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!

From Enköpings Posten (Swedish)

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.


This morning [Friday] was my last early morning cycling past Go-Go. The piece continues to be on show until Sunday the 19th however I am away next week so I will not be riding past three times a week on my way to the gym for their 6.00am class and home again afterwards at just gone 7.00. Going past it so regularly has given me both pleasure and anxiety (if that is not too strong of a term). Seeing those twinkling orbs and their blue light splatter cast about the square makes me smile and hope that other people have enjoyed the installation during it’s three month residency in Konstfönster Joar. Seeing it only half lit, or with a motionless mirror-ball feels me with concern and questions – how long has it been like that, has anyone else noticed, do I have time to fix it today, how many lamps will it get through before the end of the run?

The piece has worked really well not only in activated ‘Enköping’s new art venue’ but in enabling me to speak about my ambitions for future projects – both individual and collaborative. It has generated a considerable amount of press interest in me. It came as a surprise when the director of the town gallery told me that he had put ‘my’ article up on their notice board beside the interview with the artist whose show opened last Saturday. I did not know that anything had been written or published. The article is based on my presentation and the discussion that followed about my ideas for an artists’ house. I am very grateful to the journalist Gunilla Edström for such positive and enthusiastic writing, and not least for quoting an established and respected artist’s support for the idea. This will be good to have when I start putting together a serious proposal.

[see the full article here]


I am looking forward to seeing someone else’s work there and I am delighted that it will Ken and Julia (whose m2 Gallery inspired me and was Go-Go’s original showcase). As soon as I am back I will be assisting them with their install – and I do mean literally as soon as I get back, my return flight arrives at 8.50pm on Monday evening, Ken’s flight from London arrives half an hour earlier so we will meet each other at the airport and make our way to Enköping together – ready to start work bright and early on Tuesday morning.

There has been lots of discussion, sketches, revised sketches, further discussion, and even more drawings in an attempt to make sure that the install goes well in the limited time (and space) that we have and that their work looks fantastic. Ken, being an architect, is able to produce wonderfully detailed, and beautifully hand-drawn, sketches that have been a great help when I speak with Klas in my ever improving artist’s / curator’s Swedish.

Once again Klas has been great in taking on all of the ideas and challenges that Ken and Julia’s show presents – I think that it helps that he is a practising artist too. While I am away he and the brilliant carpenter at the museum will paint and cut apertures in the boards that will give the show’s films and photographs the distinctive m2 look. It is good that the window is going to look so completely different.


The other thing that has been occupying me recently is my now annual task of proofreading for the Supermarket art fair. The catalogue entries for each exhibitor are becoming easier which could be the result of one or two things: the exhibitors are becoming more international and used to expressing themselves in English, or my English is become more European – a friend who recently proofread something that I had written commented that sometimes my sentences sound a bit ‘second language’! The longer articles though provoke both interest and frustration. The interest is genuine as I get to read texts by artists and curators engaged with fascinating ideas and projects. But so too is the frustration as I have to try to justify and explain why there are some rules that simply have to be followed – this is not unique to English, all languages have a grammar and syntax that just is as it is and needs to be accepted. I openly admit that I am not a professional proof-reader, nor have I studied language however as a mature native speaker and former (theory) lecturer I think that I probably have a better grasp of basic English than an aspiring foreign artist/curator. My role as proof-reader is ensure that the text is in the best possible English and is as comprehensive as possible. It is no secret that I am in favour of complex ideas expressed simply, however I am careful not to turn the texts into something that I would have written – as far as possible I maintain the author’s style. Should I really have to justify inserting determiners (‘a’ or ‘the’) before virtually every noun in six pages of dense writing? Or that it sounds wrong to play ‘pick n mix’ with phrases such as ‘touching a nerve’ and ‘striking a chord’? Proofreading documents in shared Google Drive folders does not make matters better – particularly in Sweden where everyone is welcome to share their views. Late last night after several hours of writing lengthy explanations for too many simple amendments and alterations that had been ‘rejected’ by the author I came up with a three letter acronym that I will be using next year – NFD: Not For Discussion.

(I am only too aware that my own writing often contains typos, mistakes, and sometimes in my enthusiasm to get a sentence out I omit vital words – that is the point of having a proof-reader. Anyone who wants to do this for these posts will be welcomed with open arms!)



I did it!

Yesterday evening’s presentation was my first ever in Swedish – and it was fine!

My style of preparation for speaking in front of people is to make copious notes to support my slides. I am conscious that I do not want a script to read so a few pages of notes that hop backwards and forwards between, over, and across, descriptions and ideas are usually written. It feels difficult and restrictive to try and get things in any kind of linear narrative; my thoughts just do not work like that and I am not interested in foisting that type of structure on to them. I guess that might be why I chose to express myself through installations, objects, and such – they are outside of what I think of as traditional written or even spoken language. My preparation for yesterday was true to form. I spent several enjoyable hours with various dictionaries and translation programmes trying to find the most appropriate Swedish terms. What I found were some fantastic and thought-provoking words that went further than the thing that I had first been fumbling after. This not only increases my vocabulary but also gives me a better understanding of how the language is constructed and used.

I was (more than a little) concerned that my ability to think and speak around my work – to go off on tangents, to make quite demanding connections, to be provisional rather than declarative – would simply be beyond my abilities in Swedish. A problem that I (and my teachers) had when I was learning Swedish was that I was more interested in what I wanted to say rather than what I could say! This often resulted in me being completely incomprehensible. But after a very cautious start I soon found myself simply talking, I was careful to ask if people understood what I was saying (something that we were drilled in at Swedish school, and a very good habit for anyone lecturing or leading workshops), and at the end of the hour I was delighted that a couple of people came up and thanked me for an interesting talk (‘interesting’ in a good way!).

So I have done it – my first artist’s talk in Swedish! I know that my Swedish is far from perfect (I only have to ask someone to proofread something I have written if I want to see just how much more I have to learn) but I was able to express myself and to say things about ideas and processes that are important to me and to my practice.  It feels good – definitely a milestone rather than a millstone!

Now to get back to proofreading English for the Supermarket art fair catalogue and magazine.  (If I got paid for all the things that I do unpaid then I would be quite wealthy!  I might have to ask for some expenses – it is amazing how much Earl Grey tea I get through when sitting at the computer for a whole day.)


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