For the next couple of months, this fine north London gallery is shining a spotlight on the backstage aspects of the creative process, with two shows centred on how artists use and respond to their workspaces. The larger exhibition is a significant retrospective of 91-year-old Romanian art doyenne Geta Brătescu’s multimedia output, while the other show is a one-room affair featuring an installation by London-born artist Paul Johnson, now in his mid-40s and known for his meticulous, painstakingly crafted sculptures. It’s probably more accurate to say that the room has been given over to Johnson, since he has dismantled his studio and reconstructed fragments of it in the gallery space – including parts of the flooring and other architectural features, as well as old newspapers, cast sculptures, a Super Mario Toad sticker, a discarded ginger beer can and a gallon container full of brown stuff.
At first sight the light-filled room doesn’t seem to give much away – grey-scale plastic crates and grey cast mouldings are the predominant structures – and it’s only while walking around, stopping, stooping or looking up that meaningful details start to emerge: an empty jar of Tesco peanut butter, a comedy postcard of a ‘suntanned’ mannequin, a pamphlet written by philosopher Graham Harman. The multiple ceramic and clay shapes lying around also start to take on new meaning, crafted as they were by the artist from items such as pop-can tops and car tyres. By transforming these seemingly banal objects into studio pieces, Johnson is asking the question: when does the artistic process start and stop?