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In the studio with… Keith Coventry

27 April 2023

Keith Coventry’s paintings and sculptures are inspired by everyday subjects – urban landscapes, pop culture and contemporary politics. ‘I think in a lot of my work there could be an element of humour somewhere – but it’s not particularly funny. You know, that sort of unfunny humour,’ he told Apollo in 2019. His latest exhibition at Pace Gallery in London (28 April–25 May), titled ‘City Racing’ after the South London gallery Coventry co-led from 1988–98, includes examples of the artist’s abstract Junk paintings, which have been a mainstay of his practice since 2002, as well as a new series of wall-based bronze reliefs and sculptures.

Where is your studio?

My studio is on Vyner Street [in east London] where, a number of years ago, there used to be a lot of galleries; now I think there’s just one.

I’ve been here about seven years. Me and a couple of other artists bought a gallery which was once called Modern Art. The artists I share with are from the same gallery as me, including Kevin Francis Gray, and the architects who constructed the studios for us work on the top floor.

Do you work on your own?

I work entirely alone, except for an old friend who comes to help me every couple of months for a couple of days – moving things, making frames.

Landscape Junk 2 (2023), Keith Coventry. Photo: Damian Griffiths; courtesy Pace Gallery; © Keith Coventry

Do you listen to anything while you work?

I listen to the same stuff practically every day. It brings a bit of energy into the studio if it’s too quiet. It’s like company music, it’s like an energy.

Do you have a specific studio routine?

With this upcoming show it has been a bit busier than usual. I’m getting on a bit now, so if I have a sleep in the afternoon then I don’t really feel like carrying on after that, but if I can avoid that, I work until about six o’clock.

First thing in the morning, I go out on to the balcony. The balcony is at the back of the studio with lots of plants on it – it takes about an hour to water them. Sometimes I’m happy to do it, other times it’s a bit of a chore. It’s good to step out; I work things with machines, so it can get very dusty. The only thing I look on to is the Bistrotheque restaurant, so I just watch people eating. I once made a booking just by calling through the window. From the edge of my balcony, it’s about 10 feet away.

Monument (2023), Keith Coventry. Photo: Damian Griffiths; courtesy Pace Gallery; © Keith Coventry

 What’s the most well-thumbed book in your studio? Is there one that you keep returning to?

Not really! I’ve just done a clear-out of the studio because of the show so it’s quite empty. I repainted the walls and the floors.

Keith Coventry’s studio in London. Photo: Gareth Gardner

What’s the weirdest object in your studio?

I have three 17th-century drop leaf tables and a Welsh 18th-century settle. The weird thing about the settle is that it has a curved edge – perhaps that’s a Welsh thing coming through there! It all looks quite incongruous in the white space. Everything else is studio-like, but those pieces of furniture are quite domestic.

‘Keith Coventry: City Racing’ is at Pace Gallery, London from 28 April to 25 May 2023.