Somewhat spontaneously I went to the graduation ceremony at school yesterday. I am very glad that I went. Not only was it a pleasure to celebrate the graduates’ achievements, it was a pleasure to attend a ceremony that was so much more personal and meaningful than the rather ‘production-line’ experience I received after my masters. Måns Wrange, the head of school, made a good opening speech about the importance of creative freedom in an increasingly frightened and frightening European context – referring to some results in the recent EU elections. This was followed by his thanks to the faculty and administrative staff, including a teacher retiring after more than 30 years at the school. What touched me most though was the palpable honesty of the handshake, or often the hug, that accompanied his presentation of a flower to each graduate. Perhaps it was particularly significant as Måns is stepping down as rector and it was the last time he will have that responsibility. How different it was from the quick, literally passing, handshake I received from someone I had never met before as I walked across the stage at UCL awards ceremony 16 years ago. The small scale and insularity of the Swedish (and Stockholm’s) art scene is often criticised (from within), however I find something very reassuring and comforting about the sense of familiarity and integrity that is so necessary in a profession that relies on what at least might be termed ‘professional friendships’ –and not just between peers, but also between different generations, disciplines and interests.

I have never heard, and cannot imagine ever hearing, the expression ‘churning out’ when referring graduate students here. Being at art school here is more akin to being welcomed into the profession, and as such is taken seriously and is seen as the beginning of a long term relationship. Such an attitude is perhaps possible in a country where students are not thought of as customers, and with a far, far, less pronounced ‘star system’ (where there will be more than likely just one graduate who is expected, if not destined, to become the next brilliant ‘star’ artist while the others do their best to resist being sucked into some artistic black hole).

Amid the excitement of the awards ceremony and the two graduate shows our show, accurately and somewhat poignantly, called The Rest of Us opened. I am quite satisfied with my piece, and it has been very interesting and rewarding to speak about it with other people. Resolving the presentation of the piece of cast glass – knowing that inserting it into a floor almost anywhere in the school building would be nigh on impossible – lead me to make something that I would not otherwise have done, and I am pleased and intrigued by the result. The tilted pale plywood sheet makes appropriate architectural references and enables the curious visitor to investigate the underside – a perspective that I had not fully considered before discussing the work with Donatella Bernardi (one of the senior lecturers at the school). The piece changes as the light throughout the day changes – on a clear day light comes first through the glass ceiling of the atrium, later on sunlight streams in from the floor to ceiling window directly behind the piece. Having worked so much with the profile of Sad Teddy’s shadow I immediately see it beneath the highly reflective surface of the glass, it is however considerably less obvious to the visitor. I like that their first experience is more aesthetic, less knowing, less directed. Beside the work is a simple leaflet (a single A4 sheet folded in half) with a text I have written. The text is on the inside facing page, as such it is something that one must seek out. Staging the encounter with something that might hint at explanation in this way is a pleasing solution for me. The presence of the leaflet indicates that there is information if one wants it, but it does not demand that it be read – as a text on the wall might suggest. Literally standing there and offering the leaflet to visitors is also a pleasant and natural way to start a conversation …


After what seems to be about a month, or maybe more, I am delighted to say that my second piece of cast glass is out of the kiln and ‘resting’. The process has taken twice as long as it should have as the piece required re-casting after setting additional glass on the first attempt. (I had underestimated the amount of glass required to make the ‘surface pool’ over the shadow form.) The pieces looks great, and I will see more detail when I remove the mould material on Monday. Glass does not like variations in volume so the form that I made is particularly challenging as it goes from large to small volumes very rapidly. I am incredibly grateful to Ulrika for her skill at programming the kiln, especially the cooling phase which is the most critical.

Although this second cast* is now finished I will only be showing the first one in the show that opens here next week. The glass will be presented embedded in a sheet of plywood. Ideally I would like to install the pieces directly in the floor however this was simply not realistic to attempt with my other commitments at the moment. I am rather pleased with the more sculptural solution that the plywood provides. I am also rather pleased with myself for working out how to make, and fit, supports for the uncut sheet (2.5 x 1.25 m) that tip it up at an angle while making sure that it is secure. Some of those 33 year old geometry lessons came in really useful while I was scrabbling about on the floor working out exactly how to position the three different height legs.

The next day was the first of my final two in Gothenburg. It was really interesting to see the students’ presentations. I was impressed by the range of their individual projects and where the projects have taken them. During the discussions after each presentation I was often reminded that coming from fine art, and the UK, gives me a different perspective which I think students found both challenging and enriching. My enthusiasm for them making ‘discursive objects’ seemed a good counterpoint to others’ responses about the technical aspects of textile processes and the aesthetics of pattern. It was the combination of these lines of discussion that I hope will enable all the students to make critical and informed choices about how they tackle their future assignments and projects.

In the evening Karin and I discussed which London colleges she and her colleagues might visit, we found a short promotional film about what was Central St Martins presented by Caroline Broadhead. As part of the University of the Arts London a student attending a course at the new Kings Cross building is one of over 4000 students registered at the school, Karin remarked that she grew up in town which had less inhabitants! The film is very slick and well produced, mentions all the now famous former students and the international fashion house where (nameless) students are now working … it was all so very very promotional! A timely reminder of how different things can become when students pay for their education and become art schools begin to operate like multi-national corporations. Meanwhile here in Stockholm, at Mejan, students prepare for their MA show after five years of free education and in the knowledge that most if not all of them will receive some kind of graduate stipendium from the school to help them continue their practice ….…

*this second piece is actually in the first mould that I made, so I think of it as the first piece.


Uploading my photographs from visiting the art museum in Gothenburg produced some images that I find fascinating and intriguing. My recently updated i-photo programme now automatically applies its ‘face recognition’ feature to all my pictures. Having taken photographs in the museum’s Painted History exhibition there were a number of faces … I attach a particularly good example of the outcome.

The painting is one of many depictions of Karl XII being returned to Sweden after losing his life in battle in Norway. I love the way in which twenty-first century technology has indiscriminately assigned a, wholly inappropriate, utterance to members of the royal entourage. I keep returning to the (updated) image and find myself looking, and looking again, at the complexity of it – somehow it suggests something very performative. It may become the start of a new work, or at least something to look further in to.

At the moment though I should be concentrating on making something from my year at Mejan presentable. The year, as I have already mentioned, has been quite different from the year that I had imagined. As I am still not entirely sure exactly what will be achievable during the next couple of weeks, I have decided to propose a relatively modest and simple installation for the end of year show. We have to submit our ideas to the ‘hanging group’ by Monday. The spaces around the school are not inspiring – or rather the spaces that inspire me are either off limits (fire exit routes) or so remote that I fear visitors will never find them. I am reminded of my MA show at the Slade where my intentionally discrete, subtle works were completely overlooked by all but the keenest of eyes. I do not wish to make the same mistake again; it was not really a ‘mistake’ in terms of placing the work, it was however not the best thing to do under the conditions of a very competitive show. So instead of the beautiful old stone staircase – where each step bears traces of the centuries of men stationed in the building when the island was a naval base – I will perhaps suggest locating my work in the architecturally and emotionally sterile main entrance in the 1980s extension.

I have always been attracted to staircases – as places to show work, and more generally! – I remember a photograph from my childhood in which my aunt, who has lived in America since before my birth, was standing in the middle of a very glamorous sweeping staircase, as I remember she was in a white cocktail dress (above the knee), pointed white slingbacks, and had big (almost Dusty style) hair – it was the sixties. The staircase was carpeted in deep red, it was the kind of staircase that had balustrades on both sides, it may even have bifurcated and swept round to both the left and right. I could have misremembered this terribly, but that is not really the point. Years later a colleague gave a lecture about Art Nouveau through examples of its staircases, he was a brilliant teacher and thinker, his presentation was fantastic. Previously I thought that the staircase was a space between places, now though I wonder if it has perhaps more to do with being simultaneously here and on the move …

As this (academic) year draws to a close I am already drawing up an autumnal ‘to do’ list. There are so many things that have been neglected in the excitement, stress, and now-ness of the last few years(!). I am looking forward to having time not only to be at the studio but also to really re-engage and re-invigorate my practice in the light of the courses that I have taken and the ones that I have taught! And speaking of courses I have discovered an adult education Art History course in Swedish, its going to be a way to improve both my written Swedish and my knowledge of Swedish art history – perfect!