Stockholm scene(s)

It’s nearly 7.30, and the end of January. Time passes very quickly.

Today: I noticed that it’s three years since I started this blog. It’s been an incredible three years – in lots of ways! In the last week, or so, I’ve been thinking about everything that has happened in the last year. These thoughts have been triggered by my re-involvement with wip:sthlm. I have been invited to contribute to their representation at Supermarket 2010. This time last year I was getting excited about coming over to Stockholm for my first visit to the art fairs (Supermarket and Market). And now, this year, I’ll be there as a participant. It has all happened very organically, and I could almost be surprised by the way things have worked out. On the other hand I have made it happen – the great thing is that I’ve done it in my own way.

Started making an artwork for wip at Supermarket.
Went for walk and took photographs in the snowstorm. I’m trying very hard to suspend my fear of the cliché and do it anyway. I am very interested in the way snow creates a formlessness (full and partial).

Yesterday morning (Tuesday 26): Birgitta, Irina and I met at Birgitta studio (at wip:sthlm) to discuss the snow-sculpting festival that Birgitta is organising. Birgitta first mentioned it to me during my residency, we spoke quite a lot about some of our ambitions for education and community projects. It’s great that I’m here and will be able to be involved – though I’m a little nervous about not speaking more than ‘tourist’ Swedish and being one of the workshop leaders. I really like Birgitta, she was one of the artists I regularly bumped into over lunch and coffee when I was at wip:sthlm. She is a wonderfully generous and passionate artist and activist, her enthusiasm is inspiring. It felt really good to be part of team again, talking through ideas about themes and forms for the project.

Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 26): Oppnet Hus at Stockholm’s royal art college (KKH). I went along because as well as BA and MA courses in fine and applied arts the college has a scheme for professional artists to use their workshops. The facilities there are fantastic – I spent most of my time in the sculpture workshops, they are great. The building looks relatively new with large workshops on the ground floor and smaller individual studios on the floors above. Even the smaller individual studios are a good size (about 4m square), and they are proper rooms, with doors (lockable,) windows and walls that go up to the ceiling. (The difference between these studios and the ones I’m used to is vast.)
The work that I saw there was really impressive. The place (the workshops) felt somehow both traditional and contemporary – there was evidence of modelling from life alongside large abstract colourful forms.
Having see the facilities and spoken with the sculpture tutor I’m going to apply for the artist’s programme. Selection is by portfolio and submission of a project. It ‘s been a long time since I applied to a college, or for anything like this, and I’m looking forward to making some of my ideas presentable as a ‘project’.

Last week (Thursday 21): Went to a couple of gallery openings. The first I went to on my own, at the second I met up with Karen who introduced me to other artists and gallery directors. I had a great evening – it was really good to meet other artists, and to have to say why an artist from London is so interested in being in Stockholm. I try not to be too critical of London, but I had to admit that it’s a very tough place for artists –especially those of us that haven’t ‘made it’.
From the discussions that night it seems that while Stockholm might not have the star-artists that London does, it also doesn’t have the … (what is the opposite of ‘star’?) impoverished(?) artists either. Like many things here the difference between ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ is considerably narrower. And that suits me, I don’t want to be a Damien Hirst or Anthony Gormley, I just want to do what I do, and to do it in a culture that seems genuinely interested in creativity.

I don’t feel ‘slow’ here … and I like that



This afternoon I sent an email to the Local Government Ombudsman, attached to the email was my account of my dissatisfaction with the management capabilities of Lambeth council. It’s a great relief to have finally sent it. The account (report?) has taken me far longer to write than I anticipated, and in the end it was 17 typed pages of more than 10,000 words.

But a truly amazing thing happened about a week ago. The afternoon after I started actually writing up the final version of my report I was travelling in to town on the train and suddenly I found myself thinking about new things I want to play with and make, about experiments with materials and forms, about being creative …

The weeks prior to this I found myself waking up most mornings rehearsing phrases for the report, wondering whether I should describe the council’s planning application drawings as simply ‘wrong’ or be more generous and say ‘inaccurate’. The first few moments of many days over the New Year were spent reminding myself to check through all my ‘sent’ emails to make sure of chronology, or wondering just how many inconsistencies in information I should point out (are they ‘inconsistencies’ or ‘discrepancies’?)

The amazing thing is that once the (bad) stuff actually came out of me, once I’d given it form, it seemed that a lot of backed up (good) stuff was given a way out too. It’s a really good lesson for me, especially as I’m sometimes someone who can put off dealing with the ‘bad’ stuff. So I must remember that not only does the bad stuff have to come out, the sooner the better! And as an old tutor of mine once said “Don’t get it right, get it done”.

It’s great to feel like this again, I was beginning to wonder if coming back to Stockholm wasn’t such a good idea, if the impetus and enthusiasm I experienced last summer had gone. Now I know it’s not the case.
The ideas I’ve had are a development of things that started during the residency. I’ve also been thinking about how I can start to do things without having such a studio.

I guess that getting that report out of me, sitting down at a table, going through three years of frustrating and fruitless correspondence, turning it in to a well constructed argument and giving it form of its own, has freed up a considerable amount of space. Space, which as soon as it appeared, began to fill up new creative and artistic ideas. It might be foolish to even mention these ideas before they have any form, but I’m really excited about the ideas and now I have the motivation to find the means to make them happen.

And it’s not only me that’s been ‘unblocked’, my flatmate sent me the camera to computer cable I left in London, so I unblocked my camera too.


Stockholm II

It’s very strange for me to think that the still very deep and remarkably white snow that lies on the ground might be here until February. I have to remember that here snow doesn’t mean that everything comes to a stop. There might be snow but life goes on.

After nearly two weeks of festivities today is a regular working day. What does that mean to me?

It means that I can’t continue to behave as if I’m on holiday. It means that I have to start work, and my first job is working out what ‘work’ means for me, here and now, in Stockholm without a studio …

Work can be:
• meeting with the artists who I met at wip:sthlm studios last year
• updating my website
• visiting galleries
• starting to make new work
• looking for some paid employment
• looking for exhibition and residency opportunities
• offering to give talks to art students
• putting together some kind of portfolio (some to complement my website)
• creating somewhere to make work in my room

There are at least two definite things coming up – the Market and Supermarket Art Fairs. Alex (artist/director at wip) is back from her holiday next Monday and I want to meet with her to talk about how I can be involved in wip’s presence at Supermarket. I’m also looking forward to catching up with Anneli and Karen.

I still want to write a short report about my residency – for me as much as for them.

Most of today has however been taken up with laundry and composing a letter to Lambeth Council about the on-going window replacement saga. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is a ‘half day’ in Sweden and the sixth (Wednesday) is a ‘red day’ (the Swedish equivalent of a bank holiday). It’s the twelfth day of Christmas and as in the UK it’s the day for taking down all Christmas decorations, but there must be more to it than that to warrant a national holiday. I’ve been invited to a late lunch tomorrow and I have a ticket for the opera on Wednesday afternoon. So this week is a little disrupted too … at least it gives me a good chance to think about work for next week …

I want to thank everyone who has got in touch with me about this blog. I really appreciate your comments and encouragement – THANK YOU and all the best for 2010