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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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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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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