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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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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Why glitter: a response (not least for Elena)

 

Elena’s comment on my previous blog and responses from the artists’ statement writing peer support group have promoted me to examine my attraction to, and use of, glitter. Here are pretty much spontaneous thoughts and ideas around my relationship to my material of choice:

It is a material of the dis-enfranchised – children, drag-artistes, the poor

Reflects fractured image/multitude of images, collects images and light indiscriminately.
Does not attempt to collate, order images/light rather allows/celebrates individual aspects while simultaneously being a single surface – multi-facetted – literally.

celebratory
ritual
distracts/attracts the eye
showy, flashy, brash, camp, cheap, aspirational, referential (jewels)

apes/mimics nature:
water
stars
snow/ice
mica/crystal
heaven/earth

macro/micro

Ingenuity to produces something such as glitter – history

Glitter is a material of the poor and disenfranchised, despite occasional appearances as a seasonal trend, an ironic trace of kitch or a knowing nod to camp, its permanent home is amongst children, drag-artistes, second-rate cabaret venues, amateur dramatic groups.

It is the stuff that speaks to aspirations of glamour and riches in nameless suburban housing estates. Purchased in modest quantities in limited colours from newsagents, and since their demise supermarket chains and discount warehouses offering look-a-like brands at a fraction of the price.

It is the stuff of the slightly more expensive bargain boxes of fifty assorted Christmas cards whose envelopes have the quality of newspaper.

It is the stuff primary school teachers bring out to spread delight on rainy autumn afternoons.

It is the stuff left behind with tattered feathers of boas the morning after the excitement of Pride and hen-parties.

It is the stuff of ambition
… of resourcefulness
… of stoicism
… of desperate resistance to greyness
It defies adversity
It offers affordable hope
It gives relief from the tedious and the mundane

 

Glitter is the stars in the gutter* – it collapses distance and offers immediate, if fleeting, comfort to those of us who are too often denied it.

 

*We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars – Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan.

 

[I wrote this post in early May but neglected to post it at the time as I was caught up in work, trips, and meetings … ]


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I am faced with a moral dilemma: glitter, my material of choice, is ethically (and environmentally) unsustainable.

 

Immanent glitter ban

 

I love glitter but have become increasingly aware that it is at odds with my commitment to recycling, my preference for organic food, my using environmentally friendly cleaning products, my sourcing as much as possible from charity and second-hand shops. Glitter has been my guilty pleasure.

Now though I wonder if I can continue using the wonderfully sparkly pvc glitter jewels that feature in so much or my recent work. While I enjoy the discussions provoked by various interpretations of my installations and sculptures – indeed the interactions between me, my materials, and the audience are the artwork – I do not want actively damaging the environmental to be part of the conversation.

A little research has shown that while the current bio-glitter is perfect for cosmetics and even baking it fails to replicate traditional glitter’s visual allure and qualities that are essential to what I do with it.

 

It seems my glittery days are numbered …

 

 

 

 


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