It occurred to me the other evening, as I was proof reading English texts for this year’s Supermarket catalogue and magazine, that there is no reason why artists cannot work with both commercial galleries and artist-led initiatives.  Supermarket is celebrating its tenth anniversary and several of the features refer to its history and founding principles of being an artist focused alternative to the more economically driven art fairs that the authors tend to see as being controlled by and organised for gallerists and collectors.

I am paraphrasing and am sure that the authors share my view that things are never so simple as being either good or bad.  And of course I agree with their criticism of an art scene that is wholly steered by commercial ventures and investments. But then I am not currently working with either a commercial gallery or an artist-led initiative so I can fantasize about a wonderful middle way.  Perhaps my perspective reveals a great deal about a fantasy world that I believe in.  It has always surprised me that artists (often but not exclusively those not working with commercial galleries) complain that galleries ‘take’ at least 50% of the sale price.  My first job after art school was in a department store where I quickly learnt that the average ‘mark up’ on most goods was 50% of the selling price: it made little difference if it was socks or sofas.  Suppliers did not complain that the store ‘took’ 50% of the sale price.  I am surprised that galleries do not more often take 70 or even 75% when I think about how much they risk in taking on artists, especially artists without a proven track record.  Art and economics will never be easy bedfellows, but then neither were art and religion.

In my perfect fantasy world I have the opportunity to be like those Hollywood stars who make crowd-pleasing blockbusters in order to finance their alternative and art-house projects.  For last nine months I have worked almost full-time as Tim’s assistant.  It is good, interesting, and rewarding work but it has kept me away from making my own work.  It is unrealistic to think that my weekends can be spent in my studio, like most other people I need a bit of relaxation and to do those necessary domestic activities.  When regular and on-going part-time teaching was an option it was a good way to support a non-profit making practice, now that those post are almost non-existent I find myself wondering about other ways to make sufficient income without sacrificing too much time for the things that I really want to do.  Suddenly the possibility of handing over some of the things that I make to people who will promote, publicise and sell them seems very very attractive!  I think that I need to pay a bit more attention to Jeremy Deller and Grayson Perry.

Last week I went to the Eskilstuna Art Museum to hear a lecture by Johan Strandahl, he gave a very good and very amusing presentation about his work.  His practice often has him making his own versions of everyday things, it is the way in which he tackles the task in addition to the final object or image that makes his work brilliantly resolved.  One piece consists of two almost identical photographs, each photo shows a wooden table on which is a bag of plaster, several bottles of glue, and a rasp.  The photo on the left shows the objects in their original state whereas the photo on the right shows the result of Strandahl’s processes of de- and re-construction.  He takes a plaster cast of the table, files the table down to dust that he mixes with the glue and fills the plaster mould with.  He then files down the mould and puts the plaster dust back in the bag and puts the bag, the glue bottles (now empty), and the rasp on the new table in the same position as their predecessors.  The museum was also showing his ‘Kitchen’ installation where he has literally made his own Ikea kitchen.  Taking one of their model kitchens as inspiration and blue-print he has handmade all the components and shows them as a mirror image of the store bought version.  Both the fridge and cooker that he made work, though he confessed that the fridge does not reach an equally cold temperature.  It was inspiring to see how his work has developed over the ten years since he graduated (as a ‘mature student’) and to hear how passionate he is about his way of coming to understand the world that he lives in.  He mentioned that much has been made of the relationship between the price one pays for a mass-produced product and the labour it takes to do it yourself, this however is not his reason for doing what he does.  He said, quite simply and honestly (and I hope that I understood correctly), that his practice gives him amazing insights into everyday life and he hopes that we are able to share some of that through his artworks.

Before I heard him speak I was not sure why I felt it so necessary to visit the museum and attend his lunchtime lecture.  I am very pleased that I did and I left with a renewed, if still incomprehensible, sense of purpose about my own practice.


It feels as though it is definitely time to get some feedback on my work.  While I am sketching and daydreaming in preparation for my future studio I notice that my ideas and fantasy projects cover a range that is far from consistent and focused.  It seems as though I could enjoyably follow a number paths that branch out from my recent activities.  And at the same time I do want to focus my time and energies in the hope of beginning to establish an artistic identity here in Sweden that is useful to both other people and to me!  Perhaps it is my rather flexible, adaptable, fluid practice that both enables and disables me: it enables me in that I can respond to different and diverse opportunities, it disables me in that I do not have a well founded depth of work that is easily summarised.

Is it important for me to see connections between various individual pieces?  Or perhaps I should turn that question around: why am I concerned that this morning’s sketches for ‘real’ sculptures seem so foreign to most of my previous work.

The majority of my work to date has a strong conceptual or theoretical aspect that is apparent (to me at least) in, either one or all, of the following: materiality, visual form, cultural reference, placement, art historical reference, and subjectivity.  The pencil sketches of large sculptural forms that I made a few hours ago are not immediately, and may never be, justifiable in logical linguistic terms, nor do they seem to refer to the concerns mentioned above.  Instead they show forms that I am interested in making real to see how they are – it is as simple as that.

Sometimes I wonder if my persistent engagement with art is precisely because I do not get it!  Art remains unknowable and intangible to me – particularly art that makes no claim on research, personal or political relevance, story-telling, and the like.  My relation to ‘accountability’ rises up!  Do I want my practice to be accountable? Do I want my practice to give an account?

These questions are not entirely unfamiliar, nor is it surprising that I return to them as the memories of the various courses that I have recently taken fade and as my literal distance from the various academic institutions becomes increasingly real.  40 minutes (but a million miles) from great seats of learning and sites of philosophical discussion I find myself seeming to have come full circle. I feel that I am at a place of questioning my intentions and ambitions with my practice.  Standing at my worktable this morning I made a series of sketches that had little to do with anything that I could substantiate, they had more to do with a re-awakened sense of intuition.



Two weekends ago I was in Stockholm along with ‘Play’ – originally installed at MOCA London in 2010.  Pontus Pettersson had gotten in touch with me and asked if I was interested in showing Play at ‘The Cat Café’  – the second of his ‘Poeticians’ events and choreographic installations. (Pontus and I met when we were both project students at the Royal Institute of Art here.)

I was very pleased to be invited, especially as Pontus had only seen photographs of the piece.  It was a real pleasure to work with him, and although I was a little apprehensive about how I would install the work without having visited the venue beforehand I was re-assured by his calmness and trusted that I/we would work out a suitable solution.  Pontus and I decided where the piece should be and the installation turned out to be relatively simple.  I was very pleased that Pontus was so involved in physically hanging it as it would have been difficult and probably dangerous to attempt it alone!

I had previously shown the piece at the Cultural Centre in Stockholm which required attaching the lengths of tape to two wooden batons rather than directly to the ceiling.  This proved to be very convenient at The Cat Café as it enabled us to hang the two sections in different locations – one at the beginning of the café’s mini-golf course, and one at the end.

It was good to see the work in another context and to see how Pontus’ cat performers (they weren’t really cats but were very very cat like!) played with it.  Two of the cats are organisers of a dance/performance evening at the same venue and they asked if I could leave Play up for their Sunday Run_up event on the following day!  Fantastic – a second and quite unexpected opportunity.

Posting a couple of pictures on Instagram resulted not only in a good number of ‘likes’ but also being asked to send details of the piece to an artist/curator who is (now) going to propose it for a group show in Norway!  What a great reminder of how important it is to get my work out there!


And last but by no means least, I want say a big thank you to a-n and Stephen Palmer for my week as featured artist blogger on a-n’s Instagram feed.  I received a great deal of positive feedback and am pleased to be back in touch with some other bloggers who I had lost contact with!  Thank you!