IN CONVERSATION | PORTRAIT ARTIST- KATHY BARKER

03.09.20

“So I don’t think London will be a problem as in to draw artists into it. I think what’s harder for artists is to survive economically. You’ll often get artists that come out of art school, and in 10 years time, they no longer do art and they’ve gone into a different career because they can’t afford to or they choose not to make the sacrifice of living standards.”

-Kathy Barker

Kathy Barker trained at the Wimbledon School of Art gaining BA Honors in Fine Art (painting) and a Master of Art in Printmaking. As her career progressed she followed her true passion for portraiture and studied at the Charles Cecil Studio in Florence, Italy in the atelier fashion. In addition to her portrait painting, she is currently providing Postgraduate drawing tutorship at West Dean College, which is part of the Edward James Foundation. [kathybarker.co.uk]

What is your definition of studio space?

My definition of studio space is a large, well as large as possible, space that you can afford, with great north-facing light.

Collaborative communal studio spaces are on the rise. Do you believe this formula can work?

I think it can work for a lot of artists. Not particularly for me, as I’m a portrait artist and I require specific lighting. So if it was open plan, that wouldn’t work for me. But that’s just because of the discipline I do. For many artists, I’m sure that would work perfectly well.

Do you believe that London has an impact on your art?

Only in the sense that I probably have more people that will commission me that are in London rather than living in the country and not being connected to individuals that can afford what I do. So it has an economic impact more than anything else. Plus you’re near galleries and stuff which is great.

Would you consider moving outside of the city?

Yes, I would, only because I’m older now.

And then do you think it would impact your work, if you were to move?

Yes, I do and it depends where the location was. I mean, one of the reasons to stay in the city is that not only do I have lots of friends and connections that way, but you have a lot more demographic that will commission me. Whereas if you are in a small area, outside country, you’re just going to have fewer people that know about you unless you’re very, very good at marketing online. And again, I need people to be able to come and sit for me. Not all the time, but you know, to pay a visit to my studio and if you’re out or far away from central points, geographically that’s going to be harder for people to do.

What do you think the future of studio space will look like?

It depends what discipline you’re working in. As a figurative artist who needs a certain amount of natural light, I think it will remain pretty much the same, I will search high and low to have that kind of space, but for people working in different disciplines, especially virtual disciplines it can be anything you want it to be. You know, you could build something that had underground studios for those and then you have the top floors north-facing studios for people like me.

How do you believe we can ensure artists remain in London in the future?

There’s always going to be a drive for people to want to be in London as artists because you have museums, the galleries, you have major art schools that people from all over the country want to get into from all over the world. So I don’t think London will be a problem as in to draw artists into it. I think what’s harder for artists is to survive economically. You’ll often get artists that come out of art school, and in 10 years time, they no longer do art and they’ve gone into a different career because they can’t afford to or they choose not to make the sacrifice of living standards. London’s expensive, it’s really expensive to not only to live in but to get cheap or cheaper working spaces. So that’s the thing that would drive artists out. 

And my final question is how do you think artists can collaborate and communicate with developers in London to try to maintain the cultural community? It’s known for.

 I mean, I think this is rather good you guys are calling up artists and interviewing and doing research. There was something Somerset House did for artists at 150 quid a month I think, only again, it wasn’t suitable for something like somebody like me because it was more open-plan. But I think yes, I think the Arts Council and people like yourselves. I think it’s just a way of communicating. It’s getting to the community like you’ve reached out to me, but I would never have known about you. So I don’t know how that works, but I think there are savvier artists who spend a lot of research themselves and they do find spaces and places to go.