This afternoon I am taking ‘Play‘ to Stockholm.  It is going to be shown at a one day performance event: The Cat Café.  I do not understand how the day will be, however I trust Pontus who is organising it – I met him a couple of years ago when we were both on the project year programme at the Royal Institute here.  The whole thing is good for me, not only do get involved with something new and experimental but I also have to deal with doing something quickly and without all my usual extensive preparations.  I am a bit disconcerted that I have not been able to locate a box of hooks, chains, and other hanging devices that I remember having at the old studio.  It would be great to have all those bits with me as I have no idea what I will find at the venue!

Last week I attended two meetings about developments here in Enköping.  The first was part of the town’s ambition to establish a cultural strategy for the coming nine years.  It was interesting to see the invited guests’ presentations and to hear people’s opinions and dreams, many of them hinging on establishing a new ‘culture house’ and improving public transport.  I agree that these are important but I thought that there would be a little more discussion about what we can do in the short-term.  I was pleased to be sitting in a ‘workshop group’ with another artist who suggested that there should be links to artists’ homepages and local resources on the council’s website.  Another group wanted the re-instatement of the grants and awards that were cut by the previous right-wing council.  I am going to get in touch with the woman from the council’s ‘experience management’* department and find out about the creative projects that they run for children and other groups.  I met her socially at a gallery opening and she seemed very dynamic and enthusiastic when we spoke.  I also want to ask her advice about finding a studio.

(* I think that something is lost in translation however ‘upplevelser’ definitely translates as ‘experience’ and has no specific reference to the arts, culture, or creativity.)

The second meeting as more general and very well attended!  On one corner of Enköping’s town square there is a hole where the town hotel used to stand.  Contrary to its listed status the hotel was demolished six years ago after the owners (a commercial development company) allowed it to stand empty and fall into irretrievable disrepair.  Ever since then a question of what to build there has been fought between the developers, the council, and the town’s residents.  Most recently the developers submitted plans for apartments including a ten-storey tower that would loom over the square.  Having received a lot of criticism for this, and perhaps for other undisclosed reasons, the developers have now mooted the idea that they might be willing to sell the site back to the council.  One idea that the council have had is to build a new culture house there rather than refurbish the 1950s one by the river.  Again this meeting was a mix of presentations and small group workshops.  By luck the people around my table included the former chair of the town’s art association, his wife and their adult son.  Considering that there must have been in excess of 100 people at the meeting I can hardly believe the chances of me meeting this particular family.  We had a very pleasant chat and came up with some good suggestions – including a building that provided studios, workshops and subsidised rooms that creative/cultural interest groups could hire.  We also proposed that the street which goes from the church on the north side of the town, past the town gallery, past the ‘hole’, then extends between the library and cinema, and leads to pedestrian access over the river and finishes at the sports ground on the south side, should be designated and promoted as a cultural district.

The Saturday after this meeting I met Ulf and Gunilla again at the opening of a new show at the gallery (‘gallery’ is not quite the right word, however ‘art centre’ is a bit too grand for it – the Swedish word ‘konsthall’ is tricky to translate as its history is directly linked to ideas of both a not for profit public exhibition spaces, and an artists’/art association management/steering committee).  It was good to see them again, and they have invited themselves for a ‘studio’ visit in the coming weeks!  This is very exciting and will force me to speak about my work in Swedish!  They had already looked at my website and had questions about particular pieces as well as enquiring how it is to work in such non-traditional and diverse materials.

My very initial search for a studio did not go well!  The workshop spaces in wonderful old industrial buildings by the harbour are far too large – by more than a thousand square meters!  There are smaller office spaces though I imagine that these are more expensive per square meter and the woman I spoke with implied that many had limited daylight and lower ceiling heights.  I cycled passed a small shop with a ‘to let’ sign in the window, but as I suspected the rent is too much – surprisingly high for a small space on a side street in a small town!  I am going to post my search for a studio on the town’s community facebook page and see if someone knows of a suitable space.  It is possible that one of the housing associations has a half-cellar room that they want to rent out – previously such spaces were taken by independent repair shops and the like.  I realise that it may take me some time to find a studio, in the meantime I need to make the room in the flat work!  Or I need to make the work that I can at home!  If nothing turns up in six months then I might ask for details of those smaller ‘office spaces’.  Though I have started dreaming of having a studio where I could also put on some events and invite other artists to show …


At the risk of creating some kind of strange feedback loop I am delighted to have been asked to be a-n’s first artist blogger featured on their Instagram account.  I hope that these cross-platform ideas generate interest not only in the selected artists but also in the range of a-n’s activities and that they stimulate discussion and new projects.  Thank you a-n!



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The Swedish tax system requires that all companies complete regular VAT returns.  In the UK I was self-employed rather than a company and had an income well below the VAT threshold.  Where as here I am an ‘Enskild firma’ – sole proprietor of a one person company and there is no VAT threshold – I pay it and claim it back just the same as IKEA, Volvo, Electrolux, or at least just the same as any company which is still Swedish.  The one ‘concession’ that I am afforded is doing my return once a year – though I wonder if it might not better to do a quarter of it every three months rather allowing a years worth of receipts to build up – filed but ‘unprocessed’.  The book keeping necessary to complete an accurate VAT return is somehow both annoyingly time consuming and pedantically satisfying.

Every receipt needs to be account for and given a verification code.  Receipts also need to be categorised according to a four-digit number broken down in eight classes each with numerous sub-classes.  I downloaded the pdf version of the class list, it extends over 41 A4 pages and we are not talking large print.  It is interesting to review one’s year through these classes: my outgoings on non-fiction literature far exceed my expenditure on ‘materials and goods for the production of saleable goods’ which I take to mean artworks.

Actually I have somewhat over simplified things.  A receipt may contain items that belong in different classes, and in such cases the receipt needs to be split amongst the different classes.  For example a trip to the hardware store might give me some materials that will be used in making an artwork as well as some washing-up liquid – which is classed as a disposable item – and a screwdriver – which is a tool and therefore has another class and number.  The pedant in me loves defining each outgoing and findings its perfect class number, the free-spirit in me would rather be messing about with glitter, dreaming up impossible installations, and fantasising about fantastic new work.

I have a little way to go before I am ready with year’s figures but it will be done on time.  The slightly curious thing is that my VAT return is done several months prior to my personal ‘tax declaration’, and should I accidentally over pay my VAT I get it back after my personal declaration has been submitted.

Spending days at the computer reminds me of that terrible 80:20 ratio that artists work – administration:artwork, or office:studio, or computer:material – whatever words I choose the general understanding today is that artists spend 80% of their time doing the stuff around producing art and only 20% actually producing it.  Can this really be true?  I heard this in a British (if not Scottish) context so perhaps it does not hold true here.

Today is the mid-point of Tim’s five-week holiday in South Africa.  Before he left I imagined that despite having a few tasks to complete in his absence I would have empty days and weeks stretching ahead of me waiting to be filled with creative play.

Last week I attended a very enjoyable workshop – learning to make bead flowers!  Do I even need to mention that I was the only man there?  The workshop at the Thielska Gallery was the third one offered by the wonderful Anna Lindell (any bead artists may well recognise her name from any of the British bead publications that she writes and produces patterns for,) to accompany an exhibition of one man’s collection of these remarkable ‘eternal flowers’.  They are truly great creations conjured from modest (if not exactly inexpensive) materials.  The ability to produce things that closely resemble snowdrops, orchids, lilies, ferns, tulips and even forget-me-nots and gypsofilia with nothing more than glass beads, copper wire and some florist’s tape is amazing.  It was great to learn a little of the history of the craft too, and I was perhaps most struck by the use of bead funeral wreaths which seemed to me to be particularly poignant and beautiful.  I went to the workshop thinking that I might pick up some skills and tips for my work with Tim, however I am now wondering if I might not try making some pieces myself – as artworks.

Of course I bought the book – which is far more than an exhibition catalogue – and was happy to see that the photographer is someone I know from the studios in Stockholm – Edvard Koinberg.  He is a great photographer, and also helped me source aluminium sheets for mounting my jigsaw puzzle pieces, and I am considering asking him for a quote to (re-)photograph some of my work.  He is very skilled at capturing detail, which I think would be good for several of my works.  The light reflecting qualities of the glass beads are, perhaps, not so different from those of glitter.

Edvard was second ‘wip artist’ of my day – I went in to Stockholm early so that I had time to see some of the commercial galleries before the beading workshop as I have not been around them since the new year.  I particularly wanted to see Hannah Ljungh’s show at the Annaella Gallery.  Hannah also has a studio at wip:sthlm but it has been a while since I have seen her work and what I remember of it from shows in the konsthall was that it was not at all commercial.  It was very interesting to see her work in a commercial context.  I really should pluck up the courage to ask galleries about the art they show and who buys it, or rather how they sell it and to whom.  Hannah’s work is quite academic – the work in this show investigated how one might come to know a landscape and a mountain in particular.  I should also point out that each piece was very well made and had that certain Scandinavian cool aesthetic (there were certainly some pieces that I could imagine having)!  I have always found Hannah to be very approachable and open, she is someone who perhaps I should ask to give feedback on my work.  Seeing her show, and the others too, reminded me why I need to keep going to galleries and seeing what is out there.

Tomorrow I am working at Tim’s studio again.  It feels as though I am getting back into my own rhythm of working.  One of the things that I find most challenging about being an assistant/apprentice is not having authority over my work schedule.  This is not a criticism of Tim, it more a recognition that 1, when working on my own art I direct where and how I tackle each piece and 2, I am embarking on a professional world which although often similar to the art world actually operates very differently.


Yesterday evening I went to my first “Enköping Art Association” event, it was a discussion with several of the artists from the current show at the gallery: 8 Young Artists.  One of the artists, Fredrik Eriksson, I know a little from Mejan – he is on the five year combined bachelors and master programme there and we met during the ‘Explosion’ workshops.  He is exhibiting two of his fantastic sculptures.  It was good to catch up with him and to hear a little of how he came to be studying art.  Fredrik comes from Enköping and was more than a little surprised to see me.  He introduced me to a Nina who is the cultural development officer for the council here, we had a good chat about art and artists in smaller towns.  I was very pleased to be invited to the next Open Dialogue meeting that Nina and Giulia (the recently appointed Cultural Policy programme leader) will be holding in a couple of weeks.  I was also introduced to Gunilla Edström a great supporter of Fredrik and the journalist whose eight articles on young artists from the area inspired the exhibition.

It seems, though, that I may be the only artist living full-time in Enköping.  I can not believe this and think that it has more to do with the hesitancy of artists who have not been to art school to call themselves artists.  It will be interesting to see who else is at the meeting on the 15th!  It is very exciting to have the opportunity to get involved in such discussions and of course I want to do my best to ensure that art and artists (in the broadest sense) are recognised as a vital part of the community.  Hopefully the experiences that I bring will be of interest and can add something new to the mix.  I am also keen to learn more about the history of the (visual) arts here and what artists want and need.  After just our brief chat I had so many ideas racing around my head that realise that I have to be careful not to appear to be coming in and telling people what to do, nor to tread on toes or batter egos.


What follows is a post that I began writing in late January and did not get to finish.  As part of my re-engagement with my own practice I am determined to make time to write and post more often! …

Over the last couple of weeks of intensive work as an artisan and planning my own creative ventures I have been wondering whatever happened to the “supporting statement”.  I want to write something new to put on my website – actually I will re-phrase that!  I want to have a new text on my website, I do not ‘want to write’ it but as I do not know who I would ask to write something I feel that I need to write something myself.  Thinking about writing and the pressure on artists, and particularly those in education and outside of the commercial sector, to write has been bugging me.  After looking at some application processes for degree courses I was pleased to see that selection by portfolio remains common, however post-graduate and doctoral applications seem more concerned with written proposals of the research topic.  Along with the project description applications are asked to submit a (limited) selection of supporting visual material.  It seems to be increasingly so for project funding.  There is an implication that as one develops as an artist one’s ability to write gains more significance than one’s visual practice.  I find this frustrating as the more I make the less I am able to give an adequate linguistic account of my activity.  This was, in part at least, my motivation for taking those ‘Introduction to Artistic Research’ courses.

The conundrum that I keep returning to is this: Research seeks an authentic expression of communication, artistic research has one – art.  So why does writing often seem to have more authority than making?  And perhaps even more interestingly why do artists buy in to it and give time and energy to a discipline other than their own already highly specialised practices.  I have yet to hear of a chemist or social historian being expected to communicate their research outcomes in sculptural form or in the medium of dance.

Somewhere between these musings on artistic research and sewing costumes for the “World Premier” of Mamma Mia The Party I remembered that Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition at Moderna was about to close.  My trip to Stockholm to see one of the last public rehearsals of the show was timed brilliantly as it allowed me to see Eliasson’s ‘Reality Machine’ show too.  And what an amazing exhibition it was!  One of things that struck me quite quickly was how engaged people were with the work.  Everyone seemed to be really looking at the work, wandering around it, looking again, and even if they were not exactly looking at the work it was clear that they were thoroughly enjoying the experience of being in its presence.

The Sunday after I saw what in my opinion is one of the best exhibitions that I have seen in Sweden – Utopian Bodies: Fashion looks forward, at the Liljevalchs gallery.  It really is world class not only in terms of content but also in the exhibition design.  The gallery is built in a Swedish neo-classical style and the interior with two large central rooms and smaller rooms to both the left and right always looks and feels very similar – the curators of Utopian Bodies have completely transformed the spaces by incredibly skillful use of colour, light and temporary structures.  The individual pieces in the show represent not only the best of Swedish design but include international names such as Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Issye Miyake as well as Iris van Herpen, Walter Van Beirendonck, Rick Owens and Stephen Jones.  It is almost certainly the first time that many of these designers have shown in Sweden.  It was amazing that we were able to get so close to so many of the garments, admittedly several were hung above arms reach and some beyond insurmountable obstacles but even in these cases there was an amazing sense of intimacy.  In addition to fantastic designs were some great examples of new technologies – garments that wirelessly connect to a smartphone to lead you to your destination without looking at a map, or that relay an athlete’s physical experience of competing to the audience.  But perhaps the most impressive, and one of the most discrete, was a dress made from milk!  To be more precise it was made of fibres constructed from milk protein, with the current crisis in diary farming and the over production of milk it was inspiring to see something that offered an entirely new use of a very familiar product.  I have no idea how viable the process of turning milk into fabric is but for me that is secondary to the idea of being able to see things differently.

Seeing things differently was how Rolf Hughes encouraged us to consider the potential for artistic research on his courses at Konstfack.  It was great to see two exhibitions that exemplified and communicated artists’ and designers’ abilities to do this in ways that were literally and metaphorically wonderful!