The Space As It Is, Shir Cohen. London

It’s been a while since I wrote something that hasn’t been through several edits and many other pairs of eyes, so for my first post here, I thought I could start with an introduction:

My name is Shir Cohen, and I’m an artist from Jerusalem. I’ve lived in London for three years now. I’m a painter, but I also write and work in textile, animation, and really whatever I can get my hands on. My research deals with political anxiety through history and mythology. This is my studio.

This is one of the work walls, usually for cardboard and paper works. I made this self-portrait a couple of weeks ago, and thought about portraits of Middle-Eastern scholars, especially the Jewish ones that I know. I recently cut my hair quite short and liked how it could look like a cap.

My flatmate is a lot better at talking to people than I am, and got me a second-hand trolley for the studio. I glued some white Formica on top of it, and you can tell how well I’m doing keeping it clean. Note more cardboard and paper on the shelves, five tubes of paint (I’m slowly rebuilding my oil collection) and a massive bottle of ink. My new loom is leaning on it, but I haven’t warped it yet, because I’m still working on a smaller piece. We don’t have heating but I do like the glow of this probably-dangerous space heater.

This is the corner of the canvas wall, currently occupied by a big piece of fabric, and the display wall, currently occupied by a various puppets I’ve made and a piece of weaving. I’ve been bad at setting up compositions of my work lately, but that’s what it’s there for. So far I’ve made, from left to right, a mouse, a pig, a spider, an octopus, and a snake. They’ve all been used as allegories for “unwanted elements” in society. The woven piece is called Der Atlas, after the Schubert song, in which carrying the sorrow of a lost love is compared to the burden of the mythological figure. It’s a little exaggerated.

The desk is where filth happens. Under it you’ll find a lot of fabric, thread, and yarn, but also the trash. On the right is my current weaving project, on the left are embroidered flags on hold until I finish weaving. The peach bag holds a beading project I haven’t finished yet, and is on even bigger hold. It’s nice to have several projects going on, especially if they have different time-scales, but sometimes I find myself accumulating more slow projects than I might need in my life. I hope to finish the weaving soon, warp my new loom, and return to a working schedule that’s more normal for me.

This is what it all looks like right now, with the large canvas dyed, primed, and drawn. It’s impossible to tell in this photo, but I drew a winged snake on it, just a little before people with Don’t Tread on Me flags stormed the capitol building in the US. I probably won’t change the drawing, but I’ll be going into this work a little more differently than I had planned.

There’s a lot of anxiety recently, so my work is currently scored by repeated listenings to Schubert’s Schwanengesang. Here’s a version that I really like. I’ll probably keep listening to it across the week, when I’ll be taking time to post more about the current individual works in the studio.

2 thoughts on “The Space As It Is, Shir Cohen. London

  1. Shir, thank you so much for this tour around your studio. I enjoyed it a lot! It looks like you have a lot going on at the same time, which is great. I wonder how and whether you switch between different works during the day/week/month? I like the appearance of this big piece of textile on the wall. By the way, how do you fix it to the surface of the wall? Looks almost glued onto it.
    The music tip is excellent. For those who don’t have Spotify, here’s a YouTube link that I found:

    1. Hi Anastasia! I just saw this comment in my email spam folder >_>
      Thanks so much, the technical question first, I staple fabric directly onto the wall and then prime it, so it’s at least partly glued to it. Will have to do a lot of refurbishing after my contract ends.
      We talked a little about this, but yeah, I tend to have a few things always going on. It lets me go over to something else if I ever need break. I tend to think about it as long and short-term projects, so I always have two or three continuous things going on, and then quick drawings and sketches.

What do you think about this?