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!
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Next to my name and venue number in the guide it says (because that is what I wrote in my entry form): Installation and objects. I wonder if people have been intrigued or confused by that description. From chatting with my visitors it has become clear that I am offering a different type of experience from the majority of the other artists.
My work does require some ‘guiding’ especially for visitors who are not so familiar with contemporary practice. I continue to be fascinated by the stories and topics that come up. And I am incredibly grateful that people give me their time and allow me to tell them about my thought processes and the practical aspects of a wide range of pieces. I made a small printed visitors guide, and there is a stack of them by the door. Sometimes I hand them to visitors before we start the guided tour, and sometimes I do not. I try to gauge from their level of engagement and body language how much time we have to look at the pieces and if there is adequate time for us to have a good discussion. I know my work well enough to acknowledge that it does not give its best to the hurried viewer. Yesterday [Sunday] I ‘hopped over’ presenting Mr Dandy Blue’s robe at least two times – as it requires a considerable shift to begin discussing ‘live’ and project-based work after having been more focused on material objects.
Just as realised that it was almost time to ‘close’ yesterday my phone rang. It was Eva, who I first met when I visited her studio during last year’s Vår konst, she apologised for being late and wanted to know if it was alright if she and a friend came by. A few minutes later she and her friend were at the door. Eva works with fabric, she also collects and exhibits vintage fabric (mainly Scandinavian designs from the 50s, 60s, and 70s), and she runs workshops and courses in pattern design and dressmaking. She lives and works a little outside of town in two former light-industrial buildings that are the Teda Art Project.
It was good fun showing them what I do and talking about being artists. Our discussion turned to economics and politics – and our shared motivations for moving out of cities in order to pursue our practices without the pressure of high rents. As we were saying goodbye Eva asked if I was free that evening as she was having friends for dinner and would like to me to join them.
I had a lovely evening in great company and with a fantastic Italian dinner. Eva lived in Italy for several years and the friend that was with her early is Italian but moved here to be with his Swedish girlfriend – he now imports and supplies Italian food to restaurants in and around Stockholm, so we had some amazingly good fresh mozzarella cheese as well as the great seafood and pasta dish that Eva made. It was a totally unexpected and absolutely perfect end to the day.
Getting together in each others studios with other artists and friends over good food is, and has been for a long time, a vital part of artists’ lives. I look forward to similar evenings at our new studio!
What I liked about the pace of visitors on Friday was that I was able to spend time with each of them. There was only one occasion when two groups overlapped. With the kind of work that I make, and with my intentions and ambitions for my practice, it is important to me that we have time and space for discussion. The artworks are often points of departure for thoughts and ideas that unfold and expand in the presence of the on-looker. Sometimes the discussion does not travel so far from the starting point, other times it takes massive leaps. It fascinating to meet people and have the opportunity to have very opened conversations with them. The last visitors yesterday afternoon were a father and his young daughter, they live in a neighbouring building and popped in on their way home from visiting several artists in town. We talked about creative processes and materials – the daughter loves to make things and is particularly good at origami – but also about some of the symbols and references in various works. As our ‘tour’ came to a natural conclusion the father, who introduced himself as not knowing anything about art, said that he really enjoyed visiting me because there were stories with every piece. He could not have said anything more valuable to me – he so neatly and spontaneously validated why I do what I do. I do my best to create things that stimulate interest and invite engagement, and it is always wonderful when it works.
Deciding to participate in the town’s Easter Open Studio weekend has been interesting – and it is only the first of the four days that I am ‘open’. I spent the last week installing my own work throughout my apartment. Play and Odyssey (which I put up almost as soon as I moved in) have been joined by three other pieces in the living room. Some of the ‘curatorial’ decisions were made for purely practical reasons, and as a result some are more successful than others.
When initially thinking through what I might like to show I had conveniently forgotten that the majority of the walls are concrete skimmed with no more than four millimetres of plaster – I am very thankful that I have the long-term loan of a SDS drill. Even so it meant that a piece that is pinned to the wall necessarily had to be placed over the bed on the one plasterboard wall in the room. The placement works really well – probably far better than the one that I had had in mind. A large irregular shaped patchwork that is also pinned to a wall could had to be relocated to the hall/library where the only other plaster wall is found. It works well there but left an uncomfortable gap in the living room. Selecting catalogues and publication for the library shelf reminded me of a piece that I had overlooked, that piece now hangs in the living room where I had imagined that the patchwork would be. However it is the placement of that ‘substitute’ piece that I am not one hundred percent happy with – materially and tonally it is very similar to the nine embroidered handkerchiefs hanging over the bed. As a result the living room has become a room of two halves – one half being white and gold textile pieces, the other being black glitter works. Play which is black and glittery hangs in between. The curation is neither wrong nor too bad, but is it a little too easy and I would like it be a little more dynamic.
Knowing that I usually take far too much time writing a new post is preventing me from writing any posts at all! This is an attempt to write a quick post before too much time passes and the thoughts and events that seem so urgent become superseded or simple lose their shine.
I had a very nice evening in Uppsala on Wednesday when I was presented with my award. Daniel Werkmaster, director of Uppsala Art Museum, gave a brief presentation of why I was selected, I received the actual award and a bouquet from Maria Fregidou-Malama (who sits on the culture committee), and then I was invited to give an acceptance speech! I am proud to say that I managed to do it un-prepared and in Swedish. There were awards presented in dance, music, and literature, as well as honorary awards for history and theatre design, and a two-year ‘development’ award for a musician. It was lovely to one of a truly diverse and interesting group, and to feel part of the cultural community in my adopted county and land.
I was also in Uppsala the evening before (Tuesday), with two other members of the steering committee at Enköping’s konsthall, for the regional arts’ associations annual general meeting. The meeting, as well as the discussions in the car on the way there and back, made me realise that I have quite different approaches and ambitions for the kind of exhibitions and events that I am keen to work with. It will be a good test of my abilities (and language skills) to find good ways to suggest extending and expanding the scope of the konsthall’s programme. I find it hard to judge if the difference of my opinions are based simply on being who I am, or on my not understanding the role and function of a konsthall. No doubt it is a combination of the two (and probably a great many other factors too). I look forward to seeing how my ideas go down!
Friday Klas and I spent a very enjoyable day cleaning and chatting in our new studio. Klas had already made a start during the week however there was/is still plenty to do to make the former garage/ car repair workshop into the kind of place that we (both separately and together) want as studios. Economically it makes sense to see if anyone is interested in subletting the smaller third room, though both Klas and I spoke much more about the exciting possibilities of it being a showroom and/or project space for visiting artists. Our discussion rounded off with us considering the idea of it being principally a showroom with the possibility of artists hiring it as a ‘clean’ working space between shows/projects. It is fantastic to talk things through with Klas, for every similar and shared idea we have he offers something new or adds something else – I only hope that he feels that I do the same. One thing that we both are keen on is creating an active and lively place – the kind of place that other people want to engage with, a place for ideas, discussions, dreams, and of course art. I have a good feeling about this!
Before going to the studio I had a meeting with Johan in the parks department. From the 18th he will be my boss when I begin as one of the team of extra seasonal staff taking care of the various parks and gardens in and around the town. On Friday though we met to discuss the well-established annual ‘Gardens’ Day‘ that Johan co-ordinates. He is interested in introducing visual art to the day – ideally he would like to see some land-art and site-specific installations as these are particular passions of his. Thankfully he is thinking more about 2018 than 2017. Though he would like artists to get involved this year too. Without a budget it will be tricky (nigh on impossible!) to pull off something spectacular this September. I can imagine that a good many local artists would be interested in the possibility of an ‘art-fair’ as it offers opportunities for both promotion and actual sales. So I proposed that temporary fencing be offered for artists to hang their work on – in an outdoor type of salon-show/fair. I was thinking of Urban Art in Brixton, and even the paintings hung on Hyde Park’s railings along Bayswater Road. It would be great to find some artists who might be more inspired by Joshua Compston’s ‘Fete Worse than Death‘, I am not holding my breath but I am prepared to be surprised!