Plan B: Look for an affordable flat and rent a nearby studio until I am in a better financial situation.
Bearing in mind my resources and my desire to have my own home plan b seems like a good first step. I still dream about a live/work place in the country with a garden … however I have come to realise that the places that I can afford from my savings are either in need of a huge amount of renovation, or are too far from Stockholm. Renovation in itself is not too daunting however having virtually no income it seems rather foolish to buy something that requires significant additional investment that I do not have. And I want to be close enough to the city to pop-in for openings, talks, and to see friends, so living more than one and half hours away seems rather foolish too. Plan b begins with looking at a 1970s flat in Enköping this Sunday.
Enköping is affordable and only a 40 minute (direct) train from central Stockholm. Commuting to the studio is not really an option though as the return fare is about £18.00 a day. I really love my studio and it will be difficult to leave however I cannot afford to live in Stockholm at the moment. Time for radical solutions!
The last few months have been very interesting and quite challenging. The question of where and how I want to live has forced me to deal with realities that I often prefer to pretend do not exist! It is also only in the last week that I have admitted to myself that my priority now (NOW!) is to find my own place to live. At the same time I accept that I do not want to use my savings, nor to work full-time, simply to pay Stockholm rent.
And what do I imagine this better financial situation might be??
- part-time teaching – either art (or English!)
- developing funded ‘projects’
- understanding the stipend and economic artistic opportunities here
- becoming more attractive to commercial galleries
It is four years since I packed up most of my possessions before the re-decorating, and subsequent selling of my flat in London. I am an object-oriented person and it is high time that I have somewhere to unpack and re-acquaint myself with my things. I also want to live by my own time schedules and routines. Achieving this can, I believe, only be good for me.
My things ground me, it is time to get grounded and to get on!
I am starting to feel rather anxious about the end of year presentations for the course that I have been taking at Mejan. I have thoroughly enjoyed Following Eugène however I am not sure that what I have to present. This morning I started to retrace the walk between Eugène’s studio and the Thielska Gallery. About a third of the way along the route my little pocket camera, which I had been using to snap the statues on the way, stopped working. This camera has developed an intermittent and very frustrating fault where is fails to focus and to close. On several occasions I have been close to buying a replacement as I like to have a camera with me most of the time and I have such an old mobile phone that the camera is meaningless. Despite my best efforts the camera refused to work and I lost the will to continue the walk. Perhaps this was dumb. I could have continued but I had in mind that the walk would provide me with a photo series. Strangely the first time I did the walk the camera failed at about the same point in the journey – is this something I should take note of?
I am beginning to have some sense of the Eugène’s experience of the city – though I wonder if the financial support (and subsequent friendship) of Thiel was the only reason for the dramatic shift in Eugène’s practice seen in his painting between 1904 and 1907. Having somewhere suitable to live and work as well as some kind of income could certainly be a major factor. This rings true with me as I continue to consider my options regarding how and where to live. The city is increasingly challenging for artists to negotiate – even for artists who are established and successful. The association where I have my studio has only 18 months remaining on its contract and there are plans to redevelop the whole site as a new residential district. While the site owners have indicated that our building will be one of the last to be demolished we will be on a yearly contract rather than a 10 year one. After years in London a year long contract sounds relatively attractive however it seems that there are a number of the larger studios in the same position which in the worse case could result in a couple of hundred artists all looking for studios at about the same time! There are smaller collective studios, perhaps it is time to find out what their waiting lists are like!
I remain hopeful that I will find a suitable place somewhere in the countryside not too far from the city. The former school, which I admit was unnecessarily large, became too expensive in a rather exciting bidding war!
Perhaps the underlying theme of my work is one of artistic sustainability. How do we artists keep doing what we need to do in an increasingly market driven environment?
What can Eugène teach me?
Louise Bourgeois at Moderna “I have been to hell and back” is a fantastic show! I have been twice and plan to go again (as I student at the Royal Institute I get free entry)! Not only does it include much previously unseen work, it is also brilliantly curated. I cannot help but feel good walking through the exhibition, and I think this is the result of the combination of great art and such intelligent and appropriate display. The show is arranged thematically though the curator – Iris Müller Westermann – acknowledged in her presentation that there are a multitude of other possible ways to arrange the work. If I understand correctly it is this thinking that influenced her decision to open a number of window-like apertures in the gallery walls. These windows and the non-linear floor plan allow one to visually and physically experience the connection between the distinct galleries and themes. At what is at once the entrance and the centre of the show there is the intersection three large ‘windows’, this produces an interesting kind of meeting point. Seeing the museum staff standing there chatting with colleagues in adjoining spaces reminds me of neighbours passing the time of day over a garden fence. Visitors are given a glimpse of what is to come, and similarly the chance to chat with friends doing the show at a different pace. These architectural features create and reinforce the simultaneous senses of intimacy and openness that I find in Bourgeois’ work. My first visit was with a very knowledgeable friend (visiting from Switzerland) who hesitated to buy a ticket having seen, and been disappointed by, the encyclopedic Bourgeois exhibit at the Tate Modern (2007), however he was completely won over by the show declaring far better than the Tate’s. It made me very proud of the artscene here in my adopted hometown!
Louise Bourgeois is a great inspiration for an older unknown artist such as myself. Respected by her artist friends but not having her break-though show until the age of 71, and then continuing to work and show until 99 gives me such hope as I reach my mid-late forties!
Encouraged by a colleague here at the studio I offered English Afternoon Tea, with home-baked scones, for last Sunday’s “finish-age” and artist’s talk at Passage. It was a very pleasant afternoon and speaking about the work after having invigilated for two weekends was probably better than it would have been doing it at the vernissage. I am really pleased that I did the show, it has given me a renewed sense of purpose. It has also reminded me that it is very different seeing one’s work in a gallery/exhibition space than in the studio. Presenting, displaying, exhibiting, the work has made me think about it in new ways and opened by new possibilities.
Questions around exhibiting and display are also current on the Mejan course – not least because a number of us have made a contribution to the Frederick Kiesler show at Tensta konsthall. For me the show is the antithesis of the Bourgeois – it leaves me completely cold, uninterested and hugely disappointed. Kiesler sounds like a wonderfully eccentric and passionate man committed to innovative architecture and exhibition design. Innovation and excitement are not words that I can use to describe the terribly dry, inaccessible and (literally) ‘square’ show of sketches, models, photographs and re-creations. The inclusion of “responses” by a contemporary artist and six student groups does little to enliven things. I wonder how and why this show looks and feels the way it does – the conditions of the Kiesler Foundation? Lack of resources? Lack of imagination?
Moving from the disappointment of not getting the little red house I am now looking forward to making a bid for a former nursery school! The building is made up of what was a private home (from the 1950s) and an extension (from the 1980s). The extension would make a wonderful studio – there is a large room, a smaller room with a sink, and an ‘office’. The whole place needs a renovation, but inspired by Bourgeois I am thinking that it might somewhere to live and work for the next fifty years or so!