House of Artists, Gugging


View of Artist’s Studio, House of Artists, Gugging. 2013. Photography by James Hutchinson.

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Johann Hauser (1926-1996) Untitled. Musgrave Kinley collection, Whitworth Art Gallery

In preparation for the opening of the new Clore Learning Studio Space at the Whitworth Art Gallery the learning team have been taking inspiration from the ways in which artists in the Whitworth Collection have interpreted studio spaces. This week we have been looking at an example from the collection that demonstrates the powerful impact that creative practice has on well-being.

Outsider Art is a title given to work by artists who don’t have formal art training and who represent marginalised groups in society. The genre has particular relevance to the Whitworth after we were gifted the Musgrave Kinley collection in 2010, comprising over 1000 works by outsider artists. One example from the collection is by Johann Hauser (1926-1996). Hauser moved to the pychiatric hospital of Klostemeuberg, Austria in the late 1940s. The psychiatrist. Dr Leo Navratil, began working at the institution in 1954 and supported the patients to make art. In 1981 Hauser, along with 17 other patients, was moved to a separate accommodation in the clinic in 1981. This separate accommodation still exists today as the House of Artists at Gugging, where there is now a museum and gallery showing exhibitions and works from their collection.

The intention of the facility at Gugging is to provide a means of creative and professional output for residents, who are viewed as being artists who have psychiatric needs, rather than patients. The institution does not give the artists instructions or guidelines for their work, they are simply provided with materials and a studio space, allowing their creativity to run free. As a result the House of Artists is bursting with artistic activity, from large scale projects to spontaneous doodles on paper, furniture and even the walls of the buildings. For the institution, the psychiatric conditions of the artists are part of their artistic character, informing their creative practice and output. The process of working in the studio alongside others and being recognised as a professional artist is an important part of caring for the well being of the residents, promoting their self expression and boosting their self esteem.


Lynn Setterington: Textile Artist

Lynn Setterington. This piece made of recycled materials is included in the Whitworth Art Gallery's TACTILE textile handling resource.

Lynn Setterington. This piece made of recycled materials is included in the Whitworth Art Gallery’s TACTILE textile handling resource.

Leading up to the Whitworth Art Gallery’s reopening, our Learning and Engagement team is preparing to move into a brand new Clore learning studio. We want to look at how our new studio space can be used creatively by our visitors.  We’ll be exploring the different ways artists in the Whitworth’s collections use their studios and other spaces for creativity, collaborative work, and much more.

Lynn uses her studio as a reflective space, where she can combine her artistic and academic practices. Her studio is a place where she can analyse her previous work, evaluating her practice and getting inspiration for future creations. Lynn says that this process is particularly useful now that she is studying for a PhD in Embroidery and socially engaged art, as it allows her to analyse her work academically in a private space.

As a community focused artist Lynn rarely has this opportunity to quietly reflect on her work, as usually she is engaged with social projects, the outcome of which is often seen in her textile pieces. One of Lynn’s pieces, shown above, features in the Whitworth’s TACTILE textile handling collection, a resource that allows students to handle contemporary textile art works in order to learn about creative processes and conservation issues. See the Whitworth’s TACTILE blog to find out more about Lynn and the other textile artists who have pieces in our handling collection.

Lynn’s studio is a space that is very separate from the work she does in the community, demonstrating how artists’ studios can become places of thoughtful contemplation and evaluation that encourage academic, as well as creative, activity.

A sample of the materials Lynn uses, as well as her work in process, displayed in Touchstones, Rochdale.

A sample of the materials Lynn uses, as well as her work in process, displayed in Touchstones, Rochdale.

Alan Birch, Print maker

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Photo of Alan Birch’s studio, courtesy of Alan Birch,



St Vuitton, Alan Birch, 2013. One of a series of Alan’s current prints.

In preparation for the opening of the new Clore learning studio at the Whitworth Art Gallery we are looking at ways in which artists from our collection, or who work with us at the Gallery, use their studio spaces.  Alan Birch is a print artist who regularly runs workshops with school groups at the Whitworth. His studio is on the top floor of a renovated church in Rawtenstall, Lancashire. He has rented the studio for approximately 10 years, and he has very much put his stamp on the place.

His studio is filled with printing equipment and materials, and can be adapted to suit the project he is working on. In this way Alan’s studio is very much a practical space, an area that can be modified depending on his artistic decisions. He also acts as a technician to others who use his studio for their own printing work, rearranging the space to fit their artistic needs. Alan believes that having a versatile studio is extremely important, particularly in creative education, as it allows participants to be more hands on in the creative process and gives them an opportunity to fully realise their artistic ideas.

The amount of time Alan spends in his studio varies. For him it is a place of production, an atmosphere in which he can reflect on his ideas and research in order to create his art works, which are often humorous and topical prints. He says that, when a project is going well, it is a real privilege to be able to spend time in his studio and see his ideas come to life. 

You can see more of Alan’s work at