Stanislava Pinchuk (MISO)
‘Winter is a good time to be in lockdown. Summer I find really hard because I wonder what my friends are doing and everyone is having so much fun, but in Winter I think, you guys can keep it!’
Often spending more than twelve hours in her Nicholas Building studio, Stanislava laughed when I asked if she has a routine: ‘I hammer.’
Beginning as a street artist under the name of M-I-S-O, her practice now extends to pin-hole works on paper, illustration, graphic design, installation and home-tattoos – art works permanently exhibited on the bodies of her friends that are traded for personal offerings.
To create her intricate works on paper, she hammers a needle into paper, one hole at a time, resulting in delicate, dream-like work. Such a time intensive practice means that she plans an exhibition up to two years in advance.
But behind the meticulous planning and forethought in Stanislava’s work is a curious wanderer, eager to burst out of the studio and travel. Having spent no more than two months in the one place over the last few years, the art history and philosophy graduate divides her time between cities spanning Australia, Japan and Europe.
‘I think I struggle with having a routine more than I struggle without having one,’ she said.
Yet no matter where she is in the world, Stanislava is always eager to return to her work. ‘I almost don’t want to call it working because it is what I want to be doing. There is much joy – it is the thing that makes me the happiest and gives me such satisfaction.’
From early morning yoga, to doing her laundry late at night, today Stanislava offers a glimpse of what studio lockdown entails.
Following the movements of her day, we are invited inside her studio practice and inside her mind, learning how she plans for an exhibition, her discipline as an artist and the importance of embracing your own approach to art and life.
Lately, I’ve been waking up about six every morning – partly because I live next to a demolition site, so I don’t really have a choice! But it’s good, it really keeps me well behaved when I’m out.
Every morning, I’ll put my headphones in and run across the Carlton Gardens to yoga in Fitzroy for a 6.30 or 7.30 class. It’s a really big part of my routine because my studio practice is so physically demanding – I’m on my feet and hammering all day, it’s really tough on my back and arms. So I need to be really strong to be able to make it, to completely stretch my body in every other direction, to really sweat it out.
Coffee always comes after, usually a take-away from Duke’s or the Doomsday boys, and whatever breakfast I might pick up on the way to the studio – muesli, fruit, a baguette or a croissant.
I roll into the studio around eight or nine. At the moment, I’m in complete lockdown preparing for an exhibition, which is really wonderful – my routine shifts and all my friends just end up dropping past the studio, seeing the show come together and talking it through, keeping me company while I work. It’s really great.
I’m a really disciplined worker, so I don’t really let myself procrastinate too much. My head is always in my work, and I know what I expect to get done each day and just start. In a funny way, I think it’s actually made easier by how physically demanding and time consuming my work is – even though I think it’s healthy to throw an artwork out if its not working, it’s a bit of a disaster for me when that happens!
So my process as an artist is to have the show 90% sorted in my head before I even start working on a single thing, so the actual execution doesn’t really give me room to procrastinate.
For a long time, I was around a lot of painters, and felt a pressure to be a lot more intuitive as an artist – that I had to be able to make work quickly, to improvise easily. As soon as I embraced the idea that my brain works best when I have a lot of thinking and drafting time, to have linear technical processes, I started making work that really felt like mine, works that I really loved. I think it’s really important to acknowledge the conditions under which you need to make your work… but then also to challenge them in really considered ways.
I’ll always book meetings early in the morning, to get things out of the way, feel really good and then have a really solid day of work. I usually turn my phone off and I won’t really look at my computer until the end of the day.
I have a diary that I carry with me everywhere and when I’m in the planning phase for a show, I’ll collect all my notes, lists, scraps and things to look up. I then draft them on my studio wall when I’m getting closer to starting the work – that way, I can think about it a little more often and get closer to resolving what I’m feeling. At this point, I have one exhibition a year, and plan the next two years in advance.
It sounds daunting, but it’s a great pace to have enough time to make a show, to give it my full energy – to be able to cull works, and often to re-make the first works again to fit better with the final works. I’m really wary of stretching myself too thin, or making work I’m not ready to make or entirely happy with because of deadlines – even though it would be really fun to be able to show a little more often! But this cycle allows me time to take on really different smaller projects, and also to be able to get through my commission wait-lists once a year over summer, which is such a great way to work.
To be honest, lunch is never very regular. I feel like I often get into such a good pace at the studio, that suddenly the sun is setting from the window and it’s 6pm! Otherwise, it’s usually sushi or salad from somewhere nearby, another coffee, and a lot of crap from the downstairs 7-11 in the late hours.
Generally, I’m just hammering and moving around the work. A part of being in a really focused state is having something really interesting to listen to. At the moment, it’s mainly BBC4 and BBC World Service, French and Russian language radio. A lot of Oxford University philosophy lectures, Tate Modern programs, Berlin Community Radio, the London Review of Books and audio issues of The New Yorker, things like that. Music is a huge part of the studio – especially recently, as I’ve been making sound works. At the moment there is a lot of Alice Coltrane, Ennio Moriccone, Sebastien Tellier, Eden Ahbez, Ata Kak, William Onyeabor. There is also a lot of really questionable hip-hop, particularly late at night. I’m lucky that no one else on this floor seems to stay late, so I can really blast it and have a 4am dance!
Because my practice is so meditative, it’s also really beautiful to just tune out and realise you haven’t been paying attention to anything that’s been playing for hours. It’s really peaceful, and a lot of ideas and resolutions seem to come out of nowhere. Every now and again there are some days where work is really overwhelming, and my three o’clock caffeine mind is wandering, and it’s so good to go and sit in the sunshine, or go the nearby Japanese sentō bathhouse for an hour, and feel re-set to work till later.
My best friend lives in the building next to my studio, and he’s a tattooist, so we have pretty similar hours. He’ll often drop in with dinner and we have a quick run-down, and both get back to work. He might come past again closer to midnight, and we play a game of chess before we head home. Somehow, we usually end up living within 100 metres of each other, so it’s always easy to see each other three times a day!
For me, tattooing comes and goes, and it’s always the first thing that drops off when I get busy with a show. It’s pretty dependent on free nights – since it’s really just a catch up with a friend, so I’ll always want to get a full studio day out of the way, to give it all my energy and not be in a rush to wrap up tattooing to get back to work. We’ll usually eat dinner, play around with ideas, draw them up, fit it to their body, have a whiskey or two, change it around, play each other music – so the actual tattooing process is a bit of an afterthought at the very end, really!
Usually, I’ll end up going out to an exhibition opening or a dinner, maybe to catch some music or a party. Right now with the lockdown, I have been clocking off around ten and will usually meet a friend or a vague date for a drink, and walking home. It’s a really nice way to wind down from my studio brain, to ease out of the day. But I really do love working late. My studio is so peaceful, and such a refuge.
Closer to 11, I might do my laundry or get some groceries…things like that. It’s funny, I have just moved into a new apartment and I’m such a ghost to my housemates!
Funnily enough, I find myself having a lot more time off in other cities, especially being in Tokyo. And it can be a really important thing, to have small routines or regular places when you’re on the road – little ways to check in and feel at home, even if they’re really arbitrary. I feel really, really lucky being free to travel and take a small backpack and fly out any day of the week that I want, to be constantly moving. It’s a really amazing way to live. Having said all that, there isn’t a huge comfort zone around that, and I think it takes a lot of resilience to keep your head together and to keep making work that you’re happy with. It’s sometimes a really hard thing to recommend, not everyone thrives in that kind of cycle.
Bed is around midnight, maybe with some reading. Despite the late nights I don’t ever feel tired – I have a physical practice which gives me a pretty crazy amount of energy. I feel pretty good, but maybe I’ll speak to you in two months time and I’ll just be a wreck!
Having said all that, I feel a little bit ready for what I’m calling my ‘Big Dumb Beach Vacation™’ – all I’m going to do is pack a huge suitcase… but put in only one bikini and then cram it with every single book that I want to read, and go to some Big Dumb Island and drink Big Dumb Coconut Drinks and leave my phone in another country, swim between chapters and have no cultural experiences whatsoever. It’s going to be amazing.
‘Know what your brain needs to be creative and facilitate that within yourself, rather than trying to mould to some expectation of what a creative person should be or how they should work.’ – Stanislava Pinchuk