This afternoon’s meeting with the principle of Wiks Folkuniversitet*, Konstframjändet Uppland*, and three other artists/mentors has been postponed as the principle has Covid. So I find myself at home with nothing specific to do … I can’t remember the last time that happened. I have a slightly nagging feeling that there is something that I should be doing, and it is true that there is a pretty long to do list bouncing around my head … however there is nothing that must be done this afternoon, so it seems perfect to spend time reflecting on Rest.


The exhibition of sculptures and installations (?) across the art association’s three galleries and including an outdoor piece installed on two nearby flagpoles makes me very happy, and by all accounts it makes other people happy too (even if ’happy’ may not be exactly the right word). Klas described the first room as having a definite sense of foreboding, I agree so I guess I am experiencing a certain level of meta-happiness – happiness that the show works. Conversations at the opening were both practical and philosophical, sometimes both simultaneously: I do enjoy when someone asks ’what is it?’. Such a deceptively complex question.


I was really pleased and touched that several artist colleagues came over from Uppsala. Their support and encouragement means a great deal to me and goes (quite) some way to explaining why I value my time at the studio there. It’s been a while since I felt myself a member of a physical peer-group – the last time was over ten years ago with Crystal Palace Artists. It was also fantastic that some colleagues from the culture and arts department came, including the head of sport, culture and tourism. Other artist and creative friends were there too and it was great to finally get to introduce some of them too each other – two in particular who though very different are both committed to making their homes in to rural hubs for international events and exchanges. Both are currently living in construction sites as they redevelop and extend former industrial and commercial buildings to accommodate not only their families but also exhibitions, workshops and residencies. For all my avoidance of hosting parties I am more than pleased when an opening works in similar ways.


In the first gallery one of the two pieces that I am showing is an untitled black flag. It is a thin but heavy weave on a matt black wooden pole, the outer edge is neither hemmed nor treated in another way – it is raw and frayed. The flag on its pole leans into a corner of the room. In the second gallery the untitled blue (sequin) flag hangs out from the wall on polished metal furnishings. The navy-blue sequins are dense and the flag weighty (it took several attempts to mount it before Klas found a solution that worked with the soft brick of the old walls). The sparkle of the sequins gives lightness and glamour to what would have been a very sombre and imposing work were it not twinkling away like a disco relic. In the third gallery a vintage set of (decorator’s?) wooden steps stands almost in the middle of the space. Each tread and the platform is covered in loose glitter. The glitter changes from dark, almost 100% black, on the lowest rung to light, almost 100% silver, on the platform high up. Dazzling small pricks of light dance across the horisontal surfaces from floor to head height. The pieces stands centre stage, the other eight works in the room seem to be in its orbit.

These three pieces perhaps encapsulate the essence of my work in the show: the work of grief.

The Swedish word for grief is sorg.
The Swedish word om is a preposition meaning about, of, by, again, and even round (in a spatial sense).
The Swedish word omsorg [om+sorg] means care, even attention, or concern.


Writing this I am starting to imagine a new work: a Bruce Nauman-esque neon piece sequentially flashing:

omsorg omsorg omsorg

… definitely a piece for the ’proposals’ section of my website.



It would be wrong to finish without mentioning that I sold a piece at the opening. It actually looks as though I have sold it and a second version! The work in question is a very modest sculpture made of two small vintage wineglasses, one standing (resting?) on the other, on small enlarging (convex) mirror. The piece in the show was snapped up by one of the committee who has an impressive art collection in his apartment, the second will more than likely be bought by the art association as one of this year’s acquisitions. I am very excited by this – the collector knows his stuff and apparently expressed his immediate interest in buying it, and the association (if the committee back the chair’s suggestion) will have bought something far more representative of my practice than the framed print that I thought might appeal to them.



*the terms Folkuniversitet and Konstframjändet are tricky to translate into English because they both are intrinsic to Sweden’s post second world war socialist ambitions. Folkuniversitet is literally The People’s University, established to enable working (class) people to study the equivalent traditional degree subjects. It has gone through a number of changes since the 1940s and now offers a range of courses – one of which is pretty close to the British arts foundation course. Konstfamjändet is literally Arts Promotion, this organisation was also the product of mid-century Swedish socialism. It grew out of the workers’ movement and aimed to make the arts accessible to those other than an (upper) middle-class elite. It fell out of popularity in the more materialistic 80s but has had an upswing and found new purpose in the last ten years.



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The last three days have been great. I have really enjoyed putting together the show with Klas. As I finished up this evening I had to admit to being very pleased with how everything looked. Just over four years ago Klas and I showed together at Målhammar, and just like four years ago the process of working together has been simple and inspiring – a pleasure. I could not ask for a better co-exhibitor.

There are some pieces which could belong to either of us, and some which are definitely our own. The works play off and with each other well. If there is something that unifies the exhibition it is perhaps our shared passion for materiality. In our discussion with the local writer and journalist Gunilla Edström it became very clear that both Klas and I want our practice to extend beyond whatever motivation(s) we may have had to create the work: the work has to work on its own (material) terms. And without wishing to sound too smug, I think that everything in Rest does that.

Klas’ material of choice is wood, mine cloth, though we have both dabbled in the other material. Yesterday Klas revealed that he took a foundation course in textiles including lacemaking before studying fine art sculpture. My final project at Dartington was in principle a piece of wooden furniture requiring me to learn a significant number of carpentry skills. Perhaps there is something in our histories that lends an ease to our co-curating of our shows. Again, just like four years ago, we each turned up with a number of pieces which we had not specifically named or shared images of beforehand. Of course we aware of what each other is doing but now that I spend most of my studio time in Uppsala and that Klas has been busy with other projects we have less day-to-day contact and knowledge about what the other is up to. That did not seem apparent was we quite smoothly started placing works in each of the three galleries. With just one or two re-positionings things were pretty much settled.

Each room has a distinct character – it’s just that I am not sure what that is yet … but I know that they are there. I look forward to getting to know the exhibition over the coming weeks – not that I will be invigilating, that is taken care of by the art association’s management committee. After tomorrow’s opening we have a ’Meeting with …’ evening for the association’s members and guests. This will be held in the gallery, how and what the exhibiting artists choose to present is open and the majority settle on a blend of biography and practice (inspiration, technique, working process). We are thinking of something more discursive, extending from our studio practices to encompass our broader work in the cultural sphere. Both Klas and I work in the visual arts sector, Klas as a consultant for public art agencies as well as a project leader, and I have my educator role. We both are on management committees for arts organisations, and we both have strong opinions on what is required to develop and support artists professionally. I think it might be interesting to speak about this for, and with, the association members – most of whom are art-lovers rather than being artists themselves.

The discussions that we have had while installing and over lunch have been lively, ranging from our frustrations with time demanding bureaucratic systems and our limited time handling materials to concrete ideas of how two of the organisations that we are involved with might collaborate on an ambitious project to promote artists from the region to new audiences beyond the county lines. Whenever I get together with Klas we have the most stimulating conversations. It would be fantastic to work together with him on another kind of project, it feels as if it would be a natural thing to do – and that is very exciting.



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Yesterday evening I attended the my friend Mireia Rocher’s opening at Galleri Duerr, Stockholm. I am of course biased but the show is great. It was also great for me to be reminded how much work goes in to producing a good show … seeing and hearing Mireia down the corridor from my studio has kept me focused these past few months. Next Saturday I have the opening of a two-person show with Klas Hällerstrand so a not quite last minute reminder was very much appreciated.

Our show is somewhat different – not only is it a double-header rather than a solo exhibition, it is also at an art association’s gallery* rather than a commercial gallery … and it is in Enköping rather than Stockholm. Nonetheless it is a big occasion for me as I previously was on the associations committee and it is where I do the majority of my art workshops for children and families (part of my job at the local council). Even without these two factors it would be a big deal and a significant show for a number of reasons.

Many of the pieces that I am showing are new, and they seem to be taking my work in a new direction. This is exciting and maybe even a little daunting! Alongside pieces fashioned from second-hand clothes and vintage fabric are three large works made in new material: two single flags and a pair of flags. I have thoroughly enjoyed making these new pieces (all of which are currently untitled, and which may well still be so come the show). New materials and new processes – the flags were made on my new (new to me) sewing machine. Previously hand sewing things has been an integral and time consuming part of my process. Did that though give me too much time to think? There is very different energy around these most recent pieces, and I am enjoying their lightness.

On holiday my friend from art-school and I asked ourselves two questions when looking at other artists’ work: 1, did they play with the material(s)? and 2, did they have fun? We acknowledged that these questions might not always be relevant however they opened up space for the two of us, both of whom are prone to over analysis, to start looking at things from a different (unusual for us) perspective. I think that despite my starting point for the works they would receive a yes/yes.

Klas and I have three days to install the show and have decided that we will both arrive with between eight and ten pieces from which we will curate ’the best possible show’. I much prefer this idea of working together with the pieces in the space, to having a predetermined vision of where particular things will be. Both of us work on quite large scales with very particular materials and it is important to us that the show works as a whole as well as allowing individual pieces to shine. If the success of the image for the exhibition is anything to go by then this way of working should be good for us.



The image – a diagonal composite of a work by each of us – is a thing in itself. We hope to achieve something similar with the show. I was a little nervous when I suggested the collage image to Klas; it is not every artist who immediately accepts someone (especially another artist) cutting their work in half. I am very grateful that he not only liked the idea but actually produced the image – photoshop and such packages not being my forte. And it amuses me that I wrote the short text for the association’s autumn brochure. With a few minor grammatical corrections my text, written in Swedish, was approved by both Klas and the association. Interestingly I found it tricky to translate the text into English for my bilingual mail-out. I wanted the texts not only to say similar things but to be similar lengths so that they looked neat side-by-side. Hopefully I achieved this.

Tomorrow I will pack up the pieces that are here at the studio in Uppsala, and drive them and some tools over to Enköping. There are a few things that I need to finish and fine tune once I know where they will be placed. It feels as though we have a good amount of time to make a good show. It really helps that we know each other well and in addition that we are both calm and considerate people. This evening I will think about prices … and perhaps while sitting quietly with them some titles for the new works will come.


Rest, Stuart Mayes & Klas Hällerstrand
Opening 27 August, 12 – 3pm
Exhibition continues to 18 September
Enköping’s Art Association, Tullgatan 18, Enköping, Sweden
Saturday & Sunday 12 – 3pm, Wednesday 5 – 7pm



*I feel the need to apologise for, or explain, the website; it was made by and is maintained by an elderly member of the association who also designs all of the publicity material. Unfortunately the website is not a reflection of the rather elegant brochures, posters, and invitation cards that he designs.  Please do not judge the gallery by its website!


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