I am currently studying at department of Architectural Theory and History at the Royal Institute of Art, and am a founding member of the recently formed Institute for Artistic Research (we are not an institute!)

Your comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated – thank you

www.stuartmayes.com


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The studio floor is rather blue and twinkly!  I am making glitter mats for my end of term/course show.  Most of the glitter is on the mats and the sheets of paper laid out to catch the overspill.  However a noticeable amount of glitter strays on to the actual floor.  Actually it strays all over the place!  This is the first time that I have i) attempted to stick glitter to flexible plastic and ii) mixed by own shade of glitter.  After being so uptight about any other colour than black on the black glitter door, it has been fun to blend different blue tones.  The scale and dimensions of the mats, and perhaps the brown paper that they are lying on, made me think of Rothko.  It is probably more correct to say that seeing two of the sparkly mats lying next to each other made me think how different Rothko’s Seagram paintings would be if they were made in glitter rather than oil paint.  And now as I write I am reminded of Corinne Felgate’s glittery re-interpretations of Mondrian’s grid based paintings that I saw in London earlier this year.  Felgate uses glitter material cut to the appropriate sizes and shapes – it might be fun to see if I could replicate the Rothko’s tonal variation through sprinkling glitter (which comes in a limited range of predetermined colours).  A Glittering Rothko series will have to wait until I have a studio again – it is not the sort of thing that I would want to do at home!

I am delighted that my idea of ‘glitter as methodology’ has found a place in my text for the book we are producing at school.  As I was reflecting on my year of Following Eugène I realised that my methodology was pretty glittery – by which I mean that I have been constructing a plane on which the various materials catch one’s eye in different ways depending on how you approach it.  The word ‘static’ interests me – both as an adjective: being still, and as a noun: electric charge.  When I work with glitter I am working both these definitions – sometimes at the same time.  Practically I want to fix the glitter down to make it static, and at the same time conceptually I want the glitter to have a sense of charge and excitement about it.  For me the glitter (the physical material) enables me to play in the spaces between all sorts of definitions and ideas – that is what I love about it!

The glitter mats also reminded me of a proposal for a glittering staircase that I made several years ago.  In that case I was planning to use crushed glass on an abandoned set of steps in the Crystal Palace train station.  Of course I was making more of references to glass and crystal in that case but now I think that the visual effect I wanted was not so different from what I am achieving with glitter.

The text that I have written feels like a good account of the various professional courses that I have taken over the past three years – an amalgamation of both the practical and the theoretical exercises at Mejan and Konstfack.  I cannot imagine that I would have been able to write such a piece, nor to feel confident about it, without finding my own way to engage with artistic research.

 

followingeugene.wordpress.com

wildsidemejanarc.wordpress.com

mejanspringshows

 


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Last Wednesday I showed my studio to about eight artists who are interested in taking it.  The one who has been on the waiting list longest will be offered it.  It has been a great studio and I hope that the next tenant enjoys it as much as I have.

There is so much change going on for, and around, me.  It is as if some of the more abstract changes are finding their reflections in physical forms.  At the beginning of April the train station next to the studio closed while ‘they’ work on the nearby bridge.  I tried a few different routes to the studio and finally settling on the train, walk, tram journey that avoids the central Stockholm.  Two weeks ago ‘they’ closed the flight of steps from the estate where I stay to the train station while ‘they’ build new ones in preparation for a coming housing development.  Earlier this week a set of wooden steps in the middle of my walk between the train and tram were demolished in advance of the tramline being extended.  In the space of five weeks I have had to adapt my way to the studio a good few times.  The scale of development at the edges of the city is massive and I experience it in these relatively small but significant re-routings that I have to make.  It reminds me of film clips of lab rats when ‘they’ change the layout in the mazes.  Every time I make a new path I think how different it will be when I move and have the studio at home.

I had a great, and very very Swedish, meeting with the team who take care of Skeppsholmen (the former naval island where the art school is).  I wrote them asking for permission to use the old cold-water bathhouse for an installation.  They invited me to come to their “fika” (which is like a coffee break but is so SO much more).  I thought that I would have to present my ideas and justify the proposal that I had sent them.  No, it was more a question of when would be convenient to come and collect the keys!  A brief discussion about responsibilities was followed by the seven of them and me having a good chat about Eugène Jansson, the island when it was a naval base, and even the tunnels beneath the city and its waterways.  It was wonderful to get such a warm reception and to see their genuine pleasure and excitement about enabling an artwork.

Meanwhile a few hundred meters away at the art school it is a very different story!  It occurred to me that appointing a curator as head of school is a bit like appointing the head of the army museum to be in charge of the ground troops.  They might be in roughly the same field but the experiences and approaches are completely different.  What concerns me most is what I see as a shift in focus from process to results.  The other thing that dawned on me is how I have an almost suspicious history of being at schools just before they change beyond recognition (and for the worst)!  It happened at Dartington, the Slade, and now at the Royal Institute /Mejan!

The artists that I know are amazing creative intelligent people who are able to give form and image to things previously unimaginable.  We see the world differently, we retain some of that childhood ability to be unencumbered by precedents and procedures.  With good education, support and encouragement artists have the ability to combine an adult’s social responsibilities with the child’s sense of play and wonderment.  This is my ambition for my own practice, and I fight for it not only for myself but for anyone else who is brave, crazy, brilliant enough to take the same risks.

 


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Meeting Elena was like catching up with an old friend!  And we have carried on chatting away via email this week too.  She is as every bit passionate, humorous, insightful, and intelligent in person as she is on-line.  Over a ‘swenglish’ combination of Early Grey tea and cinnamon buns we chatted about art and life the way one does: the things that are catching our interests now, our up-coming bits, inspirational artists (she and the other artists visiting from the UK had been to the fantastic Louise Bourgeois show at Moderna), and how we got to where we are today.  By the time the others came back from searching out a paper shop I certainly felt that I had met a kindred spirit.

That morning I ventured out to the collaborative show featuring artists from the UK Scibase and the Swedish Mobile Art groups.  It was a lovely morning and I enjoyed the walk thorough an unknown town.  It was only when I got the gallery that it dawned on me that perhaps I should have checked in advance to see if Elena would be there.  She was not there – she was already in Stockholm!  After looking at the show I chatted with the artist who was invigilating and asked her to pass on my best wishes to Elena and Wendy.  It was on my way back to the station that I thought to look at Elena’s card that I had picked up, thankfully here phone number was on it.  feeling rather dumb for not having been better organised I sent a text.  Waiting for the train I contemplated how it was to have met Elena’s art but not her, consoling myself with the thought that it was fine that our friendship remain virtual.  As I arrived back in Stockholm my phone rang, it was Susanne – the Swedish artist who had arranged the show – she, Elena and the group were in Old Town and wondered if I would like to meet for tea!

It turns out that I had already met Susanne!  She often collaborates with an artist who used to have a studio at Wip, and I had met them both at various openings at the studio and in town.  Once again the art world proved itself not to be as big as I sometime imagine it.

 

May 1st is a bank holiday here, so it has been relatively peaceful here at the studios.  The usually busy road outside of my window has been noticeably quiet all day.  My intention was to finish writing my text for the publication (catalogue?) that we are making for the end of the course.  It does not have to be ready until the end of next week, and perhaps knowing this allows me to become distracted.  I am pleased with the opening paragraph, and will continue writing tomorrow.  Writing about my own work while I am still making it does not come easily to me.  Yesterday while speaking with Kim we discussed how we (us two) can feel the need to say too much and be too conscious of every word.  I am now trying to be accurate, playful, poetic, clear, confident, engaging and accessible.  Hopefully todays jottings, notes and half finished sentences will enable me to write something comprehensive and enjoyable tomorrow.

 

On Wednesday afternoon I have at least seven people coming to look at the studio – prospective tenants!  I am getting quite emotional about leaving.  As I do not have a date to move it has so far remained somewhat unreal.  I think that Wednesday might change that!

 

In the meantime I have not only a text to write but also some art to make!  We are installing the show in four weeks and at the moment I have sketches but nothing made.  The great news is that I have a meeting on Monday afternoon with the man who is responsible for the island, he likes my proposal for the old bath-house and it looks as though I will be able to use the building as part of my presentation.  I do not know the last time that the public had access to it, it could be as long ago as 1923 when the bathing was prohibited due to such poor water quality.  Earlier today I ordered several kilos of glitter to make a carpet that will guide visitors through the building!


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Tomorrow I am going to meet two fellow a-n bloggers!  Elena Thomas and Wendy Williams are here with their group show.  It will be the first time that I have met them, and my first experience of meeting people who I feel that I have come to know through their blogs.  The show is the other side of the town that I am moving to so it is a perfect reason to check out what is happening there.

This week a spat between the Academy of Fine Art and the Royal Institute of Art has re-confirmed my belief in, and commitment to, art schools as places of practice and process.  The academy has made a very public and provocative protest against the new rector’s budget which includes the appointment of a chair of philosophy and a significant increase in taught course content (as opposed to experimental content) in the architectural programmes.  I am happy to be finishing my studies this summer.

Last week’s art fairs were interesting in a rather low-key way!  I spoke with an artist-led initiative from Berlin and another from Uppsala.  In different ways both made me think about potential ways of working once I am settled in my new home.  At the commercial galleries and fair I saw two places that I can think to ask for feedback from.

At the moment I am enjoying focusing on my presentation for the end of the course, though it feels as though I am only at the beginning of something that could be far larger!  I am in discussion with the owners of what remains of the naval bath-house on Skeppsholmen.  The building is a little wooden pavilion that was the entrance to the baths.  My proposal is to open the doors to building and invite people to walk through from the land to the water side.  In doing so they will trace the steps of Eugène Jansson and the other men who swam, exercised, and hung out there 100 years ago.  In addition have been looking at making a guided walk through Stockholm.  The walk will refer to Eugène’s life and/or work.  Visiting the addresses where he lived I thought about the Blue Plaque programme in the UK.  There is nothing marking the places where Eugène lived.  In Stockholm there are a few plaques commemorating literary figures and others noting historical buildings but nothing so comprehensive as the blue plaques.  To some extent I can understand that Swede’s generally democratic attitude that all people are equal might make such a scheme uncomfortable.  However I have always enjoyed spotting those plaques and like the way that they connect my contemporary presence on the street to history.  I was delighted to ‘come across’ the plaque marking the studios of Ricketts and Haslewood Shannon (amongst others) when out cycling around Holland Park at Christmas.  While I was walking around the building my friend Kim started talking with a big family group who spotted us looking at the plaque and asked her if she knew about the artists – which she did!  A few minutes of discussion about cities, gentrification, and artists unfolded.  I like the Blue Plaques!

Funny, I had not made the connection between Ricketts, Haslewood Shannon and Eugène Jansson before.  The connection is tenuous to say the least but they were gay artists of comparable ages working at the same time.  Why am I attracted to these artists?


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Perhaps because I do not have my own home my studio has had a very significant role in my life since moving to Sweden.  It is not only where I come to work, but also a sanctuary when I need somewhere simply to be.  The room is full of things that used to be in my flat in London as well as things from my studio there and of course materials, artworks and ‘bits’ that I have acquired over the last three and a half years.  I think that this quirky five-sided room is one of the best studios in the complex – it has been a place of contemplation, production, refuge, and relaxation  – and now I am going to start the process of leaving!

I have bought a flat outside of Stockholm and commuting to the studio is neither financially nor logistically viable.  It is a big move for me, one that I am sure will be rewarding but at the same time one which is rather scary.  Moving out of Stockholm enables me to have my own home with a very reasonable monthly service charge, and until I have a more regular or easily demonstrable income it makes really good sense.  So sometime in June, hopefully, I will be moving to Enköping – a 40-minute train ride north of the city.  Initially I intend to use the bedroom in the new flat as a studio, then once I am a bit more settled (and earning something) I will look for a studio close to home.

A friend of mine proclaimed 2015 to be ‘Year of Change’ when we met up between Christmas and New Year.  He was right!  Another friend, quite independently, said that it takes at least three years before one feels at home in another country.  She was right too!  Despite being tempted to apply for further courses I have decided that when I finish at Mejan this summer I will concentrate on my own practice and securing some income.  Living on my own and within my means will give me space to do this.  It is incredibly exciting and feels as though I am entering a new phase.  Concluding my recent studies exactly 25 years after graduating from Dartington has a comforting sense of completion about it.  Might I finally be ready for really engaging with the professional grown-up world?

 

It is Stockholm Art Week and later this afternoon I will go to Supermarket – the artist-led art fair.  Tomorrow I will go to Market – the commercial fair and make a trip around the commercial galleries around Hudiksvallsgatan.  Part of me would like to identify some galleries to show my work to, and part of me is scared of hearing that no-one is interested.  I do not think that my work is un-commercial, especially not the most recent glitter pieces, but I am not good at selling either it or myself.  Perhaps this attitude might too be due for change!


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