A Window Huge and Light Filled

How do we grieve the spaces we have lost?

Last year was a huge window. I arrived, holding eagerness and apprehension in equal measures in my loose-curled fists. A day of reckoning, and beginning. People clustered around the studio maps that denoted where we would spend the bulk of the year ahead: making and crafting and eating and chatting and, on occasion, sneaking dates in to drink cheap red wine and show off. Don’t tell my uni about that, please—the date wasn’t worth the trouble.

Or, in the case of some “students”, using as a mostly vacant storage space while they do Sweet Fuck All and Lord Knows What until the week before assessment, when it would all of a sudden seem as though a new influx of students had enrolled. The people in nearby studios would’ve already leapt at the chance to invade and occupy their unused spaces, like a large scale game of Risk, but with significantly less swearing and storm-offs than when my family plays.

The natural light, so coveted by others, was mine to control. Luckily, I am a benevolent dictator

The all-too frequently inappropriate mature-aged student—who happened to be the best around when you’re looking to bitch & bemoan teachers or group projects or seemingly arbitrary assignments—dropped by and announced in her trademark room-quieting treble, “Gee Phoebe, who’d you have to sleep with to get this space?!”. [The writer declines to comment.] Margaret* was significantly less useful when it came to sympathising about how expensive art supplies can be; she loved to ‘subtly’ mention how she’s paying for the course upfront, but that’s beside the point. Excuse me for giving into the temptations of tangents—blame the editor if you must. 

Last year was a huge window, like I said. The natural light, so coveted by others, was mine to control. Luckily, I am a benevolent dictator. I would keep the blinds as far up as they would go, the windows as wide open as they could be, so that sunlight would pour through to fill the space and illuminate specks of dust floating and dancing in the breezy air. I would draw the outline of the shadows on the walls, and sometimes remember to date them. The breeze would swim through and the air was unbelievably soft and delicate on my skin. 

Every time I walked in, my studio would be freshly alive with movement

I strung wool haphazard across the space, making hanging sculptures with found plastic and translucent paper that would hang almost weightless and swing with the wind. I sewed a quilt (of sorts), of discards and refuse and this and that, climbed chairs to tape it above the window episodically as it enlarged, and watched mesmerised at its elegant harlequin dance, coaxed by zephyrs and gusts. Entranced by the way it seemed to hold the city: the oh-so-Melbourne sounds of tram bells and protests at the state library; the buildings peeking from behind a torn-up and stitched-up Daiso bag; the oh-so-cliched indicisive Melbourne weather as dance partner. Every time I walked in, my studio would be freshly alive with movement and softly swaying shadows cast by suspended strings; my artwork breathed with life and was nurtured with time, ever-expanding and evolving.

Now that I’m looking back in a haze of nostalgia, studio days seem perpetually bathed in the honey-sweet heated halcyon weather of my birth that I’ve always loved so dearly. In the vaseline film of my eyes gazing backwards, the studio is a buzzing hive of activity filled with hammering (annoying! shush!), or quieter, only a few of us in there, gentle murmurs and me singing along to my music, sprawled sewing on the floor. Any anxieties I must’ve felt during that time are lost to the past, and irrelevant to my reverie. Looking back at my photographs of the art I was making, I’m agape with appreciation. There’s something to be said for fresh eyes, or maybe just wistful missing. 

Groundsheets are on the floor, splattered in my efforts to make the place seem enough

A jarring cut to the now: a bed lain sideways, ramshackle pathetic like roadkill. Its slats that would fall if leant against, but not even fully, hitting the wall unsatisfactorily. My brother’s ‘renovations’ in his old bedroom, a response to a sudden fit of frustrated tears from me after dragging art supplies from room to room and nothing working. Groundsheets are on the floor, splattered in my efforts to make the place seem enough. It’s ok. It does the best it can do, under the circumstances.

I can’t quite make the sort of art I was making last year, though that can be spun into a positive, a push towards artistic adaptation. I’m not entirely sure what my fees are paying for, given my double credit class is supposed to be largely studio based. I can find gratitude, of course: there are worse things to complain about, there are bigger things going on in the world, I know, I know. I tell myself these things and soothe myself and continue to make. The window is small, and dusty. It allows in an occasional smattering of afternoon sun.

*Names have been changed, for fear of occurring “Margaret’s” wrath. 

Phoebe Thompson is currently studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts. They are still making art next to the ramshackle roadkill bedframe, some of which can be found at @pho_tho_.

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