Apollo Magazine

In the studio with… Sarah Staton

With prehistoric carvings and stills from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ on the walls, the artist’s studio is a mix of the past and yesterday’s vision of the future

Photo: Sarah Staton Studio

Sarah Staton is interested in how sculpture is made, how it is viewed, and the role it plays in society. One of her best-known projects is SupaStore, a pop-up shop featuring artworks by a mix of established and emerging artists, which first opened in 1993 on the Charing Cross Road; the shop returned to London this year as part of a two-month-long exhibition at the South London Gallery. On 18 September the artist will unveil her latest work, Alphonso: a public sculpture in the form of an architectural folly, located by a lake in Newton Leys, on the outskirts of Milton Keynes.

Where is your studio? 
It’s in London, in the area that my daughter calls central.

What do you like most about the space?
I love that it is extremely central, has a strong white tiled floor and white walls, and has brilliant access, being right on the street. It also has a rather gentle light. 

What frustrates you about it?
What sometimes frustrates me is that I don’t live in it, as I love to wake up and work with fresh energy.

Do you work alone?
Much of the time I work alone in this studio. At home, where my office is, I work remotely with people – right now with a book designer based in France, and with galleries in Korea, India and Venice, and I am regularly touching base with a project that I am running in Lithuania. So that’s a number of fascinating windows into other worlds without hitting the airport.

How messy is your studio?
Mess is inevitable and then a clean-up brings a sense of renewal. It’s an ebb and flow.

Alphonso (2021), Sarah Staton

What does it smell like?
Right now, a heady mix of oil and clay.

What’s the weirdest object in there?
I have a weirdly wonderful apron by the artists Julie Verhoeven and Anthea Hamilton that I often wear when I’m working – it’s adorned with sausages and a beautiful bum and lifts the mood.

Which artistic tool could you least do without?
Does the mind’s eye count as a tool?

Do you pin up images of other artists’ works?
Yes, right now I have some screenshots from 2001: A Space Odyssey pinned up. Kubrick certainly knows how to frame an image. I also have some images by unknown artists of wave patterns carved into stone in Beijing centuries ago. I am very fascinated presently by prehistoric representations of skies and sea, wave and wind; I’m discovering the graphic shorthands that different cultures used to describe their worlds.

Do you cook in the studio?
The studio feels too small to eat in and I like to keep some separation between edible material and the materials of art, although I do find that coffee makes a good tint in paint. So lunch generally happens out of the studio, either before or as I make the transition from work at home in the morning to an afternoon in the studio. The best lunch of course is a long lunch with friends after a morning of working – an occasional occurrence, and a regular desire.

What do you listen to while you’re working?
In recent years I fell off the 24/7 Radio 4 treadmill, and now I listen to podcasts and I listen to music. Some of the DJs on Rinse FM are so funny, Radio Garden takes you all around the world, and NTS Radio always delivers good tunes.

What do you usually wear?
Clogs, as I love the sound they make on the tiles.

Do you ever sleep in your studio?
Before moving in I bought a fake modernist sofa off Gumtree from an Austrian photographer in Newington Green, specifically for occasional emergency napping. The original is called Le Grand Comfort but my version is anything but!

Is anything (or anyone) banned?
The studio aims to become an almost plastic-free space, but aside from lunch I don’t think so.