Artists under Lockdown: David Gates
A furniture maker in London.
The Design Edit (TDE): How are you keeping busy in self-isolation?
David Gates (DG): My partner, Helen Carnac, and I are lucky enough to have enough room at home both to work. Helen got the upstairs room, while I drew the short straw and got the basement. It’s not a workshop but it has a desk, printer, books, somewhere to draw and to make small card models … that sort of thing. I have spent a bit of time making sketch models, just little abstract spatial things – playing with corners and sightlines. I’ve also been trying to find better ways of communicating the link between some of my photographs and the work that I make. Printing out images, collaging them and making arrangements that hopefully establish some sort of dialogue. It’s early days with this process, but it’s interesting, and being at home like this has sort of forced my hand to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.
I’ve always been interested in musical instruments and music, so many years ago – 25 years ago maybe – I went to an adult education class at Merton College and made a classical guitar. Being house-bound I have finally picked it up and am trying to learn how to play it. Ridiculously early days! I have made very little progress but it is just good hearing it make a sound and I’ve been enjoying it. I have found myself wanting to get back to the workshop to make another guitar.
TDE: Everyone’s pace of life has slowed down considerably; what is the impact of this new rhythm on your work life and home life?
DG: The overall rhythm, the more macro markers of the day have not changed too much as we have a dog: his early morning and afternoon walks still peg out the day. We take turns doing these, alternating morning and afternoon. We also tend to cook at home during more normal times anyway, so the evening is pretty much scheduled around cooking and eating. But yes, everything is slower, more measured. So far this has been fine. I have never really subscribed to the ‘hectic busy modern lifestyle’ master-narrative. So, rather than the slower pace, the main impact of self-isolation has been finding myself not being able to concentrate because what is going on is so distracting and all-consuming. The inability to find some sort of focus without a concrete task to hand is the most frustrating thing.
TDE: Do you have a favourite self-isolation recipe to share with us?
DG: A current favourite is cauliflower curry. It uses Jack Monroe’s recipe from the Guardian a couple of years ago as the basic scheme. It’s very simple: cauliflower, onion, yogurt and the rest is from the spice cupboard. Adjust spices to your taste and use whatever nuts you’ve got. Daal is always good, you can make it so many ways depending on what you have – just the basic spiced lentils, or add coconut milk or tinned tomatoes, cook up and add any odd bits of veg. But if you really don’t want to cook, nothing beats peanut butter on toast.
TDE: What is saving your sanity under lockdown?
DG: I really enjoy music. Pieces by Morton Feldman such as ‘Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello’ really fit the pace of the day as do Laurence Crane’s ‘Chamber Works’ and a collection of Linda-Catlin Smith’s small scale pieces. When I need something livelier it will most likely be John Coltrane, The Necks, Tortoise, Hauschka, Matthew Halsall, Stereolab, Terry Riley – all sorts. There is usually music playing in the house and I’ve been digging around in some less played CDs and LPs. My inability to concentrate has interfered with my reading – fiction and non-fiction. I’ve been scrabbling around trying to find something to get stuck into – usually this isn’t a problem – so I’ve ended up with half a dozen on the go at the moment that I’m flitting between and sticking with none for any length of time. There are a few DVDs on the shelf that I’m saving up for a re-watch, Patience (After Sebald), a film based on Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald, one of my favourite books, and the Robinson films by Patrick Keiller bear repeated viewing. I’ve also enjoyed a few episodes of The Sweeney, great stuff, and catching up on The Windsors. The BFI website also has lots of good stuff. I’ve been doing a bit of tidying up, going through stuff I haven’t touched for ages. Also a few odd DIY tasks, fixing things and smartening things up.
TDE: Which online exhibition/gallery viewing room, or other internet offerings have caught your eye?
DG: I don’t spend a great deal of time online, I’m probably missing quite a lot of stuff. I did watch the new film about Phyllida Barlow via the RA’s website though.