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
I am delighted that Patrik at the Thielska Gallery has asked me to do my ‘Following Eugène‘ walk for them in conjunction with Jan Hietala’s exhibition Men At the Water. After the summer break it is great to have this event to bring my focus back to my work. As I cycle to and from work each day I rehearse the points that I want make and think about how to improve on the previous walk. I also find myself thinking about all the material that there is neither space nor possibility for on the walk and it crossed my mind that I could develop another performance to incorporate this.
Jan Hietala’s show at Thielska, which is described as a dialogue with Eugène Jansson, opened just after my installation at the bath-house and the first of the walks. It was actually Jan who suggested that I might do a walk for the gallery! He and I have very different, but perhaps complimentary, approaches to our practices and to Eugène’s legacy. I am very excited, and more than a little nervous, about presenting my piece in the context of a well established artist, curator/historian, and gallery.
I am thoroughly enjoying my work assisting Tim at his studio. He has asked me to work full-time until mid-October. This is fantastic and fits perfectly with my plans to be in London for Frieze and all the accompanying mayhem. Working with my hands everyday is wonderful, and Tim is a great and generous teacher. It is so interesting to see how he is turning the designer’s sketches in to three dimensional wearable pieces of sculpture (not that he would be comfortable with that word!). We are working on costumes for the new Mamma Mia project that will officially launch early next year. Just yesterday is struck me how amazing is it that I have ended up being involved (in a small but very direct way) with what is certain to become a significant event in Swedish musical and cultural history.
As late summer makes itself evident I am aware that my list of things to do this year, the long overdue website update for example, is far from being on track. In one of our lengthy Skype conversations Kim relied a statistic(?) that a friend and colleague (in art and craft development) told her: making art is only about 20% of an artist’s week. The other 80% is doing all things that enable that 20% to function. This is good for me to bear in mind when I come to spend an evening putting information together for my on-line presence rather than “actually making art”. This isn’t really a surprise, even back at art school in the 80s we were being drilled in documentation and presentation skills. My problem (“challenge”) is that these activities are less appealing than sinking my hands in to vats of glitter, or dreaming up epic installations and grand performances. However if I want to make my practice my profession then I have to treat it professional and that, I think, is not just about doing the fun bits but is also about doing the bits that can make it sustainable and serious. So as the evenings draw in I am setting myself these three challenges:
- Update www.stuartmayes.com
- Produce a Following Eugène booklet
- Research exhibition opportunities
The last month has been eventful! The most significant of which has been my relocation to Enköping. This evening I leave for a few weeks in London and UK. Life is presenting me with so much that there is a lot to say but little time to write! A restful few hours in the air will be welcome! And so much to do when I get back – GREAT!!
There is still so much material that I have for/from Following Eugène. This week I presented a site-specific installation and lead an artist’s walk for the end of the Take a Walk on the Wild Side course, and yet it feels as though I am only at the beginning of something far larger. The course has been great in providing a framework for starting something … I do not quite know exactly what, but I know that this is certainly not an end.
The question of how one ‘communicates discovery’ came up in our final group crit. On the train after last night’s walk I started to wonder about how I might present the material that has not yet found its form or place … a book … a film … a more traditionally staged performance … a website. Interestingly an exhibition was not among my initial thoughts.
The walk was interesting because it not only was a means of letting people into my research, it also generated new material though the discussions that unfolded as we went. The walk was inspired by key locations in Eugène Jansson’s Stockholm and it was fascinating how the route became enriched by contemporary personal stories and other people’s memories evoked by specific places. It was also a great illustration of how an outsider’s responses to somewhere are different to an insider’s experience – subjectivity made visceral!
In the past I have been quite resistant to the term ‘project’ however it seems relevant and almost comfortable now – as a way to describe what Following Eugène is. And though I still find it difficult to say the word I have to admit that I am drawn to what I see as its positive formlessness. So, and much to my surprise, I have come to think of Following Eugéne as a project, and an on-going one at that!
A few months ago, when we started planning the end of course ‘presentations’, I had thought that I would make an event rather than participate in an exhibition. In the end I changed my mind and am in the group show too. And for lots of reasons I am very pleased that I am. My contribution to the show are the glitter carpets from the site-specific installation along with brochures for each of the events. Being part of the group exhibition feels important and I do not want to separate or isolate myself, after all the work that I am showing has been very much informed by being part of the group. I enjoy seeing my pieces in the context of other people’s work. An unexpected bonus to being in the group show has been meeting and speaking with people who (probably) would not come to either of my events – I include the director of the Moderna Museum in this audience as well as friends and professional colleagues of my classmates.
Today I learnt that I have all the clearances required to proceed with buy the apartment! Once my savings have been transferred from the UK I can arrange a moving date!
The estate agent rang (no solicitors involved here) while I was twisting a length feather boa that will be part of my dandy satyr out-fit. The pieces for the end of term show are slowly coming together, thankfully I do not need the costume until next week when I will lead a evening’s walk through parts of Sodermalm where Eugène Jansson lived and worked. Tomorrow I take the glitter mats to the exhibition venue – they will be there through out the show except for when they feature in my very site and time specific installation on Saturday afternoon.
It does not feel as though Following Eugène is coming to a conclusion. It feels much more as though it is only just getting going. It is somewhat ironic perhaps that I hear about my move away from Stockholm at the same time that my mind is buzzing with ways that I want to develop and extend the work. Of course it is not necessary to be in the city just because Eugène lived and worked here – I can make field visits when I need to. What I might miss though are the opportunities afforded by being a student at Mejan. The library and the possibility to request books from any academic library in Sweden has been great and enabled me to read books that are out of print and that are not readily available in public libraries. Having said that I realise that is time to take a break from all the courses – I have been on one course or another (and frequently more than one at a time) since the end of 2011.
Last week I worked out at Featherland (as I call it) on my costume, Tim was/is helping me as payment for my work on his pieces last year. One evening his partner Anders asked me how I see my life after moving. The question caught me unaware and I babbled about day-to-day things that I look forward to doing. Anders can be very direct, he fixed me with his gaze and said that he wanted to know how I intended to make a living. Before I could come up with any kind of reasonable reply he continued that he wants me to “be commercial”. He said that he likes me, that he likes how I think and he thinks that I need to be commercial. After a few minutes of me telling him about my previous (and less than successful) attempts to be commercial Tim came back in to the room and the conversation shifted. However I have been giving his question and comment a lot of thought, and I think that they were perfectly timed and intended. It occurred to me that if I take ‘commercial’ to mean economically viable rather than strictly (restrictively?) saleable in a simple ‘product’ sense then the question opens up a range of possibilities.
It could be very beneficial to consider the commercial aspect (in an expanded sense) of my practice when I embark on something new – to ask my self that terribly capitalist sounding question: who is my customer. If my customer is someone without resources, or someone who I want to give something to, then how and where do the finances work. In the past I have invested money earned elsewhere in my practice. This is perhaps not the most appropriate, or sustainable, way of working. And furthermore it is perhaps too isolated a way of working. If I want to make a site-specific temporary installation perhaps it would be better to gather a collaborative team around me in order to achieve it, and in that team should be someone (an individual or organisation) who can financially support the costs of the piece. And, of course, I would have to work with the needs of my fellow collaborators. If I want arts council funding I will have to think about what they want! Writing this down makes me realise it is exactly the kind of advise that I would give to someone else, now it is a good time to give it to myself! Now is a good time to focus on seeing my practice in its social context!!
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.