My Swedish Career

‘The art scene in Sweden is less competitive’

'The art scene in Sweden is less competitive'
Stockholm-based British artist Stuart Mayes. Photo: Private
Artist Stuart Mayes, 46, left London for Sweden three and a half years ago and is not planning to move back. Despite the death of his half-Swedish partner, Stuart’s love affair with Sweden remains solid, as he tells Odessa Fardipour for this week's My Swedish Career.
Stuart grew up with relatives working as hairdressers, carpenters and tailors.
Despite his family history of craft, he got some raised eyebrows when he sought to pursue a career in fine art. For two years he was an Assistant Manager in the world's oldest independent department store – Jenners of Edinburgh.
But art kept calling him.
“I've had two life-changing moments in my life," he tells The Local. "One was walking away from my job as a manager and the other was when I realized on a park bench in Kungsträdgården that Stockholm was my new home. I sold my apartment in London shortly after that.”
Stuart’s love affair with Sweden began in the early 2000s when he met his half-Swedish boyfriend. They would regularly travel to Stockholm as tourists but ironically it was Stuart who wanted to make the permanent move.
“It’s really funny actually; my boyfriend always preferred the intensity and the pulse of London, whereas I was immediately drawn to the ease and tranquility of Stockholm.”  
After losing his boyfriend John to the neurodegenerative disease ALS in 2007, Stuart says he was racked with grief and sorrow, but his ties to Sweden didn't die. Instead they were strengthened. The following year, Stuart was back in Sweden exploring the option of securing an artist studio in Stockholm. 
It took him a while to find both an apartment and studio space, so at first he lived in the city for three to six-month stints. 
“After landing a studio and a place within two weeks, things quickly started to fall into place. I was establishing new and interesting relationships within the art community of Stockholm and starting to develop a sense of home and belonging," he says. 
With a first-class bachelor’s degree from Dartington College of Arts, Devon, and a master’s degree from the Slade School of Fine Art in London, one of the world's most prestigious art schools, Stuart had strong foundations on which to build his success in Sweden.
He now works as an artist and has taught at Konstfack, a higher education college in Stockholm.
“I love the art scene in Sweden and think it is less competitive than London. Seeing how art is being valued in Sweden and encouraged by schools such as Konstfack and other state schools make me feel so happy and energized.” 
When asked to compare and contrast the Swedish art scene with the British art scene, Stuart makes a clear distinction.
“I find the Swedish art world to be more holistic, academic and sustainable. Swedes have a much more inclusive and open attitude towards art. I think the English government has quite a conservative perception of art; they don’t really value it as something important and that doesn't empower me as an artist.”
Although leaving London for Stockholm never seemed strange to Stuart, it continues to baffle some of his Swedish friends. 
“I often get asked what on earth I’m doing in Sweden and I know there is a large Swedish community in London which absolutely worships the craziness of the city, but I have never been a big city person, so the stress-free and less hectic atmosphere of Stockholm suits me perfectly. 
When talking to Stuart it becomes apparent that he is living the life he has always dreamed of, a life with no regrets. His hectic schedule keeps him busy and soon he will attend the opening party for his fourth exhibition, which gets underway on February 19th.
"I feel very excited and nervous at the same time. It's always scary to show solo, but I'm really looking forward to it. The viewers can expect my art work to be social and poetic."