The artist’s studio is frequently revered as the manifestation of creative genius, a site of extraordinary activity to be ogled. Think of Francis Bacon’s paint-daubed garret reconstructed in Dublin or the regular Guardian column with photographs of writers’ workrooms supposedly relating their intellectual idiosyncrasies. Kieren Reed reverses this phenomenon with his relocatable shed/studio, pared down to foreground the studio activity that might yet take place within it. A table, a couple of chairs, lamps and a shelf for rearranging pictures, maquettes or raw ideas offer us the hardware for thinking – the artist’s own library, with books on subjects ranging from the inspiring to the practical to the diversionary, offers guidance on content.
So far this may sound like a wholesome project from the crypto-liberal relational mould, but there are thorny details here that puncture such a cosy bubble. The suggestion of blankness might signal, to the optimistic, limitless potentiality, on the other hand the less go-getting might be intimated by starting from scratch. Cunningly, the shed exterior is clad in lithographic plates from Aldgate Press, a nearby printing company used by many a UK art institution. Hidden from view are repro plates of other artists’ books, which, turned round for copyright reasons, we can only guess at the nature of. And, on a table in the gallery next door, an array of found and made objects arrayed as constructional propositions has, at its centre, a shed-like structure made of blocks, thereby absorbing practical shed design into the artist’s sculptural fantasies. Far from an idyll of unconditional creativity then, Reed haunts us with ever-present spectres of predecessors, peers and our own limitations.