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Project Me

By: Stuart Mayes

Project Me, est. 2007: charting the progress of my practice.

Having moved to Stockholm two years ago I am (re-)establishing my practice here in Sweden.  Currently I am on the Projekt Programme at Mejan - Kungliga Konsthögskolan (The Royal Art School) and am also studying artistic research at Konstfack College of Art & Design.

Comments and feedback welcome and appreciated - thank you

click to expand/collapse 

# 1 [22 January 2007]

After three years of being very involved in establishing and running CPArtists I stepped down as Chair at last week's AGM. I've really enjoyed my time as Chair/Co-ordinator and now I want to focus on developing my own projects with some of the artists I've met through the group. I also want to spend more time developing my own practice. Chronologically I should be mid-career but I'm nowhere near it! I've kept so many seperate projects running for so long that I felt a bit of consolidation was required, and this is how Project Me came about. A bit of re-branding ...

# 2 [12 February 2007]

I've been invited to talk about my work in late March and I'm surprised at how anxious I am about it already. It's at a friendly gallery and the audience will be mainly artists - and a few friends I'm asking too. After years of describing my practice to school children it's exciting and a bit daunting to think about showing the work to fellow artists. The invitation came from an artist I studied with over 10 years ago who now works at the gallery- we bumped into each other a Frieze last year and now I'm going to be in an off-site project she's curating later this summer. First though I've got this talk to do. . .

# 3 [11 March 2007]

I took time off work last week and spent it in the studio - I'm not sure if I've ever had three consecutive days there before, which is quite an admission.  Although I think of myself an artist I realise that I spend the majority of my week away from my practice - being at work (either of my part-time jobs) thinking about it isn't the same as being there doing it. I don't often see any of the other artists (there are eight of us working on the top floor of the old furniture depository), it made such a good change to be there with some of them on Friday.

It was really great to get such positive feedback about what I'm doing and the opportunities I've got coming up - thank you Jodi and Derek you've made me realise the importance of all the incidential stuff that happens when you're around other artists.

# 4 [28 March 2007]

After a couple weeks back at my two part-time jobs I realized that the time has come to give one up. It feels great to know that soon I'll have at least two days a week in the studio. The difficultly with only having one studio day a week is that if I can't make that day it means I'm not there for almost two weeks.   It puts me off going into town to get materials or see a gallery - a kind of catch 22 situation! 

I had to re-schedule my talk. In a way it was good for me to have to ask to re-arrange things, I'm not always good at asking for what I need.  Sarah, at the gallery, was great and easily sorted things out without making me feel awkward.

Last night I sent out an email to some of the other Crystal Palace Artists' to see if they were interested in being in a specifically contemporary group show.   The show will be a kind of 'show within a show' taking place as part of the Signals 5 (Crystal Palace Artists' Annual Open show). This evening I've already had very positive responses. It's the kind of thing I couldn't do when I chaired the group and it's great to have the opportunity do it now.

Stuart Mayes, ‘work in progress’

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Stuart Mayes, ‘work in progress’

# 5 [11 May 2007]

Everything has changed!

It's four weeks since I worked my last shift in the cafe and already it's had a huge impact on my work ... not only that but i feel like an artist again - rather than someone who, on a good week, manages to get to studio for a few hours. The strange thing is I've probably not been to the studio much more than before - but now I have time for all the other essential stuff, seeing shows, meeting artists, developing projects as well as being more relaxed about making work ....

What I've really enjoyed is having time with other artists and time for reflection. The studio feels more playful - last week I caught myself sitting back and smiling at something I'd made with bright ribbons, materials I'd have been far too stressed to allow myself a couple of months ago!

I don't always know what I'm doing now and that's ok, actually it's good!

Stuart Mayes, ‘Grandfathers Flower Garden’Two second-hand shirts, thread

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Stuart Mayes, ‘Grandfathers Flower Garden’
Two second-hand shirts, thread

# 6 [22 May 2007]

I owe David Barrett a great deal.  Since we met on Stuart Brisley's Fine Art Media MA at the Slade in 1995 David has continued to take a proactive interest in me and my practice -even when I was doubtful!

Now, as the result of his nomination, I'm going to Venice with Pilot 3 (www.pilotlondon.org)

It will be my first time at the Biennale, and despite having gone through old copies of Frieze and Art Monthly I don't think anything will prepare me for the sheer scale of the opening weekend.

David maintains his practice alongside lecturing and criticism.  He's also one half of Royal Jelly Factory - Lucy Head is the other.  Together they publish artist's monographs and websites.  Their enthusiasm and commitment is truely inspiring and I am very fortunate to know them.

Project Me is somehow enabling me to recognise, value and actually enjoy relationships that previously I just 'didn't get'.  Re-engaging with my practice, spending time in the studio and with artists is making me better!  And being better - a better artist, a better friend, a better me - can only be a good thing.  The more I have the more I have to offer ....

# 7 [30 May 2007]

I've been trying to find a venue for a sculpture show in Crystal Palace. It's proving to be very frustrating....
The show is scheduled to be part of Signals 5 - CP Artists annual arts event - and I really need to have a venue confirmed in the next couple of weeks in time for the publicity.

I've been trying to identify the problem(s), so far I've come up with:

  • The area is under going singificant regeneration and anyone with a vacant commercial property is happy to wait for a serious offer - the arrival of Cafe Nero hasn't helped.
  • The area is predominantly residential so there are very few warehouse type spaces.
  • Any space large enough to hold a yoga class,  band rehearsal or drama group is hired out by the hour.
  • There is no established art gallery or institution to collaborate with.

I knew this wasn't going to be easy but I'm surprised at how many absolutely dead ends I'm coming up against.

If I can't get some kind of positive response by mid June I'll have to admit defeat for this year and start planning something grander (and more fundable) for 2008!

# 8 [4 June 2007]

Linda Duffy phoned last week, she and Emma Healy are curatiing Hunters and Collectors  at the new gallery in the Willesden Green Library Centre, along with the show we're planning at least one event involving artists and members of the public.

I really enjoy being able to offer this kind of thing, especially when exhibiting in a multi-use space.  Discussing my work with new audiences has always been invaluable in helping me understand how it functions outside of the studio - and outside of my own ideas.  I've had some very strong, and very diverse, reactions to pieces in previous shows.  It's always interesting for me to have to think about how much of my motivation, inspiration and process to discuss - can revealing too much somehow reduce the work or does it make it both more accessible and more interesting.  I hope it's the latter!

We're all visiting the gallery next week, it'll be good to meet the other artists and see the space.  I'm very intrigued - although the space is attached to the library it's run by an artists group (Brent Artists Resource), it sounds like a good partnership - the kind of thing we need in Crystal Palace.

# 9 [18 June 2007]

post Venice

'I'm beginning to wonder if I'm (slowly) becoming the (fine) artists I am meant to be'

'real objects make me happy'

'don't think work, feel it'

Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps it was the strange beauty of Venice, perhaps it was the sheer quantity of artwork but something happened to me and I allowed myself to be guided by what felt right.  That's the only way I can describe it.

As a  result I found myself completely absorbed by pavillions and exhbits that I might previoulsy have hurried through in search of 'projects'.  Pages of dense postmodern analysis given on arrival at shows were politely handed back and if I couldn't see what I was looking at then it wasn't the show for me.  It was a kind of act of faith.  And I guess I had a kind of epiphany.

In the Gardini I was completely entranced with paintings that were - to me at least - about paint, in particular Herbert Brandl (Austria), Troels Worsel (Denmark) and Gehard Richter (Germany).  I'd been looking forward to seeing Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the Amercian Pavilion, and though I think his work is brilliant, it felt like the wrong time and place for this show.

Kris Martin's My Private show (in a casino over St Marco and for three days only) and Jan Fabre both demonstrated the power of articulate, elegant and technically skillful sculpture to function aesthetically, culturally and politically.

Being in Venice for the opening weekend of the Biennale was an amazing experience - I learnt a hell of a lot about myself and who I am as an artist.

I like objects.  I like materials.  I make sculpture.

Back to the studio .....

# 10 [21 June 2007]

there's so much going on that's not directly connected to my artwork but that impacts on it.

Just over three years ago my partner was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. For last 18 months I've spent at least five nights a week sleeping on the sofa-bed at his flat. He's coped amazingly well with it, it's an awful illness that has left him completely paralysed and now unable to speak.

It feels strange to 'reveal' this - especially here.

I have an (almost) ambivalance about it - it's both essential and irrelevant at the same time. What does it mean for me, as an artist, to have a partner with demanding terminal illness? I don't want special treatment (or sympathy) and at the same time I want people to know why I'm not at as many openings as I should be, or sometimes don't get to the studio for a couple of weeks.

And then again - being with him undeniably affects me and therefore affects what I make.

I leave the studio and get the bus to John's. The TV is showing an early evening game show or soap. He's in his reclining chair, the windows are closed and the volume is up. I turn the sound down and tell him about my day - noticing that his eye's keep flicking over to the silent picture. I turn the sound up and go to the kitchen to make some dinner. John needs a soft diet now, sometimes I long for something with some bite but can't be bothered to make two separate meals. Because I have to spoon-feed him we usually share one plate and cutlery, it's easier than all the changing around. After dinner it's more TV. The night care staff tidy away the plates and do the washing up. The flat is set up for John and there really isn't any space for my stuff so I sit with John in front of the TV. At about 11.00 I help the carer get John into his wheelchair, he takes his medicine and they go off to the bathroom. While John has his teeth cleaned and face washed I make up the sofa bed. I assist the carer undressing John and lifting him into bed. After I've been to the bathroom I go back to the bedroom put John's alarm on his wrist and kiss him goodnight. In the morning I have a shower and make breakfast while two carers get John out of bed, make him tea and take him to the bathroom. I spend some time with John in the bathroom, him sitting on his shower-chair, me holding the cup of tea to his lips (he dribbles more than he did a week ago). When he's ready for his shower I leave him with his carers and go to the studio ....

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Stuart Mayes

I work mainly with installation and sculpture.  Photographs of my work and a full cv are available on my website, www.stuartmayes.com

Born in Hullbridge, Essex, United Kingdom

Live and work in Stockholm,Sweden

www.stuartmayes.com