The things that I do best are the simplest … simple treatments – such as drapery.

Play, Rest, … flags, … tie drapes

Let the materials work … live!


This realisation came to me as I struggled with how and what to show in the first of the three train stations. After working through various complex and unsatisfying possibilities I landed upon the installation … ? … works … that I presented on the Black Hole residency in Riga. Inviting the fantastic Sorcha McNamar (fellow residency artist) to be curator led in a subtly but significantly different result – one that very much responded to the room and the existing possibilities there in. I looked again at the photographs that I had taken on the site visit to the Arboga. The room is large and there are various architecture elements – pillars, radiators, window ledges – that suggest points of rest … contact … for artworks without requiring me to pierce the wall surfaces or construct complicated additional structures and/or systems. These I think are the answers … especially as I was also coming to realise what I would show in the space.

I will show a collection of simple things – a series of flags fashioned from vintage bedsheets. The flags draped from poles should look as if casually placed … laid down … resting.

Flags have now become the over arching theme … motif … for the three parts of the project. Each individual location will exhibit a different scale of flag made of a different type of textil – bedlinen, clothes, table/kitchen linen. In turn these three textiles relate to different aspects of everyday life – the concept with which I was invited to start with – the intimacy of the bedroom, the publicness of the street, and the familial/social of the kitchen/the dining table.

The … my! … project has a name now – ’departure and arrival’. Again it is a simple title that somehow in its simplicity invites … anticipates … welcomes … embraces … a range of interpretations and possibilities. It takes in the particularity for the venues – train stations – and hopefully opens space between the concrete and the philosophical … between the real and the artificial … the mundanity of commuting and the excitement of flights of fantasy.


A quick look online tells me that ’draper’ is ’originally a term for a retailer or wholesaler of cloth’, isn’t it still that? I can recognise myself in the definition – perhaps not a wholesaler but perhaps a retailer of sorts. An online dictionary informs that retail is a transitory verb meaning i, to sell in small quantities directly to the consumer and ii, to tell/retell. Although I am rather suspicious of this second definition – wondering if it is not aural misstake … “retail” / “retell” – I appreciate it might possibly have something to do with narration, story-telling, making something known (again).

The internet also give me a reference to a comic novel by H G Wells – Mr Polly, published 1910, the tale of a man tired of his dreary life as a regional gentleman’s outfitter, inspired by H G Wells’ experiences of being in the drapery trade.



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Less than a fortnight after requesting a year’s sabbatical – to focus on my own work, and take a much needed extended break from my job at the council – and about a week after it all being agreed and announced and me being excited and scared about having a year as a full-time artist I see the advert for two part-time teachers/lecturers at the local foundation college.
Part of me really wants to apply, and another part of me really wants to ignore it … is it a test of my resolve or just a coincidence … or both!

If I hadn’t applied for the sabbatical I would without a question be applying for the teaching post.  Teaching at such a college on such a course would probably be the best option for me if I want regular teaching.  And could be great fun – the students are either already on their way to becoming artists or they are working out what art is and if it is something for them.  My foundation year was fundamental, the tutors I had enabled me to make informed choices about what would become not just my practice but my ways of thinking about art and culture socially and politically.  It would be amazing to have a position where I could do the same.

But I have applied for the sabbatical and I have promised myself a year of focussing on my own practice and seeing where that leads me.  I should not be distracted or seduced by other offers and ideas. I should feel the FOMO and do it anyway!  I should have the courage of my convictions.

[Later that same day] I could apply … there’s no guarantee that I will even get an interview … though obviously I feel that I should … and that I should be offered the post!
There might be opportunities to be a guest of visiting lecturer.

[Two days later] What about applying as an artist-duo? That would be a perfect solution if I can find someone to be Gilbert to my George … or would it be more Morecambe to my Wise? I really like that idea, and I think that it makes sense in terms of being able to be active artists at the same time as taking on a teaching role.

Yesterday we had a very good meeting about the upcoming show at Lövstabruk. Several of us confessed … admitted … to being over optimistic with the time that we can commit to such an exhibition. Our discussion was very useful not least because by some route we came to talk about artistic freedom – allowing ourselves artistic freedom! I realised that I was spending time and energy being concerned about how the pieces that I would like to show can be justified in terms of the title … theme. How could I give a coherent account or explanation of myself? I think that it was through reassuring another artist that they should try not to be over concerned about their own anxieties about this that I came to realise that I have the same ’right’ (?) – to make … show … what I want and need to without recourse to anyone else’s agenda. Does anyone else even have an agenda? Who is this imaginary other that I have created? The venue and the title (that we ourselves came up with) are parenthesis that hold the work together … and at the same time they are elements that create (hold?) space enabling an exhibition to come into existence. I see these parenthesis operating in different dimensions … on different plains … at the same time. At the moment I am pretty sure about two pieces that I want to show, I would like to find a third.

Immediately after that I had a meeting with the Artists’ Club’s treasurer about the administrator/communicator’s job description. It was both productive and enjoyable to work on this together – exactly the sort of dialogue that I miss in my work with the council … thinking something through with a colleague more often than not leads to a better result than working alone.

I then spent a couple of hours at the studio preparing for being on a panel discussion that evening. The Upland Art Association are celebrating their 90 year anniversary (jubilee?) in collaboration with the Uppsala Art Museum, and had invited three artists to speak about the how it is to be an artist today, our route to our practice, and our hopes for the future. I enjoyed myself and enjoyed listening to the other two artists – we had many points of connection and common concerns. Speaking with several of the art associations committee after the discussion it certainly sounds as though there are mutually beneficial possibilities for the Uppsala Artists’ Club to collaborate with them.

A very discursive day that left me tired and happy – excited and energised by the intangible but definite advancements that had been made on three, possibly more, fronts. After the long Swedish winter is feels as though there are definite signs of new growth.




When I have so much to do it feels a little odd to be writing a blog post … on the other hand if I don’t get down some of the things that are swirling around my mind than I doubt that I will be able to concentrate on what I need to do today … so a quick post/mind-dump is in order …

I have ideas that assistants could make – tie drapes, Mariposa trees/bushes, polished cake-tins, play. I do not have to make these. I remember a comment that M, an artist-curator-writer-lecturer/professor(?) friend, made several years ago it was something along the lines of ’but you insist on making everything yourself’. It was not exactly a criticism, more of a pointed … honed … observation intended provocatively. At the time I did not rise to the provocation … did not give time to consider what they were getting at. Doing everything myself certainly slows productivity – something that I am keenly aware of as four exhibitions/installations are fast approaching.
Then it struck me yesterday that the making is not about me, it’s about the work!

This in turn reminded me to something the artist Nick Cave said in one of the many video interviews I have been watching recently – it was something along the lines of ’ … once I realised I was a messenger it all started to flow’. He said something about not being an artist but rather being a messenger. It’s perhaps not so important … vital … that I Stuart Mayes artist have hand-produced every aspect of a work – the important, vital, urgent, essential thing is that the work is out there doing its work – creating space for meetings, discussions, reflections …


Cycling to the studio this morning after a particularly intense class at the gym it struck me that ’layers’ – which I see that I wrote about this time last year (I looked back at post from April 2022 yesterday … don’t know why) – is a methodology. I had thought that layers was a theme, topic, subject … some kind of content. As I cycled across the bridge and down to the path towards the studio I was thinking about a piece for one of the immanent shows I realised how very layered it is/could be. The piece is layered rather than being about layers – the piece is about status … which expressed through the layers (of meaning) and their intersections.

Today is seems clear to me that my topic … theme … subject … interest is status, and my methodology is layers – or should that be layering?? One of my tasks today is to write a short text about my practice, I feel certain that my mid-cycle revelation and my recounting it here will contribute to that.





An intense two days in front of the computer proofreading, second round, all the exhibitors’ text, articles, and image captions for the Supermarket Art Fair catalogue and magazine. I enjoy doing it, and even get a modest fee, but it’s always stressful when the deadline is approaching. This year I have a lot of other things on so it seems particularly intense. Yesterday I found myself thinking how different it will be next year when I won’t be working in Enköping and the Easter holiday won’t mean a clash of demands – kids’ creative activity programme and last minute proofreading. I might even get to take a long weekend!

I have had nothing but encouragement and excitement from my fellow artists at the studio as I let them know that I have taken a sabbatical. Their support is so very important to me – it makes me believe that things will work out, or at the very least that I am doing the right thing.

It feels as though I have lost a large amount of my identity over the past few years … an identity that was always rather fragile even at the best of times … it feels as though it is essential that I reclaim, re-establish, something of it now before too much slips away. I need to indulge myself in the experimental, in the crazy, in the exciting, in the messy, in the unknown, in the unaccountable … ah yes – the unaccountable, so different from the accountable … I don’t want to be accountable to anyone but myself for a while – isn’t that what artistic freedom is about … the freedom to be the artist that one needs to be.

Why has it taken me so long to realise that being employed by a local authority requires a level of accountability that would be detrimental to my well being? Accountability in a broad sense – from being in the office on regular days at regular times through to always feeling that I have to deliver something that at least meets if not exceeds the politicians and bureaucrats expectations. There is no longer any space for play and experimentation working for a small town council. It just doesn’t suit me. And now that I have seen that the only thing to do is to get out!

So … if I take this sabbatical as a second foundation year I can spend the time working out what kind of artist I want to, and can, be … exploring my options … learning by doing … paying attention to both what attracts me (commissions, opportunities, work) and also who/what is attracted to me. I don’t have to know now where I will be in a year’s time.


Before leaving the studio yesterday I felt that I had to doing something material … something with material … something with my hands … something creative … something visual. I made another of the ’tie drapes’ – purple this time. There were fewer purple ties than there were pink, blue, and yellow and this momentarily concerned me but as the piece evolved in the studio wall shared with the other pieces I found a pleasure in each of them having their own character … their own weight … their own identity.


The other evening, possibly whilst washing-up, I found myself wondering what to say about my work – I have to write an artist’s statement for the upcoming exhibitions. I always find it hard to know what to say … how to say something relevant, appropriate, accessible without being prescriptive, restrictive, obtuse. I started thinking about status – the status of things … of people … of places … of ideas … of lives. Perhaps if there has been, and is, a red-thread running through all the things that I have done then it has to do with exploring status – the position of something in relation to other things … how status is constructed, expressed, understood, used, experienced, maintained, challenged. Status is personal, cultural, social, political … it is more than simply being the condition of something … it something about how that condition is perceived and valued … it is inherently relational. And that is what I think I have always been interested in. I am excited to think about this more and to see if I can fashion a text around it … in Swedish!





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My application for a year’s unpaid leave has been approved!

I am excited and scared!

Mostly excited! Knowing that I have the option to return to work (security) is great. I think that knowing that will create the (safe) space for me to really invest in being an artist … being myself. This half-way stage is perfect for someone like me – full of ideas, easily distracted by others’ demands … requests … projects, and slightly risk adverse.



Notes to self:

  • the year is for my practice – this must include time in the studio playing with materials
  • prioritise activities and projects that are rewarding and sustainable
  • research and develop long term ways of being
  • take risks – start small if necessary
  • build relationship and networks – talk with people, ask questions
  • be kind to myself – allow myself to make false starts and mistakes
  • think of the year as a second ’foundation’ year!
  • be open … to change, opportunity, possibility



I have to admit that I really hope that someone is employed to cover my ’sabbatical’ – I am a little nervous that they may not be. I expect to find out next week when I speak with my manager. If no-one covers my leave then it will leave me in no doubt as to how my work and programmes are valued.

Now I have two intense days (despite one being a bank holiday … it’s not an artist’s holiday after all) of proofreading for the Supermarket Art Fair. Best get on with that!



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