If you want to track down Paul and Kate Kessling at work in the Oxfordshire home that they share with their three daughters, two dogs, eight hamsters, ten silkies, three ducks and a cat and five hives of bees - your best bet is to use your ears.
If it's Kate you want, head for the loud music. If you pause for a few moments, you'll realise that it's the same track on repeat, again and again. This year, the chances are it will be The Dandy Warhols' Bohemian Like You. It's already clocked up 900 plays on her iPod since January.
Paul, who studied for his MA under Eduardo Paolozzi at the Royal Academy of Art in the 1980s, will most likely be keeping company with John le Carre's audio book back catalogue, probably in front of his new Italian studio easel, working in oils.
On the other hand, you might not be able find Paul at all. He might have hopped into his Land Rover and headed off to the Ridgeway. The Ridgeway is, observes Kate wryly, his equivalent of the garden shed. It's where he goes when everything else gets too much. But it has also been the source of great inspiration for Paul's work and where he has committed to paper so many of his distinctive landscapes.
They have tried using headphones, to keep each other's preferred accompaniment at bay, but they found it difficult to talk, and whilst working in the same space has its practical difficulties, it also has huge compensations. Talking is undoubtedly one of them. They think nothing of debating an exact shade of black for hours, and they are blessed in that their styles and influences differ so greatly (Rembrandt, Corot and Titian for Paul, Gerhardt Richter for Kate) that they find it easy to talk about each other's work without fear that their ideas may overlap.
A glance through their back catalogues bears this out. Where Paul's style has been developing for almost twenty years, Kate radically reinvents her approach to her art every two to three years. Paul is, by nature, intellectual and meticulous. If he hadn't been an artist he might well have followed his grandfather's wishes and become a surgeon. Kate's approach is more serendipitous. Her close-up photography of buttons resulted from spending so long on a single piece (which
involved stitching over 3000 buttons to a backboard), she was left with only ten days to complete the rest of the work required for a recent exhibition. She considers the results some of her most successful work ever.
There are other differences too. Paul can produce large splashy abstracts using colossal brushes and a vast amount of colours but leave no mess. When Kate uses paint, it goes everywhere, including the floor, the children and the pets.
But for the most part, living and working together creates a space in which they can both succeed as artists. Kessling Vs. Kessling 2009 it seems, is just the beginning.
The Modern Artists Gallery
High St. Whitchurch on Thames
Pangbourne Reading Berkshire RG8 7EX
28th November 2009 - 28th January 2010