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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I am very excited that Klas and I will be showing at the wonderful Målhammar next year! We spoke with Ann, who runs the gallery, at Klas’ opening last night and this morning I sent her an email confirming our interest and suggesting we show in June.

This is just the kind of incentive that I need to get a raft of ideas of the page and into the studio. Målhammar is a country estate dating back to 1390, in 1640 a large mansion was built there, this no longer exists however what remains are two very elegant buildings that face each other across a gravel courtyard. On the ground floor of one is a suite of rooms where Ann hosts exhibitions from Easter through to autumn.

The architecture and scale of the rooms demands work that is confident and resolved. It feels like the right challenge at the right time. I think that Klas and I make an interesting pair – both working in sculpture we have very different languages but speak about similar things. I am looking forward to planning the show with him. It will be my first two-person show and I am sure that working with Klas and Ann will be a very rewarding experience.


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So while I have been talking with the current leaseholder about taking over the remaining years on their contract, the property owner has been in negotiations with another organisation about an entirely new contract.

The potentially brilliant studio is looking somewhat less potential and brilliant right now. The revelation came about during a very productive meeting with Klas, Tina (another artist) and Hamad – the manager of the adult education centre. Hamad had heard that maybe the premises where going to be taken over by the local branch of the national pensioners’ organisation while their usual offices where being renovated. A few phone calls later we had the information confirmed.

Our meeting was good in that it identified mutual interests in establishing a creative space for professional artists, classes and short courses, as well as a workshop/studio that could be hired on a project basis. PRO – the pensioners’ organisation – is only hiring the first floor, leaving the ground floor workshop vacant. The owner intends to put up a partition wall at the top of the stairs effectively dividing the space in two. We are waiting to hear if he is interested in hiring out the ground floor.

Hiring just the ground floor is not ideal but it could be a good first step as PRO will only stay as long as their usual premises are being renovated (they estimate a year for that work). Re-thinking how we could use the available space – it could accommodate four or five artists in an open studio – could make it viable and attractive. In the meantime I continue to keep my eyes open for other locations.

The Royal Armoury in Stockholm houses a modest but fascinating collection of ceremonial armour, weapons, and heraldic objects, as well as the royal coaches and a selection of historical clothes from the palace. I spent a few hours there last Wednesday sketching and taking photos for new work. The skill and labour evident in so many of the pieces is stunning. It is something to appreciate rather than to emulate (or attempt to emulate). I was, and am, more interested in the forms of the objects. I do not know how this will manifest itself – it may not do so in obvious ways – however it feels good and appropriate to be looking at these pieces. The coaches reminded me of my ‘unfinished’ work for my degree (I completed the degree but what should have been a sculpture was presented as un-packed components – a work in progress). Funny to think that after all these years I am again drawn to things baroque and opulent.


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On Friday I looked around what could easily be a great studio. The place would suit up to about ten individual artists, or perhaps fewer if I/we can pull off a collaboration with ABF (a well established national adult education organisation) who are looking for some kind of collective/educational creative workshop here in town.

 

A collaboration could be mutually very beneficial. Logistically it would be simple as ABF already rent premises in the same building – the studios and ABF even share an entrance and disabled access.

I realised last week that a combination of the cold and the windowlessness of the studio that I currently share with Klas are very real disincentives to going there and getting on with things. Klas is in agreement that we need to find somewhere else.

The idea of having a warm and workable studio is very appealing. My head is full if ideas and things that I want to try out – I want to play with materials. I need to play with materials! I need to get the ideas out and made tangible. I need to see and feel things in font of me. Spending too much time pondering and thinking, even sketching and writing, lacks the materiality and reality that is needed. Things will only be resolved physically.

Or perhaps I should say that I want to resolve things physically. My most successful pieces to date have come through playing with materials and following my intuition.

 

Continuing to pack-up the studio at home …

 

The need to make feels quite urgent. There is something that I want to work out. (I had not really thought about the content of that expression before – now the word ‘out’ seems particularly significant.) Part of me is drawn towards shapes and forms that tend toward the baroque, another part towards things minimal and clean. I can toss these ideas around and contextualise both in relation to the social and political climates. But these ideas are not real – they have no volume, no weight, and no presence. I want to work with these qualities. I want to engage with processes that will take me somewhere that I cannot foretell. If I could predict the results then working things out with materials would be meaningless or at best illustrative. I do not want that for my work.

Getting an appropriate studio is a priority.

 


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I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of a friend this morning. Francois and I met in Venice at little café where we the only patrons. He simply asked if he could join me. It was summer 2007 and my first time, first day, in Venice for the Biennale – I was there with Pilot 3, a satellite project presenting unrepresented artists. Despite not having a mobile phone we managed to meet up a couple of times over the following days and saw some great art together. I learned that Francois was both knowledgeable and generous, but mostly he was passionate about contemporary art. Over the years we met up many times while I lived in London, he always invited me to be his VIP guest at Frieze – a tradition that continued even after I moved to Sweden. He invited me to join him for a weekend of art in Berlin and introduced me to the city, he came to my first show in Stockholm, he sent me his thought and reflections on the many and various art-fairs and exhibitions that he attended as he developed his private collection. He was my window on to world of collectors, dealers, private museums, and international institutions. He was always interesting and interested, he always had time despite his hectic schedule. We did not only speak about art, we chatted about our lives and loves – perhaps confiding in each other as moved in such disparate worlds.

While putting together some links for an email to other members of the steering committee at the gallery here I opened facebook, and that is where I saw a post by another of his friends. The post was in French, Francois was Swiss, and it took me some moments to grasp what was being said.

It was only a few weeks ago that we were in touch. I told him that I would not be able to join him for Frieze – I had just begun my new job and had neither the time nor resources to make the trip. Earlier in the summer he made a “last-minute trip” to Stockholm, it was unfortunate that it was the weekend that I was in Glasgow for ‘Made-Up’. He knows several galleries and has other friends here so I was not too surprised to hear of his plans. Now, writing this, I wonder if he knew that he was ill. I am not absolutely certain why he died however the announcement of his memorial service requests donation to a cancer charity in lieu of flowers. A few years ago, as we waited for a bus on our way to Heddon Street, Francois mentioned some health concerns. He was elusive in referring to some specialists and an unnamed, possibly, hereditary condition, he assured me that it was nothing too serious. He could be incredibly enigmatic if he chose to be, was a former lawyer and tax consultant after all!

Scrolling through the posts on his facebook timeline it is amazing to see all the photographs of him with family and friends around the world. I do not have a single photo of him or us together – it never occurred to me, or us, to take pictures. I do not recognise any of the posts’ authors, not only do I have a bad memory for names but Francois often described people for me rather than giving me their names: ‘the son of my cousin who lives in Hampstead’, ‘the lady whom I met at the party after the opening in Miami’. Though not knowing the people in the pictures, nor understanding the French, Italian (?) and other tributes, it is obvious that Francois was much loved and will be much missed.

Perhaps because I learnt of his death via social media it feels unreal. I do not know his friends or family and we do not have any mutual friends. This evening I shall speak with a good friend of mine in London who met Francois and with whom I spoke about him and our trips. I think that that will make it real for me.

 

Francois, I am going to miss you and our curious intriguing friendship.


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Thinking about a new work for a group show, May 2018 …

The show celebrates a significant anniversary of an independent gallery that I showed with in 2009. I like the idea of making something that references the piece that I made in 2009. That piece was like the proverbial parson’s egg – visually it was successful, technically it failed. The fail-safe feature of particular ‘off the shelf’ component caused a difficulty that was eventually circumvented rather than resolved – a clean resolution would have been unrealistic in terms of both time and money. The visual aspects of the installation have been shown subsequently and work well in their own right.

The show is in London and I am in Enköping. Transport is a question. Do I make the work and then look into how to get it to London? Or do I look at means of transport and produce something accordingly? I have asked if there is a budget for transport and am waiting to hear back from the curator. This question though makes me very aware of how I work (and how I regard my practice generally). Thinking about weights and dimension that I can carry as luggage is at once both practical and passive: it is a sure-fired way to get something done however it also feels as though I am accepting (or even creating) an overly restrictive starting point. The artwork has to come first.

I want to make something beautiful.

 

[the next day]

There are so many things that I want to do.

There are too many things that I want to do!

Yesterday evening I went to Fredrik Ericsson’s show at Galleri Mejan. The show is part of his final exam – Fredrik graduates from the Royal Institute’s five year masters programme this summer. His work ‘Future Fuel’ is a solar powered machine that produces an ‘explosion’ from water! Fredrik comes from Enköping and it is through him that I met Nina and got involved in the art scene here. His work is fantastic and I am going to see if I can let other Enköping folk know about his show via various facebook groups. It makes me realise that we lack a specifically cultural network that allows us to share information and tips about exhibitions and such. So of course this is something that I want to remedy.

I think that Fredrik’s future is going to be very successful. I certainly hope that he is!

As Moderna is right next-door I looked at the re-hang of their permanent collection. I don’t know how often they re-hang but this selection was new to me. There was also an exhibition of Louise Nevelson’s work. Seeing such work made me want to get my ‘stuff’ to the studio and just play. Looking at pieces from the 1940s/50s reminded me that the most important thing is to work visually and with materials. I really want to focus on that now. I have spent too long thinking about what I want to make rather than actually making. This imbalance needs to be addressed. I want to develop my piece for the London show through play and materials rather than thinking and writing.

 

[the next next day]

While at Uppsala Art Museum I took some photos for the ‘Introduction to digital photography’ evening course that I am taking. I hope to improve my technical skills as it would be great to be able to document my own work.

I get a real mix of emotions when I see work by established artists that is not so far from my own. On one hand it is reassuring to see that similar processes and/or materials have a place and are appreciated. On the other hand I feel a little deflated seeing that such comparable work is already out there. Perhaps what I feel most is good portion of jealousy – to be perfectly honest! – that another artist has managed to work out how to do things successfully. That is something that I have yet to work out. Tomorrow I have a meeting with Uppsala Council’s art consultant/advisor, I shall ask him about how I might develop my career. In preparation I shall have a think about what kind of career it is that I want!


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