The “O” in Studio
A documentary on the Spaces of Artists
Directed by Stephanie Bennett

The “O” in Studio is a documentary that takes the artist in the studio as its central theme. Studios are confined rooms, private sanctuaries, occupied by one artist for three, four, even five decades. Denis O’Connor, a respected New Zealand sculptor, writer and artist, guides us through this film with conversations, interviews and rare footage. He focuses on the “O” of very different artists, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and through this reveals himself and his own studio.

Denis travelled to Europe to talk to those involved in the archaeological survey of the most famous studio in the 20th Century – The Francis Bacon Studio in Dublin. These exclusive interviews with everyone from the curator to the archaeologist reveal fascinating detail and stories of the excavation and relocation at the Hugh Lane Gallery. The gifted studio by Bacon’s estate included over 7,000 items including unfinished paintings and personal effects a lot of which can be seen in relation to his work.

Denis also talked to the distinguished British art historian Martin Gayford, best selling author of Man with a Blue Scarf, a book written about the experience of sitting for a portrait for two years by the painter Lucien Freud. It provides a revealing account of witnessing a singular artist working at peak intensity within the privacy of his studio.

Denis and Martin discuss the influence great artists like Piet Mondrian, Alberto Giacometti, Brancusi, Philip Gaston and Rodin had on these two English artists and how their identities were mirrored in their studio environment.

Denis is currently working on a seven year project portraying the artist as a horse-marked figure, The Tangler, that re-enacts the differing selves an artist can dramatise: parent, manual worker, adventurer, intermediary. He created a studio within a horse float and exhibited this at the biannual Headland “Sculptor on the Gulf” exhibit in 2011 and amid stiff competition it won first prize. An interview with Irish social historian Noel Mullins provides background on the origins of the “tangler” character in rural traditions in Ireland as well as footage of a horse fair.

Sequences in Denis’s actual studio on Waiheke Island include an interview with his late daughter, Dr. Blaze O’Connor (d.2009) who grew up in his studio. Later she became a celebrated archaeologist and art historian who worked with the Francis Bacon studio relocation in London and Dublin. In a moment of great poignancy Blaze talks about her father’s studio being suitable for an archaeological dig with its unique 40 year history.

The documentary also features with Irish actor Conor Lovett , one of the world’s leading interpreters of the work of Samuel Beckett. Conor “voices” and performs Denis O’Connor’s “other self” in a cameo appearance and recital.

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