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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Supermarket
My head is spinning with so many thoughts … thoughts that are closely related to being at the fair, and those that have a less direct connection but have been sparkled by something that I have seen, heard, or found myself talking about. I am well and truly overstimulated!

What to do with all these thoughts? How to keep them live? How to give them time and space? How to understand which (if not all) have substance?

Something that runs through, or perhaps is a foundation to, my thoughts just how ’at home’ I feel at the fair. I am very conscious of how important the artist-run scene is to me, and how strongly I believe in its role. Half jokingly and half seriously I suggested to another artist that artists who show (t)here five times should get a PhD. The truth in my suggestion is that what is on show at Supermarket is genuinely research. What I see and experience at the fair is artists doing what they have to do – finding news ways of making and communicating – without the imposition of academic/institutional/commercial conditions. I may not ’like’ everything that I see but I admire, applaud, and will defend every artists’ right to do it and keep doing it. It is vital that there is space for artists to get feedback from their peers, to articulate concerns in ways and means that make sense to, and belong to, their own sphere(s) of activity and engagement. It might be called a fair but I think its sole is an exposition.

 

 

exposition
/ɛkspəˈzɪʃ(ə)n/

noun
noun: exposition; plural noun: expositions

1. 
a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory.

“a systematic exposition of the idea of biodiversity”

Similar: explanation, description, elucidation, explication, interpretation, illustration, account, commentary, study, article, essay, thesis, paper, treatise, dissertation, disquisition, critique, criticism, appraisal, assessment, discussion, discourse, exegesis

Music
 the part of a movement, especially in sonata form, in which the principal themes are first presented.

2. a large public exhibition of art or trade goods.

“the exposition will feature exhibits by 165 companies”

Similar: exhibition, fair, trade fair, display, show, presentation, demonstration, exhibit, expo

3. 
archaic
 the action of making something public.

“the country squires dreaded the exposition of their rustic conversation”

Origin: latin; exponere – exposito – exposition

Middle English: from Latin expositio(n- ), from the verb exponere ‘expose, publish, explain’.

 


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Yesterday over lunch in the little (half) kitchen beside the studio Mireia said something that set me thinking: you work with layers.

 

As I sat here sewing, as I was driving home last night, as I made dinner, as I washed up after breakfast this morning, and throughout the day I have been thinking about that seemingly simple statement: you work with layers.

 

Layers is not a word that I would have come up myself but it feels so appropriate. Layers are exactly what I work with – sometimes literally but nearly always conceptually. I like the imagery that comes with the word – bethat layers of clothing, geological layers … even the layers of an onion.

 

When I make and talk about my work there is layer after layer. Each one having its distinct and separate character. The physical layers might be sequential, the theoretical ones not necessarily. The talking could easily be as much a stripping away of layers as it could be a building up of them.

 

As I sit here now I am struck by Mireia’s choice of preposition: with. I look up a brief definition of ’with’ – accompanied by. A shiver runs down my spine. This too seems to be so appropriate – the layers, especially those layers of meaning, are things that accompany me. I like the immediacy and proximity of ’with’ … there’s a closeness almsot an intimacy. ’With’ even suggests something collaborative. I have described my practice as a collaboration with materials. There is something both active and open about ’with’.

 

While I am in this vein – the verb: work. It’s activeness, it’s physicalness, it’s everydayness all appeal to me.

 

In its entirety Mireia’s short phrase captures the essence of what I do. It is both specific and open for interpretation. For the moment at least it feels as though it is the sentence that I have been longing for – the simple definitive statement that describes what I do without either complication or reduction.

Thank you Mireia!

 

I work with layers.

 

 


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Starting to think about the presentation that I have to make next week for a short course (can two half days really be called a ’course’ at all?). I do not know where to start, this morning while washing up after breakfast my mind flitted between different styles of presentation, different starting points, different focuses … as I said I really do not know where to start.

 

This feels uncomfortably familiar, and I am sure that the intention with the instruction to prepare such a presentation is exactly to wake these feelings in those of us who do not have a clear vision of who we are or what we do.

 

What is the intention with this presentation? Is it to present ourselves to the course leaders and other artists/participants? Or is it an exercise in how to present oneself to a prospective commissioner – the course is about how to apply for public commissions. Am I over thinking things? Should I have one way of presenting myself no matter the audience?

 

I am pretty sure that I am over thinking things – that is what I do. And I would really like to change that. Over think and overload … those two have a symbiotic relationship – one leads to the other in a viscous circle. Maybe it is time to empty out things … by which I mean empty my mind and my work. Empty out all the thoughts and ideas – all those ’learned’ things. If I empty my work then the audience has the opportunity … the invitation … to if not entirely fill it then to at least contribute to the filling of it.

 

Do I have the courage to do ’what feels right’? I think that the overloading has to do with justifying and accounting … explaining … piling things on to and in to artworks that should stand on their own. And if they don’t stand on their own then something is not right with the artwork rather than not being right with the account, or the justification, or the explanation. An artwork should work as art and not as an illustration of ideas.

 

Perhaps in my desperation I overload things in the vain hope that the more things that there are the greater the chance that one of them appeals to someone … trying to be all things to all people. What this seems to result in however are very overloaded works and a fractured self.

 

Despite being quick to reassure other people that things are far more complex than simply being right or wrong I find myself worrying that I will do the wrong kind of presentation. That said I shall re-read the mail about the presentation, and then I shall trust my intuition and make the presentation that I want to make. One that hopefully is not so overloaded that it stifles and suffocates the audience, rather one that excites and intrigues them.

 

Let the crazy out and let the light in!

 

 


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It struck me the other day that I currently share a certain characteristic with vampires – I have no reflection.

’That’s silly and a really bad pun’ I told myself almost immediately that the thought crossed my mind. But the idea stayed with me and over the following days it deepened. Life without reflection is sort of soul-less. I rush from one thing to the next without time for reflection and somehow even things that are good and enjoyable quickly diminish and fade to something dull, grey, limp, and lifeless.

Unlike a vampire I can do something about this lack of reflection. And that is exactly what I intend to do!

 


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Yesterday I had really interesting conversations with three visitors at the show/live work. Not having had the time to write (nor even reflect!) since coming in the gallery last Wednesday I feel as though I am ’out of order’ – I want to think about what is happening in the gallery but have not yet processed things that happened before that.

The last week or so has been an important reminder of the importance of giving myself time and space between things. This is something that is much lacking in my current schedule, and which certainly was not helped by being completely wiped out by Covid for a few days – and even once I was over the worst of it (a feeling of complete physical and mental exhaustion) I remained tired and unable to focus for another ten days.

I was also reminded that filling my schedule to capacity makes it very difficult to deal to with unexpected additional demands, challenges, and events. Just as I was starting to feel better and able to do more than lie on the sofa watching old films came the news that there had been a series (!) of break-ins at the studios in Uppsala. My studio was broken into over Saturday night and Sunday morning. If I had not been in quarantine because of the positive Covid test result I could have gone over to assess the situation on Sunday afternoon. As it was a colleague let me know that an empty camera bag was lying on the floor. I (correctly) guessed that my rather expensive cordless drill had also been taken. My quarantine period was over on Tuesday which was fortunate as that afternoon I was covering a children’s workshop for an artist friend who was also in Covid quarantine. The workshop was in Uppsala so I planned to go past the studio on the way there. Just as I was setting off I received the message that the studios had been broken in to again on Monday night, and that the police were on their way to carry out another ’technical investigation’. I arrived at the studio to find, and join, a small group of artists in another part of the building where they were waiting for the police to conclude their investigations before being allowed in the studios. The police investigation was not over by the time that I had to leave to do the workshop. Wednesday morning I had a meeting at the gallery which I had to attend, and in the afternoon I had my first workshop with another group. So it was not until Thursday morning that I had time to go the studio and see what state it was in. Fortunately the thieves had not done more than take the camera and drill, there was a little evidence that they had gone through a stack of boxes containing materials but nothing was damaged. I guess I might find that other things were taken.

The break in of course produced reams of messages and emails all of which had to read if not reacted to. There was an online ’house meeting’ – which I have to say seemed somewhat surreal in my post-infection state of tiredness. The studios are in two distinct corridors, the one that was broken in to was the north corridor, for some reason sitting at home in my dressing gown listening to remote animated discussions about ’securing the northern corridor’ evoked images of early polar expeditions and historic military manoeuvres (first World War? Crimean?).

By Friday evening the materials that I wanted to have for Transformer were mostly in place at the gallery. However the week had been so unexpectedly hectic and chaotic that I while I was looking forward to starting the ’live work’ I was very aware that I was not really prepared for it.

To be honest Saturday and Sunday are a bit of a blur. There was so much to think about in practical terms of literally opening the gallery – putting out the signs about social distancing, making tea and coffee (chosen in preference to wine as this was not a ’vernissage’), mopping the uselessly pale floor (again), remembering to check the toilets – that when the first visitors arrived exactly as we opened I had not had time to think about how I was going to present (introduce?) what I was doing.

Looking back now I realise that, even if I had not been tired, I took on way too much. The anxiety that I was feeling all week was not good. Of course a little nervousness is to be expected before a show but what I experienced was very almost overwhelming. I do not think that this is the first time that I am reminding myself that I can not operate at two or three hundred percent capacity. Or rather, if I do then the operations are neither particularly successful nor enjoyable.

The question that I need to seriously and honestly answer is why do I behave like this.

 

There is  a quote attributed to both Mae West and Liberace on the lines of ‘too much of a good thing is wonderful’.  This might be true, however the same might not be said of too much of too many good things!

 


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