I was invited to the SUPERMARKET 2012 volunteers ‘Tackfest’ (literally translation – thank you party, though when ‘tack’ gets added to other words I still have a hard time not thinking about the ‘cheap and tacky’ kind of ‘tack’. I felt a bit out of place to start with as all the other volunteers actually worked long hours on the floor over the weekend – on the door, selling tickets and catalogues, helping the exhibitors and the public, whereas I had worked in the comfort of my own home on correcting and sub-editing English texts over a number of weeks. However we were all volunteers and it was very nice to be invited. There was a brief evaluation session when people spoke (in English and not on my account! – there was another volunteer there how spoke no Swedish at all, which was interesting to me) about their experiences and made suggestions for next year. And then the party began! I am not a natural party person but everyone was so friendly that it was a real pleasure to hang around for a couple more hours. Maybe next year I’ll get more involved, maybe do something more with the publication or the events programme …
On Thursday I started polishing one of the “new” second-hand baking tins that I have been collecting. It was nice to do something familiar while thinking about how and where the whole piece/ collection could go. It struck me this week that I have been giving myself a hard time trying to do something new, I thought it felt alright to feel a bit ‘forced’ after such a long break from having a studio, however it was quite unproductive. Now I am going to see what happens if I just let myself pick up from where I left off.
I have also been thinking about things various people have said to me in the past. One thing that I keep coming back to is the idea of ‘working on a series’. I don’t quite know what these means and it is certainly not something that I have done in the past but perhaps it is a good way to start producing again – to do something that is both familiar and new at the same time.
Two weeks ago I found a wonderful old slide projector in a charity shop, a few days later and in another charity shop I found an old portable manual typewriter. Except for needing to replace the ribbon in the typewriter both were in good working order. Both are now sitting in the studio. I have no idea what I will do with them but they were such appealing objects. The typewriter was obviously made for the Swedish market as it has keys for the additional three vowels (they fall outside of the ‘qwerty’ logic that puts the commonest letters in the most ergonomic position and are in the bottom right corner of the keys. If I were a real typist I would use my “pinkie” finger to strike them).
There is something very satisfying about the warmth generated by the projector and the ‘clacking’ of the typewriter keys. At the moment they are on the opposite side of the studio to my new computer. As I think about possibly buying ‘The New ipad’ to compliment my new(ish) computer I can not help thinking of the idea that everything has an equal and opposite force …
I am truly upset that a-n will stop publishing it’s magazine this June. For me it is a question of form rather than content. I do not enjoy reading online and am worried that the move to a purely digital platform simply will not appeal to my old fashioned reading habits. Perhaps a new ipad will change this. Part of me thinks that it is wholly appropriate that a-n develops to suit the needs of artists who enjoy using technology and who know how to use it. I recognise that I enjoy, and understand, how libraries and material resources operate and that this makes me old fashioned – I am middle aged after all! Part of me hates that I am starting to sound like a luddite, I have nothing against new technology and I use it when I need to, but I also recognise that the word ‘need’ reveals quite a lot about me.
One of my foundation course tutors introduced me to a-n (which I think was called Artists’ Newsletter back then) in 1986 and I’ve been a pretty regular reader for the 26 years to date. I feel as though a dear old friend is about to undergo radical cosmetic surgery and I’m really worried that I won’t know how to deal to with the results …
The studio continues to become more organised now that I am starting to make things again. The shelves that a neighbour at the flat was about to throw out have made a big difference and I have almost completely unpacked all the boxes from the UK. I still want to put up wall shelves so I must speak with Alex whom I am subletting the studio from. We need to start discussing what happens when the sublet finishes (sublets are only permitted for a maximum of one year and another artist already had this studio for six months before I moved in). As spring arrives the rate at which the weeks pass seem to be accelerating.
I am getting on with my piece for this year’s Pride exhibition at the Clifford Chance offices in London. All artists who have shown in previous Pride exhibitions there have been asked to produce a portrait of a sports person who they find inspiring (I guess that a lot of shows might have a sport theme in London this year!). Portraiture is new to me and as a non-figurative artist I am taking a rather abstract approach. It is interesting for me to think about what a portrait is (or can be) and how I can make one
It is Friday afternoon and I am wondering where the week went. It must be is a sign that I’m busy …
Two weeks ago I wrote an email stepping down as project coordinator for Sandcastles in Greece. This week I submitted a modest invoice for a few hours of the time I spent working with it. The lessons I have to remember are to trust my instincts and to accept that I work best in a well-structured context. Some of the artists involved have discussed picking up the project when everyone has more time; it is something I am certainly interested in. I am still a little concerned about how the project will be presented in the research of the artist who initiated the whole process but that is out of my hands.
Meeting the other artists was very good and encouraged me to make an application to KKH (Stockholm’s Royal College) for their Project program. It is a great opportunity to realise a project with the support of a very well resourced institution, for me it would also be a very good introduction to my new Swedish peer group. I met a few of them, and saw evidence of a lot of them, at the art fairs here in Stockholm.
In return for helping with language editing I received a free pass to the Supermarket fair, and of course a copy of the catalogue/ magazine. It was very satisfying to see my name in print along with all the other volunteers who enable Supermarket to keep going and expanding. This year the fair looked even more slick, with even more space (it took over an additional gallery in Kulturhus so now it totally covers one and half floors of this impressive building,) the stands were bigger and the galleries airier (to everyone’s relief I’m sure). It has been noticeable to me that over the four years that I have attended the fair the number of truly radical looking stands has significantly decreased. There are far too many possible reasons for this for me to guess why this might be the case (everything from less funding for artist run organisations to the fair not serving a purpose for radical outsiders). It was interesting to consider how I might benefit from attending as an individual artist beyond (the ever useful) ‘seeing what’s out there’. I realised that I am not really in a position to get involved with an ‘artist run organisation’ though it is very re-assuring to know that there are so many continuing to do well in northern Europe and that there are connections with the rest of the world.
I had an interesting conversation with a man from Nest in The Hague. After visiting London he was very impressed with how artists there managed to hold down multiple low paid jobs, live in an expensive city and produce similar quality and quantity of work to those living in other European cities with support from national and local arts funding. Referring to my own experience (and that of London colleagues) I spoke about the fragility of such an existence, how the loss of a regular part-time teaching can be disastrous, how competition between artists keeps down fees for community and education work and how few artists (relative to the number who graduate each year) are able to pursue their professional careers for their ‘working life’. A few days after that conversation I realised that perhaps the quality and quantity of work produced was a red herring. What I see here, in Sweden at least, is that the quality and quantity of life as an artist is far greater. Basically it is a far more sustainable profession. Many of the ‘young’ artists that I meet here have families (I mean partners and children), many take an annual holiday and most have their own apartments. These are not ‘celebrity’ artists, just regular working artists. While working in a bar, supermarket or institution in addition to working the studio might lend the artwork social relevance it can equally prevent one from having a rich and fulfilling life outside out the studio.
(Photographs to follow)