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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Plan B:  Look for an affordable flat and rent a nearby studio until I am in a better financial situation.

Bearing in mind my resources and my desire to have my own home plan b seems like a good first step.  I still dream about a live/work place in the country with a garden … however I have come to realise that the places that I can afford from my savings are either in need of a huge amount of renovation, or are too far from Stockholm.  Renovation in itself is not too daunting however having virtually no income it seems rather foolish to buy something that requires significant additional investment that I do not have.  And I want to be close enough to the city to pop-in for openings, talks, and to see friends, so living more than one and half hours away seems rather foolish too.  Plan b begins with looking at a 1970s flat in Enköping this Sunday.

Enköping is affordable and only a 40 minute (direct) train from central Stockholm.  Commuting to the studio is not really an option though as the return fare is about £18.00 a day.  I really love my studio and it will be difficult to leave however I cannot afford to live in Stockholm at the moment.  Time for radical solutions!

The last few months have been very interesting and quite challenging.  The question of where and how I want to live has forced me to deal with realities that I often prefer to pretend do not exist!  It is also only in the last week that I have admitted to myself that my priority now (NOW!) is to find my own place to live.  At the same time I accept that I do not want to use my savings, nor to work full-time, simply to pay Stockholm rent.

 

And what do I imagine this better financial situation might be??

  • part-time teaching – either art (or English!)
  • developing funded ‘projects’
  • understanding the stipend and economic artistic opportunities here
  • becoming more attractive to commercial galleries

 

It is four years since I packed up most of my possessions before the re-decorating, and subsequent selling of my flat in London.  I am an object-oriented person and it is high time that I have somewhere to unpack and re-acquaint myself with my things.  I also want to live by my own time schedules and routines.  Achieving this can, I believe, only be good for me.

My things ground me, it is time to get grounded and to get on!

 


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I am starting to feel rather anxious about the end of year presentations for the course that I have been taking at Mejan.  I have thoroughly enjoyed Following Eugène however I am not sure that what I have to present.  This morning I started to retrace the walk between Eugène’s studio and the Thielska Gallery.  About a third of the way along the route my little pocket camera, which I had been using to snap the statues on the way, stopped working.  This camera has developed an intermittent and very frustrating fault where is fails to focus and to close.  On several occasions I have been close to buying a replacement as I like to have a camera with me most of the time and I have such an old mobile phone that the camera is meaningless.  Despite my best efforts the camera refused to work and I lost the will to continue the walk.  Perhaps this was dumb.  I could have continued but I had in mind that the walk would provide me with a photo series.  Strangely the first time I did the walk the camera failed at about the same point in the journey – is this something I should take note of?

 

I am beginning to have some sense of the Eugène’s experience of the city – though I wonder if the financial support (and subsequent friendship) of Thiel was the only reason for the dramatic shift in Eugène’s practice seen in his painting between 1904 and 1907.  Having somewhere suitable to live and work as well as some kind of income could certainly be a major factor.  This rings true with me as I continue to consider my options regarding how and where to live.  The city is increasingly challenging for artists to negotiate – even for artists who are established and successful.  The association where I have my studio has only 18 months remaining on its contract and there are plans to redevelop the whole site as a new residential district.  While the site owners have indicated that our building will be one of the last to be demolished we will be on a yearly contract rather than a 10 year one.  After years in London a year long contract sounds relatively attractive however it seems that there are a number of the larger studios in the same position which in the worse case could result in a couple of hundred artists all looking for studios at about the same time!  There are smaller collective studios, perhaps it is time to find out what their waiting lists are like!

 

I remain hopeful that I will find a suitable place somewhere in the countryside not too far from the city.  The former school, which I admit was unnecessarily large, became too expensive in a rather exciting bidding war!

 

Perhaps the underlying theme of my work is one of artistic sustainability.  How do we artists keep doing what we need to do in an increasingly market driven environment?

 

What can Eugène teach me?

 

 


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Louise Bourgeois at Moderna “I have been to hell and back” is a fantastic show!  I have been twice and plan to go again (as I student at the Royal Institute I get free entry)!  Not only does it include much previously unseen work, it is also brilliantly curated.  I cannot help but feel good walking through the exhibition, and I think this is the result of the combination of great art and such intelligent and appropriate display.  The show is arranged thematically though the curator – Iris Müller Westermann – acknowledged in her presentation that there are a multitude of other possible ways to arrange the work.  If I understand correctly it is this thinking that influenced her decision to open a number of window-like apertures in the gallery walls.  These windows and the non-linear floor plan allow one to visually and physically experience the connection between the distinct galleries and themes.  At what is at once the entrance and the centre of the show there is the intersection three large ‘windows’, this produces an interesting kind of meeting point.  Seeing the museum staff standing there chatting with colleagues in adjoining spaces reminds me of neighbours passing the time of day over a garden fence.  Visitors are given a glimpse of what is to come, and similarly the chance to chat with friends doing the show at a different pace.  These architectural features create and reinforce the simultaneous senses of intimacy and openness that I find in Bourgeois’ work.  My first visit was with a very knowledgeable friend (visiting from Switzerland) who hesitated to buy a ticket having seen, and been disappointed by, the encyclopedic Bourgeois exhibit at the Tate Modern (2007), however he was completely won over by the show declaring far better than the Tate’s.  It made me very proud of the artscene here in my adopted hometown!

Louise Bourgeois is a great inspiration for an older unknown artist such as myself.  Respected by her artist friends but not having her break-though show until the age of 71, and then continuing to work and show until 99 gives me such hope as I reach my mid-late forties!

 

Encouraged by a colleague here at the studio I offered English Afternoon Tea, with home-baked scones, for last Sunday’s “finish-age” and artist’s talk at Passage.  It was a very pleasant afternoon and speaking about the work after having invigilated for two weekends was probably better than it would have been doing it at the vernissage.  I am really pleased that I did the show, it has given me a renewed sense of purpose.  It has also reminded me that it is very different seeing one’s work in a gallery/exhibition space than in the studio.  Presenting, displaying, exhibiting, the work has made me think about it in new ways and opened by new possibilities.

 

Questions around exhibiting and display are also current on the Mejan course – not least because a number of us have made a contribution to the Frederick Kiesler show at Tensta konsthall.  For me the show is the antithesis of the Bourgeois – it leaves me completely cold, uninterested and hugely disappointed.  Kiesler sounds like a wonderfully eccentric and passionate man committed to innovative architecture and exhibition design.  Innovation and excitement are not words that I can use to describe the terribly dry, inaccessible and (literally) ‘square’ show of sketches, models, photographs and re-creations.  The inclusion of “responses” by a contemporary artist and six student groups does little to enliven things.  I wonder how and why this show looks and feels the way it does – the conditions of the Kiesler Foundation? Lack of resources? Lack of imagination?

 

 

 

Moving from the disappointment of not getting the little red house I am now looking forward to making a bid for a former nursery school!  The building is made up of what was a private home (from the 1950s) and an extension (from the 1980s).  The extension would make a wonderful studio – there is a large room, a smaller room with a sink, and an ‘office’.  The whole place needs a renovation, but inspired by Bourgeois I am thinking that it might somewhere to live and work for the next fifty years or so!

 


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Show – Passage – up, open, and on-going!  I am really pleased with how it looks and with the responses that I have been receiving.

 

 

Thursday’s vernissage was good fun, and a good mix of people.  It gave me the opportunity to try and talk about some of my ideas in Swedish.  But then doing it in English made me realise how challenging it can be to make communicable ideas that have been in one’s head and hands for over a year.  In this respect my proximity to ‘Artistic Research’ is interesting, and as an experiment I decided to present a mind-map (minus the encapsulating bubbles and connecting lines) as the exhibition note/guide rather than a linear text.  This enabled me to mention far more than I could have done in a more conventional text – the liberation from grammar and syntax opened up spaces.  It could be argued that by doing so I have created another artwork however even if I have done that it is one that refers directly and explicitly to the objects in the exhibition (and in my mind that makes it an explanatory note).

Covering the gallery’s large windows worked very well and completely changes the atmosphere.  The industrial view from the wall to wall, ceiling to floor windows with its two sets of dual carriages ways, raised level train lines, cement works, freight terminal and warehouses is a constant and restless backdrop to whatever is going on the gallery.  Simply removing the view immediately produced a calm and more focused space.  In addition it enabled me to light the pieces in an appropriate way.

An hour before the official opening time and just as I was removing the strip-lights from the entrance a couple of curators from Denmark turned up.  They are traveling through the Scandinavian countries looking for artists for a show next summer.  We had a good conversation and they were very complimentary about my work – which might well suit their proposal.  They had just come from a very prestigious gallery/foundation and said that they found the exhibition, space, and atmosphere here more interesting – which was great to hear and obviously put me in a very happy frame of mind for the rest of the evening!

It is the first time in a number of years that I have presented work that could easily be shown in other places.  The pieces are also some of the most commercial, potentially commercial, that I have made without it feeling like a compromise.  I am really interested in developing both the door and jigsaw puzzle series and seeing where they might take me …

 

And just to mention that I was out-bid for the little house in the country – hopefully something else will come on the market soon!


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Preparations for the show are coming along.  The aluminium boards for the jigsaw puzzles arrived this morning, it feels good that they are finally here!  And thanks to what might well be a ‘vintage’ salad-washing bowl but which I am using as an oversized glitter shaker, glittering the door has been a lot more effective and efficient than my earlier attempt.

There is still quite a bit to do before I am ready to actually hang the work and unusually for me I am confident that there is time to do it all.  Maybe even to do it at an enjoyable pace!

I get into the gallery on Monday, or possible even Sunday afternoon if the person who is using over the weekend to photograph things finishes early.  Things remaining to do:

  • mount the puzzles
  • write and print/copy an ‘exhibition guide’
  • set prices for the puzzle series
  • buy some wine and nibbles
  • install the show

I have an idea of how and where I want things in the room, however seeing the pieces in there might present other, better, possibilities.  I am also considering having an additional piece in the room before the exhibition space itself.  It would be a slide projection so it is simple to try it out and see if it works.  I have a very nice old projector that I would like to use but I a little nervous to have it running for four hours as the bulb is also old and I do not know where I can get hold a spare here.  Not only is the image something significant to me, and in many ways the show, but it might be an interesting way to illuminate the room rather than the strip-lights in the ceiling.

Last week a friend of a friend who is on placement with ‘The Local’ (a Swedish newspaper in English) interviewed me.  I managed to give a fairly succinct account of my move here and my views of the art scene.  Perhaps it was good not to have too much advance notice about the interview!

The Local – my Swedish career

I am delighted that my friend (and international art tourist!) from Switzerland is coming to the opening.  We do not see each other as often since I moved from London, and it is wonderful that he is making the trip primarily to see my show.  Moderna Museet have just opened a Louise Bourgeois show and there is a press launch of the new Asylum show at Kulturhuset the day after my opening, plus some good shows at the commercial galleries here too.  Not at all bad considering that we are still somewhat in the ‘darker months’ here.

 

Coming up for almost twenty-five years(!) since I left Dartington and I am seriously thinking about returning to the country – that is the ‘countryside’ rather than Devon or the UK.  Tomorrow I go and have a second look at a small cottage about an hours drive north-west of Stockholm.  It is not far from where I have been working with Tim and that makes it easier to consider such a move.  It is also only about 15 minutes away from the closet large town which has an art centre, library and cinema.  The train takes only 40 minutes from that town to central Stockholm so part-time work in the city is not out of the question.  The real advantage would be the time and space that I would have.  I would set up my studio at home …. I would actually have a home!  It has been four years since I packed up many of my things before redecorating and then selling my flat in London, it would be lovely to have somewhere to unpack them and use them again.  The possibility of finding anything to either rent or buy in the city seems more and more remote if I want to continue with my practice – which I do.

Luckily have I have some good role models for making a success of being a contemporary rural artist.  Friends in Norway have done it, and so has Tim.

An exciting week ahead!


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