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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Ten days ago Roberto and I welcomed friends, colleagues, regular supporters and some new faces to That’s Why You Never Swallow Bubble Gum – Roberto’s wonderfully colourfully “absurd” exhibition installation at Glitter Ball showroom & projects.

 

To say that a lot has happened in those ten days is an understatement. The week that Roberto was here we watched the escalation of cases of, and responses to, the corona virus in Britain. When Roberto and I had lunch together on the Monday before his return flight to London we discussed that there was the possibility that he might be able to come back for the final weekend’s ’finishage’ as we had planned. Some friends of Roberto were unable to be at the opening so a closing afternoon with tea and cake seems like an enjoyable and easy alternative.

In less than a week from when Roberto arrived back in Peckham the whole of the Great Britain was living under severe restrictions of movement. Watching the week’s events unfold from a rather sleepy little Swedish town has only added to my inability to comprehend the situation.

Today the idea of a finishage is more absurd than almost anything that I could care to imagine. Even here in Enköping the impact of the virus is being felt more acutely. My regular Creative Saturday art workshop has be cancelled, so too has the Easter Holiday arts programme, work colleagues have had to cancel visiting theatre shows for hundreds of the county’s school children – an annual and much appreciated cultural event in the academic calendar. There are spates of intense emails among us committee members concerning upcoming exhibitions and events at town’s gallery. A different committee I sit on is wondering how we can keep paying the freelance arts workers some kind of salary despite their projects being postponed – paying them in advance simply shifts the problem forward rather than actually resolving it.

At some point during these ten days the three directors of Supermarket Independent Art Fair got in touch with the team of temporary staff and volunteers with the inevitable but still very sad and disappointing news that the fair which was due to happen in late April was being postponed to an as yet unspecified date in the autumn.

My immanent trip to the UK was cancelled – I should have been celebrating my mother’s 80th with her. The family get will now happen sometime late in the summer … later in the year? On the upside my mother has decided that it’s not too bad being 79 for a few months more.

So while a good deal of time seems to be passing by at an accelerated pace one or two things seem to be slowing down. Roberto’s show should have closed this coming Sunday, though now my time away cancelled and without a week at the art fair the show can be extended. I will not be mounting any more exhibitions at Glitter Ball this side of the summer break, which means that I can continue to offer private viewings (with respect for social distancing) of Roberto’s show for the foreseeable future.

Who knows it might even be that Roberto’s show will span the worst of the virus in both Britain and Sweden. He and his friends will be able to meet here, and we will have tea and cake at the showroom as we spend a pleasant afternoon pondering the perils of swallowing bubble gum …

 

 


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Roberto Ekholm’s show at Glitter Ball showroom & projects is up and looks fantastic!

 

Roberto arrived on Sunday evening and has been installing and promoting That’s Why You Never Swallow Bubble Gum all week. This morning he woke to find himself on the font page of one of the local newspapers with a full page article following.

It’s been great for me too. We have spent the week chatting, and it has been both enjoyable and educative listening to Roberto speaking about this show in particular and his practice generally. Comparisons between an artist’s life in the UK and in Sweden, as well as the even more specific almost comic comparison of London to Enköping, have regularly cropped up. One of the journalists was obviously delighted when Roberto only half jokingly said that as a London artist he was jealous of the studio that I have here in Enköping. I resisted the temptation to say that I am jealous of the artistic scene in which Roberto lives and works in south London. The discussions have  contributed to my ongoing wondering about moving to Uppsala. Are there ways in which I can have both affordable plentiful working space and feel part of a dynamic exciting art scene?

I am delighted to have been able to offer Roberto the opportunity to exhibit at Glitter Ball. As a curator he has invited me to show in London, Sweden, and Norway, and has shown consistent interest in my work since we got to know each other in 2009. We first met earlier when Michael Petry was curating the Royal Academy School Gallery in Hornsey (north London). I already knew Michael a little from having crashed a discussion he and a friend were having at Michael’s New Love exhibition (2007). The RA School shows became a regular event for John and me. The gallery was wheelchair accessible and the Sunday afternoon openings were always flowing with wine and a handsome crowd of London’s cultural gay world – amongst whom was Roberto Michael’s new assistant curator. Michael invited Roberto and me to participate in his Clifford Chance Pride exhibition 2009 and that is when Roberto and I got to know each other as artists. The following year I proposed the installation Play to Michael/MOCA London. In 2011 Roberto invited me to exhibit Play when he curated MOCA London’s show for the Supermarket art fair (Stockholm). He also included Play in his Immerse exhibition at KinoKino (Stavanger, Norway, 2016).

Roberto and I have developed a professional friendship over these eleven years. We have meet for lunches in both Stockholm and London, discussed our practices and projects as well as our personal lives, attended each other’s openings whenever feasible, kept up to date with and supported each other’s careers. With his years of experience as both an artist and curator working across Europe he was an obvious choice of interviewee when I wrote about the potential impact of Britain leaving the EU for last year’s Supermarket publication.

For all these reasons and the quality of his work it feels so right that he is here at Glitter Ball!

The show is important for Roberto in various ways too, despite being Swedish his artistic life has always been based in London. He studied at Goldsmith’s after having completed the contemporary dance education at Laban which was the reason that he moved to London. Over the week we has mentioned more than once that only now does it feel right to be showing in Sweden – 24 years after having left! Producing the show has significantly extended Roberto’s confidence as a sculptor, he has produced pieces himself as well as having worked with fabricators to make pieces in materials that include polished steel, cast latex, iron, photography, and sound. Cleverly the show works as both an installation and a series of distinct objects. Years of working on large touring group shows and in London’s commercial art world have furnished Roberto with the wisdom to see how different audience can appreciate his work. Each beautiful piece would appeal to any contemporary collector, seen as whole there is content for discussions ranging from the biographies we construct for ourselves to the desires and fears exercised on our bodies.

This evening Roberto is giving a presentation at Omnikvaraitet (Uppsala). In the light of the coronavirus his work (past and present) takes on a new urgency and relevance. It is the first time that I have organised a Glitter Ball event at another venue, I am excited to see how it goes!

 


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Klas’ opening at Glitter Ball was a great success. The show looks really good and Klas’ blend of technical skill, wit and intelligence gave visitors a lot to engage with. Klas is quick to find ways to speak with people about his work irrespective of their age or experience of contemporary practice. Visitors streamed in from the moment we opened, and the last actually came after we had ’officially’ closed. The first to arrive were an older couple who have recently moved to Enköping and are keen to get involved in the town’s cultural life. The man who turned up as we were closing heard about Glitter Ball from my boss at the council. He is a professional (commercial) photographer who has lived in the town for many years while working elsewhere and raising his family. Now he is interested in meeting other creatives and having somewhere to work in Enköping. These visitors bracketed a lively crowd of familiar faces — artists, friends, colleagues from work, and members of the arts association.  The local free paper, which gets delivered to every household on Friday or Saturday previewed the show which was fantastic — Klas’ neighbours came after reading the article! And a reporter from Enköping’s Post came to the opening, Monday’s edition of that paper had a full page feature about the show!  I am really pleased that Klas received such a great response.

It was really good to re-launch Glitter Ball after autumn’s hiatus. The afternoon reminded me how necessary Glitter Ball is for my own well being. And how seemingly disperate aspects of my practice support, sustain and develop one another. It also caused me to wonder about my recent enthusiasm for  moving to Uppsala which in many ways is the result of feeling alone and isolated in Enköping. An afternoon in the company of Klas, other artist friends and loyal Glitter Ball supporters put a different perspective on things! The hour that Klas and I spent chatting (about an exhibition for the intergration project that we are involved in) over a very late lunch was exactly the kind of wide ranging exchange and progression of ideas that I very much need.  I am fascinated how, despite our great differences, Klas and I share so many ambitions. The sum of us is far greater than our individual parts.

Glitter Ball’s spring 2020 season is well and truly launched. Roberto Ekholm’s show opens 14 March, April I will be at Supermarket —Stockholm Independent Art Fair, and May sees the first Glitter Ball project … more about that later!

Now though a change of scene, some bright light and warm air, a week of simple living in a different climate full of space for thinking ….

 

Klas’ show: When the ice neither breaks nor bears, continues through to Sunday 23 Februari at Glitter Ball showroom &projects, Krykogatan 1a, Enköping, Sweden.

[Fuerteventura: inspiration trip]


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As I start writing this Britain is still a member of the European Union, a member preparing to leave but a member no the less. I am listening to The World Tonight on Radio 4 and feeling quite hollow.

For reasons that I cannot explain I feel the need to stay up and be awake at the moment of leaving. I am here alone save two cats – I am still housing sitting in Uppsala. What does one do to mark something when one is alone? I have celebrated New Year on my own – I raised a glass of whisky, acknowledged friends and family with a nod towards things (the postcards, pictures, a vase and a candlestick about the kitchen) that remind me of them, and toasted an exciting year ahead. Tonight I feel far from home. I do not mean far from Britain – I am not one of those people who moves to another country and continues to speak of the land where I was born as ’home’ – I mean far from my home, my apartment in Enköping where I live and where there are treasured traces of people who are dear to me. Despite having lived here for over eight years my closest friends are stil in the UK (made possible not least by the internet, Skype and WhatsApp).

Perhaps I am feeling anxious. Anxious that as Britain develops in a new direction I might lose that closeness with my friends and family. Of course there are differences between Sweden and Britain but there are far more similarities. On a day to day level my UK friends and I live pretty similar lives at the moment. I wonder if this will continue, or whether increased ’divergence’ will create a rift between us. The more I get used to the employee-focused Swedish environment the less I will be able to grasp the realities of my friends in the creeping (stampeding?) British ’gig economy’. I will continue to be free to travel throughout Europe, trips to exhibitions in Germany, France, Belgium or Spain will be more attractive (for purely economic reasons) than those in Britain – my points of reference will begin to differ from those of my friends.

2 minutes to go. I am listening to the radio more than I am writing – I cannot listen to one thing and write another! Reports of regional celebrations, interviews with civil servants, predictions about what lies ahead.

12:00 Sweden, 11:00 United Kingdom, it’s done.

 

I am working tomorrow and should go to bed now but cannot quite bring myself to do it yet. Switching-off the computer, putting my teacup in the sink, cleaning my teeth, getting into bed and turning off the light are too concrete an end to a day, to an event, that I do not want to acknowledge. If I stay up, if I never go to sleep again, then I won’t wake up on the day when Britain is no longer European. It’s a childish notion and obviously foolish but it’s how I feel.

 


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Last week Project Me turned 13 – it is now a teenager. I don’t remember when I first starting thinking about how many years ago I began this blog, I know it was a good few years ago. It feels as though I have become more conscious of each passing year the less that I actually write it. Belated Happy Birthday wishes Project Me!

This time last year I was writing an article for the Supermarket Art Fair magazine about artists’ preparations for what seemed to be Britain’s immanent departure from the EU. One year on and I have just submitted an article to the same publication about my feelings as we fast approach the new and certain date. In many ways I remain as concerned about the future as I did last year – with one major difference, this year I have dual nationality so know that come what may I can continue to live and work in Sweden as well as other European countries.

I am curious about what will happen at 11pm on Friday evening – will it be fireworks and celebrations, protests and riots, quiet relief that it’s finally happening? Writing now I almost wish that I was going to be there, though I don’t know if I would want to be with friends and family in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Wiltshire or Devon. I am not part of any British community here so I’ve no-one to share the evening with. Will it be televised? Do I stay up late and watch the coverage? It feels so momentous and yet I have no idea of what I want to do. To go to bed and simply wake-up to a new order seems too passive and anti-climatic.

For the first time in a long time I do have plans for Saturday night … and they include dancing! As part of their Happymess (sic!) season the Haka artists’ group are having a party at Köttinspektionen. I am really looking forward to it, I know some other artists who are also going and as luck would have it I am house (and cat) sitting in Uppsala this week so I don’t have to worry about getting home afterwards – perfekt.

Ah yes Uppsala! The idea of moving here is still buzzing about my head. For many and varied reasons it is neither a quick nor a simple decision to make. On Sunday I looked at three flats that I could possibly afford (providing that the bank will give me a modest mortgage). They were very small. Could I really downsize to such a scale: live in a compact bed-sit? My entire life would change and I am not one hundred percent (or even seventy-five percent) certain that I want all of the changes. To be honest I want about fifty percent of the changes. I want a more stimulating and cultural environment, is that enough? Not only would a flat here be considerably smaller but probably any studio too. I would have to commute to work in Enköping three days a week and I already know that I am not a natural commuter. In Enköping it is no more than a ten minute cycle (which I do year round) from my home to the studio, the gym, and to work. Even if I were to find work in Uppsala it seems clear that the distances between the four major centers of my daily life would dramatically increase. Cycling back ’home’ (to my temporary residence) after a meeting yesterday evening it occurred to me that perhaps my initial approach – looking at flats – was a false start, a step in the wrong direction. What if I started to look for a studio here instead? Find a suitable studio could take some time as there only a few studio associations here and all have waiting lists. I neither want nor have the resources to take on a whole premises myself so investigating the group studio possibilities would be a good thing to do. If/when I find a studio perhaps thinking about my living/working would be easier. I could even have a studio here while still living in Enköping – for a while at least – especially if I could spend the odd night at the studio!

  • Other options:
    Get known as a willing house/cat/dog sitter here in Uppsala
    Slowly build up a social and cultural life here before making any snap decision
    Sublet my flat and rent something here

 

I have a lot of other things going on at the moment and wondering about moving and all that that entails is probably a bit of a displacement activity from more the pressing, but less fanciful, things that I have to get done such as my Swedish VAT return and decorating the bedroom. I’ve also got proof-reading for Supermarket to do and the first 2020 show at Glitter Ball to put on!

This really is no time for daydreaming Stuart! Give Klas a great Glitter Ball experience and (proof) read a few short texts each evening! It’s only a number of days before I have a week away for some very much needed sun – that’s when I can take it easy and fantasise about the future!

 

http://glitterball.se/showroom/index.html
http://kottinspektionen.org/
https://www.supermarketartfair.com/


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