of flagellation in Renaissance art. I was brought up Irish Catholic, so I could really relate to this. Irish Catholicism is all about beating yourself up. I’ve always had a slightly destructive bent to my art too.”



ML_Break Down

Landy’s studio space really is more of an office space, a drawing board space, a space for birthing ideas. “It’s probably a place to go. I wouldn’t want to go to a coffee shop,” he admits. “I’m often sat there scribbling away about ideas, reading a bit, and writing things down.” Landy’s actual works are generally produced off site by artisans whom he commissions for their specific skills. “I don’t make things by hand, on the whole. My drawings I do, but not my sculptures. I normally have the idea first and then think about it a lot and find people to go and execute it. I’m quite happy on a kitchen table, most of the time. I don’t need a lot of space. I just have space, but I don’t actually need it. I think the studio is a millstone around my neck, really. It is a paradox.”

Given his destructive bent, and his lack of studio requirements, I wonder why Landy has never considered destroying his studio. “I never got as far as to destroy the studio itself,” he says, “because I never owned the studio.” Well, he does own it now, so who knows what might happen? It seems as though there’s no need to anticipate further destruction, however. “I always say to Gillian that we should rent it out.” I remind him that he has two spaces. Will he maybe let one go? “No, no. I’ll keep both. I like buying empty spaces. That’s what people are complaining about in London, aren’t they? That lots of foreigners are coming over and buying flats and just leaving them empty. And I’m just doing the same.” Not quite, Michael, not quite. Your studio spaces may be physically empty, but, like your head, they are, I am sure, full of ideas; ideas which we look forward to seeing come to fruition.


我不禁好奇,為甚麼這樣的一位有毀滅傾向的、不需要工作室空間的藝術家,沒有考慮毀掉他自己的工作室。“我還沒想過要毀掉自己的工作室,我還沒那麼極端,因為我以前從來沒有真正擁有過一個工作室。”不過,現在他已經擁有這個工作室了,誰知道接下來會發生甚麼呢?似乎接下來也不需要他再做更多的“毀壞”類型的作品了。“我常對吉莉安說我們應該把這裡租出去。”我提醒蘭迪他現在已經擁有兩個工作室了。他會捨棄其中一個嗎?“不,不。我兩個都留著。我喜歡買空蕩蕩的空間。這也是倫敦人一直在抱怨的事,大量外國人前來購置公寓,交易完成了就離開,使這些公寓變成了空置房。我居然也在做同樣的事。” 邁克爾,你和他們还不太一樣。你的工作室看起來是空的,但我相信它就像你的腦子一樣,裡面充滿了各種奇思妙想,而我們正期待這些想法可以慢慢實現。

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