Day 0

Monday and my first day as a full-time artist … and the day before my sabbatical officially begins. I am very excited about the coming year. There are number of concrete … definite …things that I want to do, there are also a number of more abstract things that I want to explore … work out … play with. I want to strike a balance between these predetermined activities – both the concrete and the abstract – and projects and giving space for the spontaneous, the unexpected, the opportunistic, the haphazard, the random.

I am looking forward to working out a routine. I need a routine … a framework … something simple and straight forward that gives the week some structure. I know that this is something that will develop and evolve, it is something that will be pushed, tested, and deviated from but knowing that it is there … even if it is in the background … offers a necessary security and sense of comfort. I find myself returning to the familiar phrase ’structures for freedom’. Simply saying that I will be at the studio every (week)day is a good start … and it is already something that will be deviated from – it is Stockholm Pride this week and I have been invited to share a friend’s hotel room from Thursday to Saturday, so I won’t be here two days this week. And next week it is more than likely that I will work at least one day for Tim – which will be great, it’s been too long since I worked with Tim. The following week I am in Västmanland (the next county) installing over two, possibly three, days and the week after that I am back there for the openings and workshops. With all this activity it is good to know that when not busy elsewhere that I will be here.

A part of my ’being here’ will be spent organising … ordering … sorting out … the studio. I want, and need, to make it an efficient and effective place to work. There is plenty of space … I just need to use it well. That means organising the materials and tools that I use, and recycling – repurposing – or re-homing things that I do not. There are plenty of things that have been in the studio for a while … things brought here from the Enköping studio … from the Stockholm studio!… unused things … that still have appeal but no definite role … perhaps these are the things to be played with … writing now I have the idea to give these things time (three weeks?) in November – set myself the task of turning them in to a live work and/or installation … and present a work-in-progress here at the studio.

I want to explore new ways of working … and to re-engage with ways of working that I have enjoyed previously. To find that place where there is both serious intention and playful improvisation. In my mind I am recalling not only the Black Hole residency but also Frozen Progress (2000), the Goat Island Summer School (Glasgow 1996), and even Tim Miller’s Queer Glow project (Glasgow 1994). It has been in (and on) my mind to make a new chapter in the Following Eugène series – a live work/event seems an appropriate and attractive starting point.

First though to throw myself in to the two train station installations and my going to Juxtapose Art Fair.





Things that I have done:


Watched the clouds

Helped carry the lamp through the city

Forgotten my wallet

Stood close to art four exhibitions

Laughed out loud

Spoken with strangers

Chatted with friends

Been to the sauna

Walked on squeaking sand

Picked up plastic

Listened to the wind

Waded across the lagoon

Found shelter in the reeds

Became nostalgic about going out

Recognised myself in another man’s voice

Stood in yesterday’s footprints

Felt the wind on my skin

Made a pencil sketch

Politely declined the invitation to the party

Riden along cyclepaths in the woods

Met friends of friends

Solved cryptic clues

Heard the rain fall on the tent

Studied my right foot

Seen others come and go

Bought second-hands books

Peered in the paper conservator’s window

Risen early

Fallen asleep quickly

Had nothing to do in the morning




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Rest.  I have been in constant motion for the last year – barely a day has passed where I have not had something to do, somewhere to be.  Now I am at rest … resting … it feels essential.  Returning to a place that I am familiar with grants me peace, no need to dash about to get my bearings, to make sense of somewhere new, to work out how to be … instead a welcome ease and rest.


A two hour walk along the coast yesterday was pleasantly mindless.  The passing thought of turning it into an exercise, paying it attention, making it in to something, slipped free and was blown away.  It wasn’t something that I actively released, it was just what happened, something that I could not, did not, resist.


A long stretch of the coast is a nature reserve – The Swans’ Reef.  Between the reef and the mainland is a shallow lagoon of clear water.  The lagoon confounds me … the breadth of it evokes an anxiety that it cannot be transversable yet I know it to be so … I have waded through it previously and encountered water reaching no higher than my knees.  The water is warm, the sandbed firm and soft.  I walk with a gliding action lifting each foot in turn no more than necessary before pushing my leg smoothly forward.  This reduces the disruptive splashing caused by a more common gait, it lowers my centre of gravity and invites me to tense my abdomen.  It feels determined and adventurous.  I notice first one white speck in the distance … then a couple more … six … eight … nine … eventually eleven by which time I see that they are swans.  It is the first time that I have seen swans here.  The abundance of large white feathers on the reef evidences their presence … or their passing … even when the creatures themselves are unseen. The last time that I saw swans was in the Latvian countryside, and there were swans printed on the duvet cover that I was given to use on the residency.


Eleven rhymes with seven but does not share its sibilant alliteration with swans … besides seven swans a swimming would be very unseasonal … along with eleven lords a leaping.  Swans and lords, sevens and elevens … seven eleven … Lord Swan. A racing detour.


A return to rest, but if my mind races again I shall let it. It is no doubt a good way to use the last of that hectic adrenaline fuelled energy, a stage en route to stillness.


Skanör, Skåne



Skanör, Skåne

Yesterday at the beach I sketched the leaden cloud … clouds … that filled the sky and hung heavily over the sea.  Did I sketch because I wanted to or because I felt that I should?  Intellectually I understand that sketching is an exercise that trains the eye and that hones the connection between the eye and the hand … it’s just that it feels somehow artificial … as though I am performing … doing what is expected … doing what I expect of myself if I am to be taken seriously as an artist.  The blustery conditions meant that the cloudscape was in constant evolution … never static … how to convey that in graphite on paper? I was aware of the difference in scale between the vast and rolling sky, and the small movements of my hand across the A5 page. Sketching … observational sketching is not a regular part of my practice. The last time that I sketched was probably this time last year when I was here with L … what does it mean to be an annual sketcher?


I am thinking about the walk on the beach in Latvia … an exercise in experience rather than image … another way of paying attention.  If it hadn’t been for that walk and seeing those tall pines collapsed at the frontline of the beach’s errosion of the forrest I may not have come to the more collapsed positions in subsequent installations.


Writing now I am recalling a series of ink sketches made on the insides of disected manilla envelopes … broad landscapes loosely sketched in fountain-pen ink … each envelope opened up so as to create the widest panorama. I made them when I was on my foundation course. Did I take materials with me to Plumberow Mount and work there … I don’t remember that crucial (?) detail at all.  Were there sketches of the Southend seascape … estuaryscape? … too?  I do remember keeping some of those sketches for a long time.  I liked the dark ink on the unglazed and absorbent light tan paper.  I miss manilla envelopes … their colour, their texture, their proportion … their materiality.




Yesterday I laughed out loud, several times, in a gallery … I can’t remember the last time that I did that.  The show, a retrospective: Roman Signer at Malmö konsthall.

I ’kind of knew’ his work … from some group/thematic shows … maybe something at the Haywood (London) in the 90s but I could be very wrong about that.  I was excited to learn that he had a solo, his first in Sweden, that coincided with my being here in the south.  I didn’t just laugh … I smiled, wondered, and even felt an odd little nervous excitement.  It was the video/film pieces that made me laugh … and that made me nervous – there is something cartoon-like about several of them: they put me in mind of Tom and Jerry, and Roadrunner or more accurately Wile E Coyote.  The static camera records the scene, there is stillness, you know that something is about to happen – that the stillness is about to be shattered … literally exploded … I feel an excited tension build in my body … anticipation … and then in perfect synch with the explosion comes the release – it lasts perhaps a fraction of a second.  And that is when I laugh.

To me … for me … the work is elegant, absurd, playful, ingenious, confident, hilarious, intelligent, simple, refined, mature and childish all at the same time.  I find myself drawn into a world of curiosity … of asking ’what if …?’ of experiment for experiment’s sake.  He is constantly testing things … testing materials … testing energy.  When I was at Dartington I was in the 3-4D … 3/4D… department – the fourth dimension being time, which enabled performance, live, and durational practices,  having seen … experienced … Roman Signer’s show I wonder if that fourth dimension was misnamed … misunderstood … misattributed … is the fourth dimension energy? Is energy a dimension?

I am inspired by his curiosity, his consistency, his commitment, his craziness.  I love it when I leave an exhibition enthused and desperate to get to the studio and to get on!