Frieze, phone, talk …

It felt more like Embassy week than Frieze week. I don’t remember ever being in a foreign embassy in London before and last week I was in three; German, Swedish and Norwegian. It was all art related. The second part of Martin’s show (at the Swedish embassy) was a good night, not only was the work interesting but there were proper Swedish canapés and a very friendly group of Swedes and Swede lovers. Earlier in the day Francois invited me to join him on his Frieze VIP itinerary that included a reception at the German embassy to see work by young German artists. And on Friday, after a day at Frieze, I and a few other former Crystal Palace Artists attended the NABROAD party at the Norwegian embassy. I spent most of the evening talking with Trine (a Norwegian artist who was at the Slade at the same time as me) and Jerzy (the Sir John Soane Museum curator who I have met previously and briefly through Michael Petry).

After missing Frieze week last year it felt good to be there and I really enjoyed bumping into people from one day to the next. It made me realise that I’m not as alien to the art-scene as I sometimes think I am. Or rather that I have (and am still developing) a group of friends and ‘professional friends’ (to paraphrase Nicholas Logsdail*) on, and in, the London scene. I really don’t want to loose them when I move away.

Speaking of which … a three hour phone conversation with Kim made me realise that wherever I end up staying in Stockholm I’ll need to get a good deal on phone calls to the UK. Kim and I often talk for a few hours, and it’s usually about art and/or education. Our conversation this week was a mix of Frieze review and Kim’s research for forthcoming public talks at the RA that led to a discussion the post-YBA scene in which we find ourselves. I might, in a very casual way, start to investigate possible parallels between the Hollywood studio system of the 1920s – 50s and the YBA scene of the 1990s. I could be on very shaky ground but it might be fun! The comparison came up when we were talking about the current work of some artists who were household YBA names but not so well known now or who appear to be still producing very similar work now, we wondered if they weren’t a little like the child-stars whose early fame was not without consequences. Kim and I usually hold these discussions in the morning, pottering around our flats with tea and coffee respectively, neither of us are pub-goers and seeing where our sober thoughts take us perhaps it is just as well.

The talk I gave to Jewelry & Accessory students at Middlesex was well received – which I am very pleased about. Not least because I wanted it to be good for Julia who invited me to give it. Julia is an artist herself as well as being a lecturer and running Meter Square Gallery with her partner Ken. They are a fantastic pair and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them over the years since I arrived in their hotel room in Norway for an impromptu cocktail party. It was Michael Petry’s party really but hosted by Ken and Julia as they had been upgraded to a suite so had more chairs and a sofa. We were all in Norway for Michael’s Golden Rain project. Thinking about it now I realise just how interwoven all these connections are and how enjoyably fruitful they’ve been. I hope that one day I will be in a position to give these friends the kind of opportunities that they have given me …

(* I remember a wonderful text by Nicholas Logsdail from an old Artists’ Handbook about getting established as an artist, in it he mentions the idea of ‘professional friendships’. What he describes are friendships with people who you know and care about through being in the same of related professions – not to be confused with ‘networking’ or ‘personal friends’.)


Received two particularly touching emails today. In one an artist that I used to know well told me that she’s being treated for breast cancer, and in the other one another artist told me that she’s three and a half months pregnant.
Make that three – I’ve just received an email telling me that the Brusand Project Space closed at the end of last year. (I wouldn’t mention this in the same breath if I didn’t know that the project wasn’t a dream of two young artists who put everything they had into it and managed to keep it going on less than a shoe-string for two years.)

I’m at home today – the replacement windows are being installed. I hadn’t realised how noisy the work would be and had imagined that I would get on with lots of things. The reality is that the loud and irregular bursts of drilling and the general chilliness of having ‘open’ windows are not making a good working environment.

Saturday will be the last day of PLAY. I’m looking forward to Bryan’s World Tea Party event. He’s mentioned that tea will be served “through” the work. The piece invites a certain kind of ‘performativity’ – one kind of performance becomes the context for another. The tea-party puts me in mind of Boy George’s comment that he preferred a cup of tea to sex. I think that each has its place, and that it’s wonderful to be able to enjoy both!

Last weekend my parents saw the show – they loved it. They were also charmed my Michael and his partner who we had lunch with beforehand. I’m surprised by how pleased I am that they liked it, I mean really liked it. My parents always say that they like my work but I can’t remember seeing them enjoying something I’ve made so much. It has been a very successful piece – more successful than I could have imagined. When my more academic friends and my parents express similar enthusiasm I know I’ve done something good!

I’m also looking forward to some nights out during the frenzy of Frieze week/end. I’m looking forward to Frieze too, I missed it last year but it’s quite nice to treat it as a biennale. Two years is a good timescale for me – much more manageable!