Saturday 9.45am at London Waterloo train station. I am waiting for a group of collectors to take them to the English seaside to visit the studio of our artist Alexandra Lethbridge. The whole journey to the studio is a full on experience:
1) Train. At 10am, we jumped on a train from London to Portsmouth Harbour. As expected, one of our collectors ran to the train as the doors were closing. Trains do not wait. Having breakfast on the train is also a must, as the best way to exchange on politics, along with art and culture, is over blueberries, croissants and orange juice on a slow moving countryside train.
2) Ferry. While we arrive in Portsmouth, a ferry awaits. We literally climbed onto this quirky boat to cross from Portsmouth to Fareham. It’s windy, sunny and with the best view of the English coast. I even got to capture a few great portraits of our artist Alexandra Lethbridge on my old Olympus film camera.
3) Taxi. Now that we step on the Fareham rural land, three cabs are waiting to take us to the studio of Alexandra. We drive through the country lanes and arrive in front of an enormous building owned by the Ministry of Defense and full of scary barbed wires.
4) Ministry of Defense Building. The studio of Alexandra Lethbridge is not located in any normal building but in a building where they used to make submarines in the Cold War. It is owned by the Ministry of Defense and only one artist has her studio there: Our very own Alexandra. There still seems to be some undisclosed marine technologies being made there, where the rooms bear quirky names such as ‘Fish Tank’ and while we are escorted and passport checked, there is a sense of mystery and secrecy through all the doors being all closed.
5) Studio. The studio of Alexandra is small but filled with photographs, books and research material from the floor to the ceiling. As you enter, your eyes do not know where to start looking and so many questions rush to your head. What does this object mean? Why would Thomas Moore’s book on philosophy stand proudly on the shelf? What is this optical illusion? This studio is the heart of her works, where she makes, reflects and creates. I love reading the artist’s notes. I love looking through the old postcards and archival photographs and stones that she collects. We are all like kids in a magic shop, exploring playfully with her different vision of the world. She teaches us some optical illusions, tricks us to find which meteorite is real on a meteorite series and makes us rethink what we see. The more she speaks, the more we look around and the more we step outside of reality… at last:
6) London Bound. The journey back is punctuated by the ferry again, a few glasses of wine by the sea and passionate conversations on the train. It is 5pm when we encounter London again, the hushing realities of the city and the pressure we once escaped.
The reason I described this trip in detail is to highlight the importance of experiences while collecting art. Collecting art from this journey is collecting both the work of Alexandra and a special reminder of this trip. That’s why we all do it: To collect the permanence and meanings of the artwork with the temporary nature of the moments we cherish. These moments bearing imperfection, context and tenderness can forever stay with you when looking at the work on your walls. Every time I look at The Vow in my home, I hear the voice of Alexandra and I escape again…