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

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Writing the application for a two-year artist’s award – fantastic that such things exist here in Sweden – was a great process. Needless to say if I get it I will be over the moon. My proposal is for tailor-made mentoring, something that I feel will enable me to really engage with the Swedish art scene. I want time with someone who can give advice and guidance once that have gotten to know me and my practice. In my mind it’s the kind of support that is provided by good tutoring at art school. The word ’appropriate’ kept cropping up in my writing, and while acting appropriately at first seemed conventional and the antithesis of radical I allowed myself the word and through the writing I came to realise that being unconventional and being radical might well be appropriate. The thing is that I want and need to know what is appropriate for me, and as I still do not know the extent of the Swedish art world some tutelage would be very welcome.

It would be wonderful to work with an arts professional and draw out which aspects of my work are appropriate where, similarly to hone in how I might construct my own contexts for my practice. The potential is very exciting. So exciting in fact that regardless of whether I get the award or not I want to find ways to do many of the practical things that I included: studio visits with other artists, meeting curators and gallerists. Being mentored would (I imagine) super-charge these processes – the mentor knowing where best to point me, giving me a good pep talk before I set off, and making sure that I follow-up and stay focused.

 

Whilst full of enthusiasm and doing my best to be honest with my artist self I have gotten around to doing some things that have been on my mind for a while … one thing has been lolling about for at least three years. Making that application, and in doing so admitting to myself that I think that I am worth two years of support and funding, has in an unexpected turn encouraged me to become more the kind of artist whom I imagine receives such awards. That is to say one who commits to their practice and gets on with it.

 

I also spoke with Klas about re-arranging the two studio spaces that we have shared for past eighteen months. We are now well on our way to having one space each. As what will be my studio is revealed I can accept the compromise that Klas and Ola need to access their studios via mine. The space is big and square with three good windows, with the addition of a few shelves it should be very welcoming and workable It is definitely a step in the right direction. The new arrangement makes it far easier for me to try hanging things – and not just on the wall but even from the ceiling. This is going to be great in planning the show for Uppsala. Even though we are not yet finished with the move I feel that I will more willingly invite people in to the studio – the arrangement seems more serious which actually enables me to be more playful … in a professional way!

 

 


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This afternoon I listened to Cajsa von Zeipel’s Summer Show from 2018. Cajsa is a young swedish artist now living and working in New York, the summer show a swedish radio tradition stretching back many years where ’significant’ people are invited to talk about their lives and select accompanying music … kind of like Desert Island Discs without the interviewer (or the Bible, or the works of Shakespeare, or the luxury item).

One of Cajsa’s sculptures caught the attention of the LGBT+ youth group that I am working with in Uppsala. The piece is a recent acquisition at Uppsala Art Museum and while sending some more information about the artist to the group I came across her radio show.

 

It was fascinating to hear her speak of her time at art school in Stockholm and the New York art scene. Two things really stuck with me: first her tutor telling her that the studio was her universe, and second Cajsa’s resistance to the ’what’s this about then?’ question. The two things got me thinking about my own practice and ways of being, and as a result:

  • I am going to (re)claim my studio as my universe.
  • I am going to stop asking myself ’what’s this about then?’

 

Somehow both of these things remind me that I want my own (not shared) studio. They also raise the familiar theme of my being overly concerned about explaining and justifying my work rather than just doing it and letting it be.

Sometimes is feels as though there is a part of my mind that I would like to / need to switch off – that overly analytical critical bit that demands reason and logic where none should be sought. This is a recurring theme for me and one that I know that I have mentioned before. I really do need find a way to over come it, or is that ’to come over it’ …

Whatever it is I want to stop stopping myself from being the artist that I know that I am. I want to trust myself … I guess that I have to be comfortable taking risks … I guess that I have to be comfortable being honest* … and now I am back with some of Cajsa’s words – it’s not the cleverest artists who are successful but those who are the most honest.

 

* honest with myself about what I do and why!


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There was a feature on the radio about new film celebrating the life and achievements of education reformer Anna Whitlock. Listening while making breakfast my mind wandered to who I might make film about … Eugène Jansson of course! I vaguely remembered someone once mentioning an old documentary about him so I turned to the internet to see if I could find it. I could not find the film but for some reason the search picked up the 1983 sale of Ring Gymnast Nr 2  (1912). The work was purchased by the Detroit Institute of Arts.

 

Detroit? … It struck me as an odd coincidence that less than a week after speaking with artists from Detroit Stockholm, that Detroit would be ringing in my ears again. The Detroit Institute of Arts seems to be one of the few museums outside of Sweden to have a work by Jansson in their collection. If I am successful in getting a show at Detroit Stockholm one of the pieces that I imagine showing will be a development of Eugène’s rings (2019) that I am currently working on for the Uppsala show (January 2021).

I have never seriously considered making a film before, however the idea of making one about Eugène Jansson is very appealing. It would be beautiful with both his earlier blue nocturnal landscapes and the later athletes training and modelling in his studio. Add the twinkling water of the navy bath-house, dinners and maskerade parties at Thiels’ villa, the 1912 Olympics games, Eugène’s flair for dandyism and his relationship with Knut and it could be a sumptuous piece of cinema. Thinking about it makes me want to re-watch Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio.

 

Glitter Ball’s first project – the open call Wish You Were Here! digital postcard show is up and running. I really like the range of images and I am intrigued to find out more about the artists who I do not already know. Some of the ’new’ artists (most of whom come from the UK) I guess found the announcement here on a-.co.uk which reminds me that I must put up a listing for the show here too. With physical shows at the showroom simply not viable with the current social distancing guidelines this online exhibition goes further than I had imagined in achieving my ambitions with Glitter Ball. Within hours of letting the participants know that the show was up I was receiving emails saying how excited and pleased they were to be involved and how interesting they found each other’s work. One of the artist/curators almost immediately expressed an interest in another artist’s work – it is wonderful to think that something might come out of that!

 

At the Superlocal meetings last weekend questions of audience were raised. A successful and well regarded artist/curator said that she focusses on other artists as her audience and to do anything else would be a hiding to nothing (I am paraphrasing). She made a valid point, and one that is often shied away from. Artists are a valid and important audience for artists. Why do we too often feel so bad about admitting that we want to engage with our peers? No one expects a sportsperson or team to ignore their peers and only focus on what the spectator want to see. Rather the spectator is welcomed in to see what the person or team does in the context of their peers. Admittedly the analogy is perhaps at best a stretch so I’ll pause it there. The point is that interesting and inspiring things happen when peers get together. And in some small way that seems to be what Wish You Were Here! has done. Through the project I have caught up with old friends and met new faces, all of whom (indirectly) encourage me to keep doing what I am doing both in terms of Glitter Ball and my own practice.

 

 

Note to self: stop resenting the time it takes to sort, tidy, clean, and maintain the studio. It is all part of what being an artist is and it is counterproductive to think that it could be otherwise. Not to say that it is not frustrating to spend precious studio hours doing something other than making art. However that is how it is, and without those hours the studio would soon sink into chaos. If I really want more making time at the studio perhaps I had best look at how I spend my time outside of the studio! Where do I fritter away time and energy that might be spent making? Recently I have been wondering what kind of artist do I want to be. Or to put it another way: I have been wondering if knowing what I am doing and why might be beneficial. I think it would be good to know what my principal aim is. Hard though it may be to choose just one I am sure that it would reap rewards. My principal aim will never be my sole activity, it would (should?) however be my guiding line. For too long I have had too many simultaneous aims vying for my attention, this of course makes it difficult to assess the relevance of ideas and opportunities, and thus I say yes to too many things resulting in me achieving a little of everything but nothing of significance. My principal aim has to be specific and measurable. My homework is to identify and commit to one aim. That should enable me to put other activities and ideas into context.


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Art-Shots is a staple of Supermarket art fair. Based in a kind of pecha kucha format galleries/initiatives have ten minutes to present themselves in front of ten images (each lasting one minute). First up yesterday as Detroit Stockholm where 25 artists have their studios as well as running a gallery. They have been Supermarket regulars for a good few years – I remember reading their catalogue text and seeing their booth in the days when the fair was at the Culture House in central Stockholm. It was good to hear how they have developed, and it was particularly interesting to hear that they are open for exhibition proposals from artists outside of their own organisation.

Thinking that it could be a good venue for me I introduced myself and began chatting with Åsa. Our conversation had a very unexpected turn – Åsa knows an artist, called Stina, who has recently moved to Enköping and who is looking for other artists! Stina is already thinking of running a monthly ’Drink and Draw’ evening at the town’s arty/alternative café. It sounds great and I am definitely interested to find out more not only about that idea but also about another artist in Enköping who wants to get things going!

I am really enjoying the depth of exchange that this year’s local art fair allows. It is definitely a case of quality over quantity for me!


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It’s (not) that time of the year again … but it is Supermarket Independent Art Fair … well kind of! With the fair originally scheduled only a few weeks after the outbreak of the coronavirus in northern Europe it was obvious that it could not go ahead. What we have now is SUPERLOCAL – a fair presenting thirteen artist-run initiatives in Stockholm.

 

Superlocal opened yesterday and it was great meet up in person with the rest of the Supermarket team. They really are a fantastic, lovely and loving bunch of artists and curators who are truly passionate about the artist-run scene. Between the day’s programme of events, talks, performances and openings, and the evenings (corona adapted) party Alice, one of the three fair directors and the magazine editor, took time to ask me how my first proper day as the Meetings coordinator had been. It was somewhat tricky to answer as there has been very poor (virtually no) interest in the meetings programme from the participating initiatives – so my day was easy but not nice as I wondered what had gone wrong … and what to do about it.

After speaking briefly with Alice about the situation she was quick to reassure that I had the backing and support of the whole team – that was so nice to hear! It would be too easy for me to think that in taking over a usually successful programme that I had perhaps missed something vital. Chatting with Alice and others from the team who are well experienced in working with the fair I began to see that certain aspects were simply harder to reconfigure for our local version.

The next big question (for us) is what we plan for 2021. With the fair usually happening in April and evaluation shortly after, planning for the coming year is usually already underway by September. That schedule was redundant long ago. The challenge now is to plan for unknown! Is an international event viable in April 2021? Even if current travel restrictions and regulations are lifted will (often self funded) artists have the resources to participate? It is too early to tell but I an email that I received from an artist friend in London yesterday morning did little to reassure me that things will be ’back to normal’ in any time soon.

The friend in question had just had a phone conversation with the recently un-furloughed education officer at a major London arts institution. It was basically a ’thank you and goodbye’ call. My friend has been an artist/educator on various programmes at the gallery for over twenty years, however there are now no plans for education activities for the future – foreseeable or otherwise.

This afternoon I should be leading a meeting about what we (artists) have learnt during the pandemic. My friend’s situation reminds me that we can’t take anything for granted. This then begs the question can we turn this situation to our advantage. Or if not exactly to our advantage how can we make the best of the situation, what can make this an opportunity rather than a threat. Could we see a reinvigorated version of the 80s Enterprise Allowance scheme?

I am incredibly grateful for my half-time job with the council. I am now planning some outdoor art workshops for children in October – it is really nice to think that soon I will running real workshops again.


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