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 also work as cultural pedagog for the council.  Whenever I can I continue as assistant to Scandinavia’s only plume-maker with fantastic creations for theaters and private clients!

Your comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated – thank you

www.stuartmayes.com

#stuartmayesstudio on Instagram


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Today a group from the studio met up and threw out a lot of scrap that has been shuffled around since we moved in to the old gymnastic hall. It felt very good to get rid of debris and rubbish left by the builders who began the aborted renovations years before we took over. Of course we added to the pile of assorted broken plasterboard, twisted metal, discarded timber, broken tiles and general rubbish when we took down some very curiously positioned partitian walls. A clean(er) slate for the new year! We are now an official association (registered with the tax authorities in December – a vital step in Sweden) and it was great that it’s no longer just Klas and me doing things. It felt like real and serious progress (things move slowly here in Sweden and extra slowly here in Enköping).

In early February Klas, Ida and I have a meeting with the council about the future of the studios now that they own the building again (having bought it back from the housing department). Hopefully we can secure some kind of longer term agreement. We are going to propose a public programme and even access to the shared workshop areas in return for their committed support. Personally I would also like to see the gallery move in to the former gymnastic hall on the floor above us. The space provides far better exhibition opportunities than the gallery’s current location and it would be fantastic to have studios and gallery in the same building. I although from sitting on the gallery committee I am pretty sure that I am the only one there who would be in favour of such a radical move.

 

I am looking forward to getting to the studio and starting to play with some ideas and materials. A few days work with Tim making (or rather re-making) some fantastic outfits for a major industry staff party (how the other half live!) has inspired me and reminded me how much I love making. The part few months I worked almost full-time with a mix of guided tours for school and project planning meetings, while I enjoy these things they don’t provide the same joy and excitement as working hands on with materials.

For environmental and geographical reasons I feel that my time of working with glitter is limited. I have found a manufacturer of a ’bio-glitter’ that looks very similar to the very non-bio glitter that I currently use, however they are UK based so if things go according to Johnson’s timetable I have at the most one year to get supplies from them. My work with Tim, and a visit to another designer’s studio, has rekindled my interest in working with fabric. I already have some ideas for some sculptural installation pieces in fabric as well as some sketches for other textile works … something to develop for the group show this summer … ???

 

In the meantime it’s almost time to start proof-reading for the artists’ initiatives’ art fair catalogue and magazine. This year I want to keep this task in balance with time at the studio.

2020 is going to be a good year – I have decided!

 

 

*Swedes have a lovely phrase ‘God fortsättning’ which tranlsates as Good continuation.  It is said at this time of year to friends and colleagues and wishes them the continuation of the good will, peace and joy that they have (hopefully) experienced over Christmas.


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What kind of year has 2019 been for you?

It has been a bit of a roller-coaster year! For the most it has been positive and moving upward but there have certainly also been some scary and sudden drops too. This time last year I was preparing to show in Uppsala’s Art Cube which was exciting and daunting in equal measure. The show M: meeting place opened in late February and was well received – a huge relief!
At the same time I was (still) waiting to hear about my application for Swedish citizenship. It too the immigration office over two and half years to process my application (their initial estimate was three months). With the UK poised to leave the Eu on March 29 I was getting anxious. Not having Swedish, or European, nationality makes being self-employed impossible here, so it would effectively stop me from being a professional artist.
Thankfully I was granted citizenship on January 18, and received confirmation of this on February 6. I cried with relief.
Watching the torturous process of Britian exiting the EU has been painful. I so wanted everything after June 23 2016 to have been nothing more than a bad dream.
As the year ends I can see that I have become much more professionally established here with invitations to join a regional arts management committee as well as a couple of good group shows. I have also been given a permanent contract as Arts Education Officer with my local council (a half time post – I am always quick to assert)!

 

What has changed for the better, and what if anything has changed for the worse?

My identity has changed for the better! I now have dual citizenship which means that I can continue to live and work in both Sweden and the UK should I choose to. This along with a regular income gives me a far better sense of security. This in turns affords me a greater sense of freedom in my practice.
On a very mundane level my website has changed for the better. What started as preparations for not ’buying goods or services’ from a post-EU UK resulted in a more engaging and easily maintained website.
Do I need to say that British politics has changed for the worse?

 

What would you wished had happened this year but didn’t?

I wish that the Labour Party had gotten its act together.
I wish that I had remembered the deadline for submitting to the Spring Exhibition.
I wish that I had fallen in love.
I wish that I had made more time for blogging.

 

What would you characterise as your major achievement this year and why?

My major achievement this year was having some professional fun! It is far too easy for me to make things far too serious and in doing so I can stifle my own creativity and other people’s enjoyment. In the shadows of local, national and international challenges it has been a major achievement to find and maintain a lightness of touch and a sense of wonder when I could all to easily have slipped into the melancholy or even worse the sentimental. Though occasionally tough remembering to keep things pleasurable has become self-fulfilling and I am receiving positively glowing feedback for both my practice and my employment. This encourages me to trust my instincts and judgements, and strengthens my conviction that art provides ever more essential ways of thinking and being.

 

Is there anything that you’d like to have done this year but didn’t?

I would have liked to have summoned up the courage to approach some commercial galleries. I would have liked to have seen more exhibitions.

 

What would make 2020 a better year than 2019?

Securing a long term contract on the studio would be fantastic. It is frustrating that we could be asked to leave with no more than three months’ notice. I would like to freshen up the studio and build a proper kitchen but the constant threat of having to leave makes me reluctant to invest my time and money.
Giving myself more time to play at the studio would make 2020 a better year. I have a solo show in November and although I have pages of ideas and notes I would really like to develop new work through playing with materials.

2019 was a pretty good year so it feels as though any betterment in 2020 is going to be incremental rather than radical. There are endless fantastical things that would make the coming year better than the previous one from the personal to the political: being selected for a significant international arts prize; Britian and EU signing a common arts and culture agreement that protects, develops and extends artistic opportunities in the broadest senses; arts and culture receiving the same support and interest as is afforded to sports and business … artists being treated as valued and valuable members of communities …
There is work to be done, and 2020 is ready and waiting!

 


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An evening in Uppsala and an afternoon in Örebro have convinced me (not that I really needed convincing) that my future is in a city. At some point over the summer I started wondering if I should keep an eye opening for opportunities to move somewhere more vibrant. For quite a while I have had in mind that my older years would be in a city – somewhere where there are things to entertain, amuse, stimulate and challenge me in later life.

 

Why wait?

 

Enköping has been good for me up to this point, I would not be who or where I am now without having moved here and for that I shall always be grateful. However I see a big bold best-before date on the horizon and it is heading in towards me!

 

It was great to spend Friday evening with other members of the Uppsala Artists’ Club discussing ideas and visions for the future. The club will be relocating within the ’cultural complex’ that has been its home for countless years. The move is initiating discussions about new possibilities and ways of being. It felt so good to be amongst peers chatting about pros and cons of our various ideas and ambitions. For me it was also a fantastic opportunity to get to know at least a few of the members a bit better, we did not agree on everything and even some of the things that we agreed on broadly lead to more nuanced and diverse points of view. There was however an almost palpable energy and enthusiasm in the air. The club has a long and well respected history in the city and was interesting to hear about things that happened in the past. I realised that couching new visions in a well established trajectory is quite different from trying to whip up interest in a place with almost non-existent cultural intentions.

 

I believe passionately that culture should be accessible to all irrespective of where one lives, and that accessibility must include both the production and consumption of culture. This thinking underpins my work as the arts education officer here in Enköping. I do not want however to become a martyr to my cause which I fear might be how I start to feel if I do not do what is right for my own practice and artistic well-being. The conversations that Klas and I have on the rare occasions when we are in the studio at the same time barely sustain me over the weeks when we do not happen upon each other.

 

At the moment the possibility of moving to Uppsala is hypothetical. It would depend on my getting a permanent post with the council and be approved for a modest mortgage. Time is of the essence: the proportion of working years ahead of me decreases significantly with every passing year and I am aware that there will come a point where I will simply not get a mortgage; a permanent post is not guarantee against redundancy and every year the council seems to see the cultural departments as appropriate places to make a good deal of savings; as Stockholm becomes less and less affordable it seems inevitable that property prices in an already desirable city within commuting distance will only increase exponentially.

 

So as the ink dries on that permanent contract that I hope is on its way I shall be making an appointment with my bank and doing the decorating that I should have done before I moved in to this apartment.

Autumn evenings of ’property-porn’ are looking very appealing!

 


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Tomorrow Husets Kropp (The Building’s Body) opens. The building is called Källör and is in the small costal resort of Östhammar, it was built in 1885 as a complement to the hot and cold bathing houses and the English park that already existed. It was the place for summer visitors to hold parties, dances and other social activities. From the 1920s it served as a school during the winter months eventually becoming a school the year around until 2005 when it was abandoned. In 2012 a local group convinced the council to let them take it over rather than it be demolished. This very active group of local people are gradually restoring the building to its former glory, and at the same time they are hiring it out for events, parties, weddings and now an art exhibition.

 

I mention this because my piece refers to the history, well the more recent history. Amongst the old black and white photographs of early visitors and the royal visit in 1907 that are dotted about the building I spotted a much more modern though still rather ’dated’ looking colour photo. It looked to be from the 1980s and showed the interior  when a nursery school used the premises. This image stuck with me and after working through several other ideas it suddenly struck me what I should do.

A couple of years ago someone gave me two large boxes of children’s films on vhs video tape. They had seen photographs of Play and thought of me when they came across the stash of videos during a clearing out a store room in the school where he works. The boxes have been taking up space in my studio since then as I did not immediately know what to do with them. I like to have a reason or justification for my choice of material, and children’s films were always going to take a while to work with – to work out what to do with.

So my work in the show is an installation made with the magnetic tape from those video films in the room where the photograph was taken in the 1980s. I like the circularity of films from a school being used in another building that had been a school. I like that the photograph that stuck with me was from the 1980s – the height of videos popularity. I like that film itself is not visible on the tape but it is there, in a similar way to the history of the school being there but also not being visible.

 

The form of the installation is a little maze-like, people are invited to walk through it. By doing so they will experience different aspects of how the piece hangs in the space. There are places where the visitor will be surrounded by the tapes, places where they will glimpse the sea outside the building, and places where they will catch sight of works by other artists in the adjacent room.

The material is black and glossy, it shimmers in the light. It is highly reflective, and can make patterns that simulate bight sun falling on rippling water. Standing where I can see both the installation and the water just beyond the windows I start to think about how the inner and outer landscapes complement each other: the sea’s horizontal ripples matched by the tapes vertical fluttering, the dark of the magnetic bands balancing the pale tones of the water.

Over six months have passed since our first site visit to Källör. Back in February it was bitterly cold and the ground was covered in snow. Wednesday was a brilliant and warm summer’s day and we enjoyed lunch outdoors in the cool shade of the building. I am very pleased with how my piece, ’Lek’ (Swedish for play), looks. Tomorrow I will find out if other people like it.

 

 

 

 


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Listened to final installment of Derek Jarman‘s Modern Nature – Radio 4’s book of the (last) week.  I was struck by how it ‘just ended’ – no conclusion, no resolution, no signing off … but of course that is exactly how Jarman’s diaries ended.  A life cut short by a terrible illness – something that I recognise only too well.

 

I listened to the episode twice to make sure that I had not missed something – an editor’s postscript providing the date of Jarman’s death or something else that ‘closed the book’. Radio silence that followed Rupert Evert’s reading was so poignant, so moving – a truly brilliant piece of radio.

 

In those silent seconds I experienced surprise, shock, anger, disappointment, loss, and sadness.  Then came that warm sorrow that accompanies my thoughts of John, Vikki, James, Francois, Peter, Kathy, Jane.

 

The copy of Modern Nature that sits on my bookshelf was Vikki’s.  We visited Dungeness together, it was after Jarman had died.  It was, and hope still is, a special place.

 

I think that it might be a good time to watch Jarman’s film again.


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