My practice encompasses installation, object making and live art as well as projects and teaching.  In June 2015 I moved to Enköping (“Sweden’s nearest town”) where I have my studio and am part-time arts education officer for the local council. 

Your comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated – thank you!

www.stuartmayes.com

studiostuartmayes on Instagram


2 Comments

Update: I still find it hard to believe just how supportive the curator and exhibition organiser were when I met with them on Wednesday – the day after realising that I simply could not show the placard pieces.

 

We spent the morning discussing potential practical solutions: covering the entire surface with a silver film, finding an assistant to help me re-make the work, commissioning someone else to make the work. We got advise from various experts – and learned a lot, however most of it was not positive. The polyurethane glue that bled on the front side of the work had ’burnt’ itself in the surface of the plast mirror. If the mirror had been glass it would have been possible to remove the glue. I had not used glass as the piece was to be outside in a public space and I judged it too risky to use regular mirror.

 

At lunch one of the other artists (all of whom had heard of my situation and were wonderfully sympathetic) asked if I was going to show something else. That thought had not occurred to me. I had made work specifically for the show – both thematically and in terms of placement – with that work unusable I saw no option but to withdraw. And even if I had something else I did not feel that it was my place to suggest it (this is a subject for a separate post). Lunch wound up and we had all gone back to where we were working. I was packing up my stuff in the workshop, feeling miserable and embarrassed, when the curator came in an asked if possibly had something else that could fit the exhibition. The artist I spoke with at lunch was very elusive when I later asked her if she had something …

 

The reason that I applied for the show, and I guess the reason that I was selected, is because the theme – the relationship between playfulness and seriousness – is a current that runs through my practice. So yes I had other pieces that suited the theme but nothing that suited being outside and nothing on the scale of the placards. The curator invited me to go around the building with her and find a place where one fo these other pieces could be shown in such a way that it could be seen from outside. By the entrance we found a spot for Eugènes ringar #2.

 

I quickly scribbled a list of all the things that I needed to gather together to install that piece, packed up the residue of the disaster, and headed back to Enköping and the studio. After that I popped to the hardware store to get hooks, some tension straps, and cable ties. By early evening everything was packed in the car ready for the next day and I sat down and logged in to the AGM and ’house meeting’ at the new studio. A few hours later the meetings finished, I logged out and fell in to bed exhausted but excited.

 

Yesterday I was delighted to take part in the online opening of the exhibition. The work looks good, of course it is very different from what I thought I would be showing, but it fits nonetheless. The nature of the digital opening – the curator and organiser going from work to work and speaking with each artist in front of their piece – means that I need to watch the ’live broadcast’ to see the how the opening looked. I am not quite ready to do that yet!

 

The whole week has given me so much to think about. I have already mentioned reviewing my ways of working in my previous post, now I am adding a raft of things about showing and about my ways of working with other artists and curators.

 

I am incredibly grateful for all the support that I received. I might even go so far as to see it as a very silver lining – how wholly appropriate!

 

 


0 Comments

I have failed. Admitting it is both a relief and shock. I am not used to failing at things but in this case there is no getting around it. It is quite a spectacular fail too – so I feel foolish and to be honest a bit sick. Not to mention feeling embarrassed as I failed in front of professional colleagues.

 

The work that I was making for a group show has, at the last minute, taken an irreversible turn for the worst and there’s no way back and no time to re-make. All I can do if pull out of the exhibition. I’ve never had to do that before, and it feels a little like I’m in free-fall. I have a hollow feeling in my stomach, or perhaps I feel a bit sick.

 

I have just emailed the curator and the organiser to let them know how I am thinking. I will speak with them tomorrow, but I really don’t see any other way out of the situation: the work is unexhibitable.

 

The feeling of letting them and the other artists down is awful, but insisting on showing would be worse and very unprofessional.

So what have I learned?

  1. don’t rely on small test samples for making something much larger
  2. don’t be over ambitious on a modest budget and a short timescale
  3. develop and deepen rather than chop and change when it comes to practice

 

Was I over confident? Perhaps, as I said I am not used to failure, and certainly not on this scale. Over the last few months (years?) I have found myself promising to focus on a limited number of skills and techniques, and I still dream up pieces that require either completely new processes or pieces that really test my capabilities – why?

 

I like it when my work has a clean and elegant aesthetic. I always want it to have one, yet often it fails to live up to the image that I have in my head. Usually it comes close enough. Not this week!

 

I think that this experience has confirmed the need to review my practice. I have a Master of Arts qualification but I do not feel like a master of anything … I have never ’mastered’ anything. Perhaps this a good starting point for the new studio …

 

 

* I am breaking my rule of only writing about positive things. It’s my rule and I can, and will, break it when necessary. Perhaps that rule needs a review too!


1 Comment

The question of where I fit has been rattling around again. Over the last few months various things have made me wonder about this – a rather wide range of things actually. I think that I survive (or at least get by) by fitting a little bit here and a little bit there. My fitting is a kind of composite: I fit a bit in the artist-led scene, I fit a bit in the public art scene, I fit a bit in the exhibiting artist scene, a bit in the part-time employed scene, and a bit in the small town scene, a bit in the city scene …

 

While I might be keeping afloat in all these different scenes I am singularly failing to make waves in any one of them. And it feels like time to make waves!

 

The new studio offers a good opportunity review, reflection and revision. It is dawning on me (better late than never) that favouring installation and second-hand materials is a ’hard fit’. Recently there has been a buzz of excitement around additional funding to buy in artworks for regional and national public collections. This is of course fantastic news and it would be great to one of the artists who makes it on to the short list. The trouble is that my work doesn’t really fit … and even if it does then it’s certainly not the ’fittest’.

 

This would not be a problem if the collections in questions didn’t do exactly what I what I would like my work to do: engage with audiences in range of public contexts. The open call makes clear that artistic quality is the highest priority in the selection process, however it is also quick to point out that as work will be placed in local and regional authority properties (schools, libraries, hospitals, town halls, etc) the materials, content, size, and durability of the artworks will also be taken in to account. I understand that even with the best will in the world it is difficult to justify buying a high-maintenance installation or a fragile object for such a collection.

 

It was truly educative to work with the public arts department in Uppsala on the LGBTQ project. I got to see and hear first hand how so many ’secondary’ factors influence which artworks are purchased. The primary factor is always of course the artistic quality, and that is something which lies entirely with the artist, and which those responsible for new acquisitions easily recognise. It is those secondary factors that are intriguing. Of course the secondary factors must complement the primary one … but is that just ’luck’ or can an artist take those things into consideration without compromising their artistic expression and freedom?

 

Thinking about it, I often make work that actively rejects one or more of the criteria that would make inclusion in such collections viable, yet at the same time I maintain that I want to be in those collections. Something has to give! And I am pretty sure that it has to be me! This is not to say that I cannot still make my installations, however I should not expect them to be snapped up. What I need to do is find my equivalent of Jean-Claud and Christo’s drawings – artworks in their own right that fullfil other functions, and an ’easy fit’ while also enabling larger more esoteric works to gather support and interest.

 

I have the opportunity to take a step in that direction coming up. My proposal for an exhibition-case work with the Mariposa butterflies has been accepted so I am going to be making a version that sits in a vitrine. The butterflies are still fashioned from old porn magazines so I am not saying it is going to be the sort of thing that a council is going to rush to buy, however it will allow me to see if work that I had imagined installed in a room can be re-imagined in a more modest scale and a more durable format.

 

 


0 Comments

 

It felt great to pick up the keys to my new (second!) studio yesterday evening. The room is going to get a coat of white paint before I move in – as if I need to emphasis the difference between studio A: Enköping with it’s institutional pale blue walls and chocolate brown ceiling, and studio B: Uppsala soon to be bright and white! Just feeling that it is worth decorating makes me realise how much more seriously I can take the Uppsala studio. For some reason, that no-one knows or understands, we are not allowed to paint the terrible lino floor. I am going to see what affordable flooring options I can find. Just as I was about to leave I met a photographer who has just moved in to her studio a little further along the building. She invited me to see what a difference painting the walls makes. It was incredible! She has painted hers a neutral grey and is going to put down an inexpensive fake(!) ’laminate floor’.

The two times that I have seen the studio have been in the evening, I am interested to see it in daylight. The existing light fixtures will be fine once I have adjusted the height and I am probably going to replace the florescent tubes with ’daylight’ tubes. There is also a section of suspended ceiling that demands further investigation. It might cover ducting or other necessary services, it might however have been installed for acoustic reasons. It is unattractive but definitely not the worst thing that I have ever seen. It might be interesting to take it down, or even to take it on as something to work with.

From tapping them with my knuckles I suspect that one of the long walls is plasterboard and the other is brick or concrete. Shelves, if there are to be any, will be put on the ’stone’ wall as it is far better to keep the more easily pierced one free from permanent fixtures. I know myself well enough to know that I will put up some shelves … but not too many as I do not want this studio to become too cluttered – I want to have space to see what I am working on. Obviously I need storage for materials and tools.

I also know that I like to fill space so if keep the studio as clear and clean as possible I will probably find myself making art to fill the emptiness.

I want to studio to be a social space. I want to be able to invite people for lunch or dinner there. This is important to me as I want to develop friendships with my peers and colleagues. There is no shortage of porcelain and glassware that I can spare at home, and a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to save six stackable school (?) chairs from being scrapped. What kind of table to have is more of a question: it needs to be something that is comfortable to work and eat at, I think it should be on lockable wheels … or perhaps collapsable.

It’s good fun to sit here and day dream about my ideal studio. Making it a professional and fun space is important. And I am sure that it will reward me …

 

I am very pleased and excited to be part of an active artistic community – it’s exactly what I have been looking for!


1 Comment

 

I have been playing a wee game this week – inspired by an announcement about an advanced research masters for artists and designers. It is very easy and very enjoyable, you simply read any academic call and say “making” instead of “writing”. Games with simple rules are often the trickiest, and I had to pay close attention so as not to miss a single “writing”. If it were a drinking game I would be pretty tipsy after just a paragraph! My game however created a wonderful sense of well-being and hopefulness. If only it were reality!
If anyone knows of a truly practice based advanced masters or PhD programme do let me know.*

 

My time in the studio this week has been spent making paper patterns for the ’shattered’ mirrors that will cover the placards that I am making for Tierp. I am enjoying the making and doing my best not to over think things. I am even trying not to over think how to secure the pieces. My meeting with Sten-Olaf at Möbeln was good and we have come up with what seems to be a workable solution. I am also pretty confident that we will be able to work something out even if our initial plan doesn’t work. If feels good to be dealing with real things again.

 

Having said that I have really enjoyed having a web-exhibition with MOCA London. And the responses to the show have been really good. It has been interesting to hear from a new, and international, audience. The whole experience has encouraged me to do something similar with Glitter Ball’s website and Instagram account. I have a few artists lined up and or in mind, and I am excited by the idea of being able to do things that would not be possible in the physical Glitter Ball space.

To see the web exhibition please visit MOCA London

 

The galleries at the artists’ club in Uppsala are re-opening. Obviously visitor numbers will be very limited but the majority of members want to get things going again. I am really not sure how I feel about it all. Although I too miss going to see exhibitions it still feels as though we should not be encouraging people in to the city centre. Uppsala remains one of the counties with special measures – which since Friday include not leaving (or entering) the county nor anything but essential travel within it. Under normal circumstances I would argue that art is essential but these are not normal circumstances and I tie myself in knots thinking about these kinds of things. I have been very grateful to have the studio to go to, I am not sure how I would be coping with just being home. And I have to admit that I find myself looking at what’s going on in other artists’ spaces more than I have done in the past. Last week I worked two half days not at the office but in the old courthouse building where ’my’ material store is. Having my hands on, and in, all that stuff made me realise how much I am missing doing practical workshops. I have agreed to do an outdoor children’s workshop for the artists’ club in early May – though I have no idea what I will do for that!

 

I popped to the studio briefly this afternoon to take photographs of two other shirt and tie pieces. Next week I am submitting them to a catalogue of contemporary art for regional and local councils. The councils have received financial aid to make additional purchases for their public art collections. It is a way of supporting artists during the pandemic. I am rather nervous about doing it but I am going to do it anyway. It would be fantastic if someone buys my work, and it would really mean a lot to me if it were a council. It would mean that the work gets shown in public venues. And being in a public collection in Sweden means a huge amount to me personally – in my mind it would really put me on the map of the Swedish art world. I love the idea that something that I spent time making would by chosen by someone working with public art and that it would a new home in their collection. Fingers crossed and thumbs held (as the swedes say)!

 

 

*I am just curious I have no intention of applying for any courses at the moment.  I am enjoying what I am doing far too much to stop right now!


1 Comment