As I walked through the doors that separate ‘arrivals’ from the body of the airport I immediately spotted Ken sitting, as we had arranged, with a cup of tea at the cafe. His plane from London arrived half an hour before mine from Fuerteventura. This was late on Monday evening last week: Ken was here to begin installing his and Julia’s two person show in Konstfönstret Joar, and I was a returning from a much needed week away (my first ‘real’ holiday in over six years). Our chat on the bus ranged from the highly political to the highly personal. Large wet snowflakes began to fall as we walked from the station to my flat. It was gone midnight by the time we had had some tea and were heading off to our beds.
I had been wrong when I said that the snow would not settle. We woke to good few centimetres of that heavy soggy kind of snow. It took a while to (re-)pack our bags with the tools and materials that we would need for the day. Klas and Sam were waiting for us when we got to the window (Konstfönstret Joar), so too were the panels that Ken had designed based on my measurements – Klas had been able to work with the carpenter at the museum to cut the boards and their various apertures. Now was the moment of truth; had all of our conversations and planning come together, did the panels meet Ken’s expectations and did they fit the window. Leaning up against a wall outside of the window they certainly met Ken’s approval, however as I feared the restrictive ‘vertical turn space’ in the ‘gallery’ area behind the window prevented them from being put in place. Having worked many hours in the rather limited confines of the window while stalling my own show, and being somewhat able to visualise in three dimensions, I suspected that diagonal length of the full size panels would be greater than the distance available in the window. The relatively neat resolve was to cut 40 centimetres off the bottom of each panel and install them as two pieces.
By the time that we had set up a makeshift cutting bench and marked up each panel it was time for the (early) lunch that we had been invited to – Enköping council’s first ‘Lunch Beat‘.
In the midst of talking with Ken (though adhering to the Lunch Beat manifesto and not discussing work), dancing, and eating a very tasty vegetarian wrap, a man whom I recognised came and spoke with me. He is responsible for finding new members for the Konsthall’s management committee and wanted to know if he could put me forward. His question was quite unexpected and caught me off-guard. Thankfully I had the presence of mind, despite the distraction of the seductive funky beats, to say that I was interested but wanted more information before giving a definite yes. He seemed genuinely pleased that I had not said an absolute no, and with that disappeared into the swaying crowd of council employees and curious townsfolk dancing away in the room usually reserved for political debate and decision making.
By the end of the day the four of us: Klas, Sam, Ken, and I, had made good progress not only with the window exhibition but also ensuring that everything was in place for the presentation that Ken and Julia would make in the library following their exhibition opening immediately outside of the window on Thursday evening. We finished up with planning what Ken and I would do the next day – Klas, Sam, and their colleagues in the arts department were on an away day so it was important that we made sure that we had access to the tools and materials that we would need and that we knew who to speak to should we need to get access to their offices. Our plan was simple: to give the panels a top coat of the blue paint that Klas and Ken had gone and bought, to mark up the back of the panels so that hanging, and changing, Ken’s prints would be easy (the prints will be regularly changed over the period of the exhibition).
Over breakfast on Wednesday morning we looked out at the snowstorm. Our idea to paint the panels outside would have to be seriously revised. At 8.00am I felt that it was not too early to call Klas – he is usually in the office by then (like most Swedes he works the European 8–4 rather than the Anglo-American 9–5). Finding somewhere to work has become trickier since I prepared the glitter-panels for my show as the health and safety officer has specifically prohibited anyone working in the vast empty former restaurant/nightclub area due to its somewhat derelict condition – something that most artists are more than familiar with but which frightens those in authority and (understandably) those responsible for public safety (and the council’s public liability insurance too I expect). Luckily one of the former kitchen corridors is still usable and Klas was able to get us permission to be there for the day. I got my second workout of the day as we carried panels, worktables, paint, and tools up and down stairs and through various parts of the library and non-public bits of the building in order to get to our new temporary workspace and avoid everything getting covered in the dense snow that was blowing and swirling about outside.
The storm eventually cleared in early afternoon by which time the panels were a very delicate shade of blue that I remembered from the 4xm2 Gallery pavilion that Ken and Julia showed in the parade ground at Chelsea School of Art in 2011. We were able to carry everything back to the window by the much more direct outdoor route. At lunch I noticed that I had missed three calls from the same number that morning (I use the ‘silent’ function when working on anything that requires concentration, and/or two hands). I returned the call but no one answered, I left the volume turned on as we began fixing the smaller panels in the window. Not long after my phone rang and I learnt who had been trying to get in touch with me and why – my phone rarely rings. I have been selected for one of the county’s culture awards and they wanted to let me know before going to the press!
I am absolutely delighted to have been chosen – it was a total surprise. I made my application last year thinking that it would be good practice and that I should start to be seen to be actively applying for things. But as a relatively recent arrival in Sweden, and a very recent arrival in Uppsala county I had no expectation that I would come through the initial selection rounds. It means a great deal to me to get this award, it might not be a huge amount of money but it is a significant sum, not only that but it means that I have made progress in becoming part of the Swedish art world where awards from authorities and public institutions are important validations. It is in fact the first award that I have received for my own work (I do not consider my degrees and educational qualifications to be similar – though obviously they are awards based on my work in the strictest sense). The award is made in order for me to pursue my practice – as simple as that! I remember seeing a group exhibition by several artists who had received various grants and awards at the artists’ information evenings that I attended in Uppsala late last year so there might be a similar opportunity for me.
So it was with a somewhat dreamily happy mood that I continued helping Ken with the install of his show. As dusk fell it became unrealistic to work the increasingly dark window – Sam and Klas had set-up new LED light-tape around each of the four sections of the window however the transformers would not be cabled in until the following day. Instead we marked up centre lines and various other ‘keys’ on Ken’s photographs. The library staff helpfully reminded us that we would have to be out of the building shortly after they closed as they set the alarms when they left. Back at my flat there was just time for dinner and a chat with Kim in London before heading off to the station to meet Julia from the airport transfer bus.