STUDIO ARTIST INTERVIEWS

SAM CRANSTOUN

Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you become an artist?  


Art has always been my focus and my interest. It’s the thing I have always been able to throw myself into entirely. It wasn’t really until university that I decided to take this interest from a process of making, to a process of thinking, conceptualising, experimenting and making. That was when I was able to take my interest in history and pop culture, and allow it to work alongside the art making process.

How do you describe the work that you make? 

There’s a real interest in history in my work, a focus on historical events and the figures who have shaped history – as well as those who have been written out of it. My work takes a lot of different forms: drawing, painting, sculpture, video, watercolour, installation. Really it’s about how we use images in different ways to understand not only the past, but also our present.

 

What’s your earliest memory of making art? Do you feel like the work you make now has a connection to that moment? 

I always remember drawing. In art class in school, but also in maths, in English, in History… I always thought of my interest in history and pop culture as incredibly separate from my need to make art. It wasn’t until university that I felt like the two could feed off each other. I remember that moment clearly. It changed how I made work in so many ways

 

When did you realise you needed a studio space? Was it a conscious decision or something you’ve always understood to be a requirement for being an artist? 

My need for a studio came fairly early on – for me it’s about a separation of work space and living space. Not that I don’t think about art outside of the studio… quite the opposite in fact. It’s simply that I needed to flip a switch for work mode. Otherwise I found it consuming me, and sleep was almost an impossibility. That separation of work space and living space is so important – I often think about Roald Dahl who used to get dressed in his three piece suit, put on his hat, grab his briefcase, kiss his wife and children goodbye and walk down the garden path to his back shed to spend the day writing.  

 

Can you tell us a little about your process? What does a day in the studio look like for you? Do you spend entire days in the studio, or do you flit in and out? 

 

For me, a day in the studio is pretty consistent. I go in, I caffeinate (a lot) and spend a bit of time doing admin, then I work digitally for a few hours. This involves browsing photographs, and then photoshopping images I might want to paint or draw. Normally for every hundred or so images I take or collect, I only photoshop/edit one. And then for every twenty or thirty of those edited images, I probably only paint/draw one or two. I’m starting to think this is more meditative than anything else… From there it’s about five or six uninterrupted hours of actually making, whether that’s painting or drawing or sculpting objects. I find that I need momentum for this part, so it’s about removing as many distractions as possible. Coffee doesn’t count as a distraction though…

 

Outer Space is situated in the cultural hub of Brisbane, with major institutions and commercial galleries within walking distance. Does this impact your experience of the studio? If so, how? 

This makes a huge difference. The ability to walk down to QAGoMA, to take in new exhibitions and the existing collection – it’s almost meditative. Also, I exhibit my work at Milani Gallery which is just down the road. So to be making work a stone’s throw from where it will eventually be exhibited, there’s something nice and complete about that.

 

How important is a location to studio spaces? What are the essentials you have in mind when looking for somewhere to work? 

For me it’s very important. I find that I need to remind myself to be social at times. Locking myself away in a room for long stretches of time comes almost too naturally. Which helps in times like this… But it means I like to work centrally, in busy places. It reminds me that there’s a world around me, and it forces me to interact with it. I need that. But the one thing I’ve found with my current studio at Outer Space, is that despite this – despite being so central – my view is mostly blue and green. The light is spectacular, and the trees and clouds are a constant feature in my working day. Being in nature is important to me, and I often forget to act on that when I’m working a lot, so it’s a nice reminder.

 

Finally, why is art, and being an artist important right now? 

 

For so many reasons. To show that the arts are essential. They are not a luxury. They tell our stories, and ask the questions no one else will. It’s important to show how prepared we are for a moment like this – perhaps more than any other field or discipline. And, perhaps above all, to show how strong our community is. The first acts of benevolence, kindness and generosity I saw as this crisis emerged came from the arts. I’m extremely proud of that.

Outer Space acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land where this project takes place, Meanjin, and pays respect to Elders - past, present and emerging. 

Outer Space is proudly supported by