My practice encompasses installation, object making and live art as well as research and teaching.  In June 2015 I moved my home and studio to Enköping (“Sweden’s nearest town”) where I am also working as assistant to Scandinavia’s only plume-maker!

Your comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated – thank you

www.stuartmayes.com

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This morning [Friday] was my last early morning cycling past Go-Go. The piece continues to be on show until Sunday the 19th however I am away next week so I will not be riding past three times a week on my way to the gym for their 6.00am class and home again afterwards at just gone 7.00. Going past it so regularly has given me both pleasure and anxiety (if that is not too strong of a term). Seeing those twinkling orbs and their blue light splatter cast about the square makes me smile and hope that other people have enjoyed the installation during it’s three month residency in Konstfönster Joar. Seeing it only half lit, or with a motionless mirror-ball feels me with concern and questions – how long has it been like that, has anyone else noticed, do I have time to fix it today, how many lamps will it get through before the end of the run?

The piece has worked really well not only in activated ‘Enköping’s new art venue’ but in enabling me to speak about my ambitions for future projects – both individual and collaborative. It has generated a considerable amount of press interest in me. It came as a surprise when the director of the town gallery told me that he had put ‘my’ article up on their notice board beside the interview with the artist whose show opened last Saturday. I did not know that anything had been written or published. The article is based on my presentation and the discussion that followed about my ideas for an artists’ house. I am very grateful to the journalist Gunilla Edström for such positive and enthusiastic writing, and not least for quoting an established and respected artist’s support for the idea. This will be good to have when I start putting together a serious proposal.

[see the full article here]

 

I am looking forward to seeing someone else’s work there and I am delighted that it will Ken and Julia (whose m2 Gallery inspired me and was Go-Go’s original showcase). As soon as I am back I will be assisting them with their install – and I do mean literally as soon as I get back, my return flight arrives at 8.50pm on Monday evening, Ken’s flight from London arrives half an hour earlier so we will meet each other at the airport and make our way to Enköping together – ready to start work bright and early on Tuesday morning.

There has been lots of discussion, sketches, revised sketches, further discussion, and even more drawings in an attempt to make sure that the install goes well in the limited time (and space) that we have and that their work looks fantastic. Ken, being an architect, is able to produce wonderfully detailed, and beautifully hand-drawn, sketches that have been a great help when I speak with Klas in my ever improving artist’s / curator’s Swedish.

Once again Klas has been great in taking on all of the ideas and challenges that Ken and Julia’s show presents – I think that it helps that he is a practising artist too. While I am away he and the brilliant carpenter at the museum will paint and cut apertures in the boards that will give the show’s films and photographs the distinctive m2 look. It is good that the window is going to look so completely different.

 

The other thing that has been occupying me recently is my now annual task of proofreading for the Supermarket art fair. The catalogue entries for each exhibitor are becoming easier which could be the result of one or two things: the exhibitors are becoming more international and used to expressing themselves in English, or my English is become more European – a friend who recently proofread something that I had written commented that sometimes my sentences sound a bit ‘second language’! The longer articles though provoke both interest and frustration. The interest is genuine as I get to read texts by artists and curators engaged with fascinating ideas and projects. But so too is the frustration as I have to try to justify and explain why there are some rules that simply have to be followed – this is not unique to English, all languages have a grammar and syntax that just is as it is and needs to be accepted. I openly admit that I am not a professional proof-reader, nor have I studied language however as a mature native speaker and former (theory) lecturer I think that I probably have a better grasp of basic English than an aspiring foreign artist/curator. My role as proof-reader is ensure that the text is in the best possible English and is as comprehensive as possible. It is no secret that I am in favour of complex ideas expressed simply, however I am careful not to turn the texts into something that I would have written – as far as possible I maintain the author’s style. Should I really have to justify inserting determiners (‘a’ or ‘the’) before virtually every noun in six pages of dense writing? Or that it sounds wrong to play ‘pick n mix’ with phrases such as ‘touching a nerve’ and ‘striking a chord’? Proofreading documents in shared Google Drive folders does not make matters better – particularly in Sweden where everyone is welcome to share their views. Late last night after several hours of writing lengthy explanations for too many simple amendments and alterations that had been ‘rejected’ by the author I came up with a three letter acronym that I will be using next year – NFD: Not For Discussion.

(I am only too aware that my own writing often contains typos, mistakes, and sometimes in my enthusiasm to get a sentence out I omit vital words – that is the point of having a proof-reader. Anyone who wants to do this for these posts will be welcomed with open arms!)

 


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I did it!

Yesterday evening’s presentation was my first ever in Swedish – and it was fine!

My style of preparation for speaking in front of people is to make copious notes to support my slides. I am conscious that I do not want a script to read so a few pages of notes that hop backwards and forwards between, over, and across, descriptions and ideas are usually written. It feels difficult and restrictive to try and get things in any kind of linear narrative; my thoughts just do not work like that and I am not interested in foisting that type of structure on to them. I guess that might be why I chose to express myself through installations, objects, and such – they are outside of what I think of as traditional written or even spoken language. My preparation for yesterday was true to form. I spent several enjoyable hours with various dictionaries and translation programmes trying to find the most appropriate Swedish terms. What I found were some fantastic and thought-provoking words that went further than the thing that I had first been fumbling after. This not only increases my vocabulary but also gives me a better understanding of how the language is constructed and used.

I was (more than a little) concerned that my ability to think and speak around my work – to go off on tangents, to make quite demanding connections, to be provisional rather than declarative – would simply be beyond my abilities in Swedish. A problem that I (and my teachers) had when I was learning Swedish was that I was more interested in what I wanted to say rather than what I could say! This often resulted in me being completely incomprehensible. But after a very cautious start I soon found myself simply talking, I was careful to ask if people understood what I was saying (something that we were drilled in at Swedish school, and a very good habit for anyone lecturing or leading workshops), and at the end of the hour I was delighted that a couple of people came up and thanked me for an interesting talk (‘interesting’ in a good way!).

So I have done it – my first artist’s talk in Swedish! I know that my Swedish is far from perfect (I only have to ask someone to proofread something I have written if I want to see just how much more I have to learn) but I was able to express myself and to say things about ideas and processes that are important to me and to my practice.  It feels good – definitely a milestone rather than a millstone!

Now to get back to proofreading English for the Supermarket art fair catalogue and magazine.  (If I got paid for all the things that I do unpaid then I would be quite wealthy!  I might have to ask for some expenses – it is amazing how much Earl Grey tea I get through when sitting at the computer for a whole day.)

 


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Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday dear blog,

Happy birthday to you!

 

10 years old today!

DOUBLE figures, a whole decade behind me – wow! And who knows what lies ahead, I certainly could not have predicted even a tiny percentage of everything that I have achieved during the period of ‘Project Me’. And nor for that matter could I have guessed most of the things that have occurred in the world around me. Is it possible that the pace of things happening (be they personal, professional, global) has really accelerated? Or is that just how the sense of time works?

 

This week – at the gym, which is my current space of contemplation – I realised that I have a considerable fear of failure. This fear is something that, at the beginning of a new decade, I want to tackle. It feels right to make such a positive declarative statement about it. Wanting to get better at lifting weights it dawned on me that I will only get better if I risk failure, and conquering each failure is simply a step towards the next. This is not rocket science, nor is it bad, nor a weakness.  It something that I have returned to again and again here, it is something that has been explained to me again and again on various professional development courses, and yet it remains something that needs to be re-visited not least because my point of departure is very adept at keeping up with me – how could it not be? – and failure (my own that is) is something that although I might understand I do not think that I have ever really been able to accept.

Having lived in Enköping for 18 months I feel as though I am sufficiently settled to be able to shake things up. Though to the external observer things might look similar there is a vast difference between being disenfranchised and vulnerable as the result of circumstances, and electing to de-stabilise things and take chances – to risk failure in the pursuit of success. If I only now am conscious of what I identify as my fear of failure then perhaps it is only now that I am in a position from which to engage with it. In other words it is time to move on. Over the previous ten years I have experienced ‘moving on’ literally and figuratively, I have both chosen to do it and it has been forced upon me in both personal and physical terms. And perhaps because of these (very real) situations it is possible for me to see that my moving on professionally has been somewhat in the shadows.

When I started this blog it was my intention to chart my progress as an artist and I remain committed to do that. What I could not foresee (though perhaps I should have been a little more aware of) was the enormous change in my personal life that steered me towards unchartered waters. On December 10th this year it will be ten years since John died. I like to think that I am a pretty grounded and sensible man but actually I am a bit of a dreamer and a fantasist (which in some measure is no bad thing for an artist to be). It was John who had his feet on the ground, who was able to make his flights of fancy real by creating the structures necessary to nurture and nourish them. So, with John in mind, I now (finally!) realise that being an artist is not the same as having a career as an artist. And in addition to being an artist I also want to have a career as an artist.

I think that having a career as an artist requires one to have at least one foot on the ground. Now that the ground beneath me is solid it can only be good to rest a foot on it, after all I am not in any position (especially financially) to be so free-floating. Yesterday, as I was doing my best to improve my ‘lift technique’, I was given the great advise to make sure that my feet were in the correct position before doing anything. It is remarkable how sometimes there is virtually no distance at all between the real and the metaphorical.

Time for new groundwork, new foot work. What are the things that will enable me to have a career as an artist – bursaries, project funding, shows, and sales(?): singularly, collectively, and in combination. None of these are guaranteed but if I want to “make serious gains” and have successes then I have to risk failures. I have to change my attitude towards failure and see it positively – as something that testifies to attempting progress, as an indicator of a temporary challenge rather than as a sign of permanent inability. From this point onward I am allowing myself to include failure in my process. Whether or not I achieve measurable results of this in the coming eleven months is less important than simply doing it – doing is the thing!

I can not think of a more fitting way to not only celebrate ten years of blogging but also to thank my family and friends for their faith in me. So the compass is set for this year, and with a somewhat clearer sense of direction, towards the next ten …

Now for a cup of tea and piece of birthday cake!

 

Hip hip!

Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!


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It is wonderfully clear and (very) cold evening. After two evenings of snowfall, which I spent reading the (Swedish) instruction manual for my seldom-used digital SLR camera, I thought that it would be an ideal time to go take some photographs of Go-Go.

I am pleased to say that both lamps are working well, however one of the motors has ceased to work and one of the mirror balls is hanging motionless. I took some test pictures that are on the right track though I am reminded that I have an amazing ability to make work that I have great difficulty in photographing. Photography is something that I have always wrestled with, at school I found it interesting to think around the theme and subject of our photographic projects but tedious to learn the mechanics of the camera – so many numbers and combinations of numbers. Perhaps if I had paid more attention to all those f-stops, focal lengths, and ISO numbers I might be better able to really use my digital camera. As it is I rely on the setting with little graphic icons for portraiture, landscape, sport, and so on. The landscape setting worked remarkably well however taking a photograph of a mirror ball that is rotating (or even still) in front of black glitter and behind a double glazed window at night captures a phenomenal amount of reflections, ghosts, and multiple layers. The reflections of the lights on the nearby Christmas tree look particularly odd as the tree itself is not at all visible in the reflection on the dark window. If nothing else it is interesting to consider how such spectral images could be used in other work.

 

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday here (Monday, which was a holiday in the UK, was not), this means that I can not get access to change the motor until after the weekend. There is nothing to do but accept the situation. On the way back I made a mental note to myself to use both professional lamps and motors next time that I show the piece! Further to this I have been looking at top quality mirror balls that are handmade in the USA and wondering if I even dare ask how much they cost. While I have enjoyed my off the shelf way of doing things it feels as though it might be the right time to invest in more durable materials/equipment. It would be good to know what it would cost to produce the work at a higher quality. That way I would be ready to present a realistic budget, or even put a price on the piece!

 


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Just back from replacing both a lamp-holder and lamp in Go-Go. I had already replaced the lamp a couple of times thinking that it perhaps overheated, however having moved and re-positioned the lamp-holder and it still burning out a bulb in less than a week I can only think that there must be something wrong with the lamp-holder. The type of ‘low-tech’ technology that I occasionally use with usually works, unfortunately this is one of those exceptions to the rule.

It could be nice to re-produce Go-Go using professional lamps and motors … though it would loose its almost domestic qualities if I were to do that. Should I ever be invited to install it somewhere that provides sufficient budget then I shall certainly try it out! It would also be good to return to the original concept of solar power – which would require making an alternator … actually to fully realise the original concept would probably require a technical consultant!

Over the last month or so I have been considering adding a ‘proposals’ section to my website. At the moment my website is a record of the things that exist, be that an installation or an object. However much of what I think up, dream about, sketch, research, and propose has yet to be realised – and it is these things that I want to find space for. In my most optimistic moments I imagine that someone somewhere will be sufficiently intrigued by one (or more!) of these ideas and ask me to make it. I want my website to be more than documentation of what has been.  I want to be, literally, fantastic – a place where I can showcase my fantasies and ambitions. I want it to be a place where visitors see what I am capable of imagining regardless of material and/or economic restriction.

Ambition and scale of ambition are two questions that have been playing on my mind recently. I have no shortage of ambition, but perhaps I do not understand scale of ambition. Or rather how to progress one’s practice ‘appropriately’. My mind has always raced ahead of my hands, perhaps one of my New Year’s resolutions could be to synchronise these two aspects of my work. As I sit here writing these words I wonder if having a ‘proper’ studio again might also be a component in this. Finding a studio is definitely on my New Year’s to do list (I am not sure that it could really be called a ‘resolution’).

In early December Klas and I went to look at the post office’s former building here in Enköping. The ground floor would make ideal studios, and there is plenty of room for an exhibition/project space as well as an education room and even a materials shop or commercial gallery. The basement, apart from what was the old cycle repair workshop, however is far from ideal with a maze of corridors furnished with curiously small windowless rooms and a surprising number of load-bearing walls. The basement not only makes the building too large for us but also far too expensive – especially as it is hard to see how we could rent out the subterranean spaces. It is very disappointing as the ground floor has so much going for it but unless a truly benevolent benefactor turns up we will have to strike that property of the list of potential studios. There are a few other possibilities and once the festive season is behind me I will get those of us who are interested in finding studios can get together to discuss some practicalities and of course how much we can afford.

 

Speaking of New Year’s resolutions, one that I want to commit to is making time to write something here every week. Lots has gone on since my post at the end of November and it is better to write about things as they happen rather than trying to refer to events and discussions past. One thing that I purposely did not write about at the time was seeing some of my handiwork at Lars Wallin’s Fashion Stories show at Artipelag. I decided, as my parents were visiting at Christmas, that I would surprise them by taking to them to the exhibition and letting them see the pieces before they read about it here. Lars Wallin designed the costumes for the musical Chicago at Stockholm City Theatre some of which I helped Tim produce, and quite a few of the outfits feature in the ‘theatrical’ part of the exhibition. I surprised myself at how proud and pleased I felt when I saw the pieces on show at the opening night, somehow seeing them in the context of a gallery made a greater impact on me than seeing them on the stage. And it was lovely to see how delighted and proud my parents were when they saw them too.

 


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