Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year: Blue Moon: Partial Eclipse...superstitious?

Happy New Year!
We have a beautiful view of the full moon over Wales this evening. It's a crisp, frosty evening and the 13th moon of the year has a little bite taken out by the earth's umbra. Here's to 2010!

Monday, 28 December 2009

The Best Made Axe

Best Made Co. axes - Ping, Sam Hain, Joe Mitchell - Seen here

Based in New York, Best Made Co. was founded by Peter Buchanan-Smith and Greame Cameron. They design and make axes. The handles are made of Tennessee Hickory and each one is hand-painted, varnished, and polished. The heads are made of fine-grain steel.
A well crafted, well balanced axe is a beautiful object. I bought a full size axe when I came to Wales in 1995 and still use it, the handle is satin smooth from wear. I'd like to own one of these however!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Maura Hazelden

Maura Hazelden - Eli - Seen here

Maura Hazelden - Holy Hiatus (performance) - seen here

Maura Hazelden is a performance artist based in west Wales, she also takes exquisite photographs - keep an eye on her Flickr page here

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Happy Christmas!

Kathryn Campbell Dodd - Into the Woods

Happy Christmas and and here's to a top 2010!
Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Tacita Dean - Tate Britain Christmas Tree 2009

Tacita Dean - Tate Britain Christmas Tree 2009 - seen here

Tacita Dean has been invited to create the Tate Christmas tree for 2009. It is simple, elegant, melancholy and imbued with subtle signifiers about Christmas, about living in Berlin, about time passing, about 2009.

The Guardian have published a lovely set of images.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Dave Cole

Dave Cole - Kevlar Snowsuit (cut, knitted and sewn from a used Gulf War Bullet Proof Vest) - seen here

Thanks to grrl+dog for introducing me to the work of Dave Cole. I had seen the monster scale knitted American flag he made at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, The Knitting Machine, but there are many other interesting works on his website.

Dave Cole - Trophy Wife #1 (of 7) - seen here

Saturday, 12 December 2009


tactileBOSCH, Cardiff

tactileBOSCH, Cardiff

I had a synchronous moment at tactileBOSCH yesterday, you'll see what I mean when I post more about the work Jake and I will be showing in March at The Last Gallery...

December 11, Cardiff

tactileBOSCH - Building Up Not Tearing Down

I went to Cardiff yesterday with other west Wales friends to join in with December 11, a day of arts events and visits in Cardiff organised by WARP g39 and Chapter Arts. The day marked the end of an experimental collaboration of artists from Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff.

We started the day at tactileBOSCH to see Building Up Not Tearing Down, an exhibition of residency work from Rhys Coren and Fraser Cook (Bristol), Alistair Owen and Jason Pinder (Cardiff) and Sarah Farmer and Joanne Masding (Birmingham).

The work involved subtle interventions into the gallery space - so subtle indeed that we were required to actively search them out. It's the sort of thing that can be quite intimidating if you're not comfortable in 'Artworld' and not a tactileBOSCH regular, there's a lot of scope for staring at details, trying to work out if they are art or not. Once I'd decided to embrace my self-consciousness, I really enjoyed it; the slight tension and discomfort became part of the experience; all part of the ongoing debate about the nature and function of art. The beauty of the experience was to intimately engage with this amazing, semi-decayed space with its peeling paint, cobwebs, buckets for the leaky ceiling (the most prominent objects in the room - and the first focus of enquiry), odd bits of ironmongery etc. I found myself watching other visitors to see if I could hijack their finds. I watched someone discover a really discreet piece involving guitar strings tautly installed along a number of beams and tuned to different notes - and then enjoyed pinging them myself in his wake. Delicately beautiful, intimate and democratic - the show was a gentle, funny celebration of the space and its artful decay.

Next we went on to Chapter in Canton to see their new show (and the second in the newly refurbished space), Fragile Absolutes by Dubliner, Alan Phelan. The artist gave us all a brief talk about the show, but later we were lucky to get a wee personal tour of the works. A very charming introduction to the show! My favourite piece was Death Drive (interrupt the circular logic of re-establishing balance because he is the lowest outcast) making reference to street racing. I really liked the scent that had been specially commissioned in America for the show which was the orangey smell of the cleaning polish used to buff up the car interiors. This is the second venue of three for the show which alters as it shifts home - the first showing was at the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art in Dublin.

Alan Phelan - Fragile Absolutes Death Drive (interrupt the circular logic of re-establishing balance because he is the lowest outcast)- seen here

Alan Phelan - Fragile Absolutes - Seen here

I liked the paper cabbages too - part of an artist workshop with Chapter installed in the gallery. The newspapers are reproductions of stories about industrial and political disputes; nice Art Povera overtones.

Next we trooped off (a weird little snake of artists) through the Cardiff back streets to visit two artist studio complexes, Kings Road Studios and Printhaus...on to The Hayes to watch a publicly screened showing of a Michael Cousins curated series of artists' films outside St. David's stop CAI - a new bar and venue in Cathays, a welcome warm up - it was COLD out there!

Kings Road Studios, Cardiff

Last stop was a visit to g39 for a preview of Richard Bevan's show - the gallery is tiny and it was way too cosy to see the work properly - we headed back west.

g39, Cardiff

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Rupert Spira

Rupert Spira - seen here
I can't think of white, minimalist ceramics without thinking of Rupert Spira. We were lucky enough to have a piece of his (very similar to this one) in the gallery last year as part of our Focus Ceramics show. I don't mind admitting to suffering a severe dose of covetousness!
The lettering artist in me delights in this series of white pieces and also more recent dark glazed work textured with dense scribbled text.

Kirsten Coelho

Kirsten Coelho - seen here
These porcelain pieces are made by Kirsten Coelho. This recent collection was inspired by looking at late 19th and early 20th Century enamelware and the way it ages. Coelho trained in Australia before moving to London to work where she was influenced by the ideas of potter, Bernard Leach. She now lives back in south Australia.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Tacita Dean - Still Life 2009

Tacita Dean - Still Life - seen here

I would have liked to see Tacita Dean's show Still Life at Fondazione Nicola Trussardi in Milan earlier in the year; an ambitious project featuring 14 film works.

I am particularly drawn to a new piece made in 2009, Day for Night for which the artist gained access to the studio of painter Giorgio Morandi in Bologna where he worked for over 50 years. She has filmed the objects, including the bottles and vases that the painter spent his life meticulously studying and reproducing as still life paintings.

Tacita Dean's slow, melancholic style of filming is a perfect vehicle through which to revisit the obsessively particular, pre-minimalist work of Morandi. Her serendipitously random approach however brings a contrasting richness to the rigour and economy of Morandi's original studies.

Giorgio Morandi - Still Life (Natural Morta) - 1953 oil on canvas, 8 x 15-3/4 inches - seen here

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Rodney Graham - Rheinmetall/Victoria 8

Rodney Graham - Rheinmetall/Victoria 8 - 35mm film [colour, silent], Cinemeccanica Victoria 8 film projector, 10:50 min. loop - seen here

Thinking about beautiful film and prompted by a recent conversation about the beauty of old typewriters, this piece of work came back to mind. I saw Rheinmetall/Victoria 8 by Rodney Graham as part of An Aside, an exceptional show of works curated by Tacita Dean at The Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea in 2005.

The piece is held in the collection of MOMA, New York and here is their description: 'This film depicts a 1930s German typewriter made by Rheinmetall that Graham found in a junk shop. "It was just this incredibly beautifully made, solidly designed typewriter. Not one key had ever been pressed on it," he has said. His filmed homage is projected with a 1961 Victoria 8 projector issued by the Italian company Cinemeccanica, a mechanical wonder that Graham has described as "very beautiful, kind of overly powerful." "It's these two objects confronting one another," the artist has said of the installation. "Two obsolete technologies facing off." ' seen here

This still image is lovely, but the experience of the film in relation to the noisy mechanics of the projector is sublime.

"The sheer size and loud mechanical noise of the Victoria 8 projector in Rheinmetall/Victoria 8 both diverts the viewer’s cinematic gaze from the strangely seductive and compelling image of the typewriter. On screen, the projector’s cyclical drone embellishes the silent film with a soundtrack appropriating the repetitive, and all but forgotten, noise of a typewriter in use. Looking away from the screen, we are offered a view onto an industrial machine usually relegated to and hidden by a rojection booth located at the back of the theatre so that its sound would not interfere with the power of the moving image and its accompanying soundtrack. Alternately glancing between the typewriter and the projector, the viewer begins to realize a shared trait between the two “duelling technologies”: obsolescence. The recognition of this shared characteristic is not without humour and is typical of Graham’s wry touch". Seen here

Friday, 4 December 2009

Whistle and I'll Come to You

M.R. James story - adapted by Johnathan Miller - starring Michael Hordern 1968

I watched Whistle and I'll Come to You earlier in the week, a beautiful and highly regarded short film adapted by Jonathan Miller for television in 1968 from the original M.R. James story. Originally part of a series of Ghost Stories for Christmas screened on television in the 1970's. Spare and elegant, the film has a grainy, melancholic style. Michael Hordern brings some levity to the plot with his charming characterisation of a Cambridge professor on holiday in Norfolk. The film relies on suggestion and expectation rather than any revealed horror; it is of its time - rather naive to modern sensibilities, but it remains artistically prepossessing.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Rhôd at Melin Newydd

Melin Newydd/New Mill

I am really excited to have been asked to contribute to the second staging of Rhôd curated by photographer Roger Lougher and artist Louise Bird. In May 2009 the first Rhôd was shown over a week at Melin Newydd in Drefach Felindre, west Wales. A fantastic line up of artists (Louise Bird, Liz Waterhouse, Sarah Tierney, Dave Shepherd, Andrew Cooper, Kim Fielding, Carwyn Evans and Rhys Dafis) showed work in and around the mill building.

Here is a really beatutiful film shot and edited by Peter Telfer for Culture Colony, documenting the event.

Watch this space and visit the blog for news of Rhôd 2010...

Monday, 30 November 2009

James & Tilla Waters

James & Tilla Waters - Deep bowls
Another ceramic delivery in the gallery - this time these lovely little bowls made by James and Tilla Waters. Carmarthenshire based potters, James & Tilla trained with Rupert Spira in Shropshire, opening their own studio in Wales in 2002. Since that time they have built a quiet but prestigious reputation for their elegant, functional ceramics.

Kaori Tatebayashi teapot

Kaori Tatebayashi - Kohiki teapot

We had a new delivery from Kaori Tatebayashi in the gallery today, we're all in love with this exquisite teapot!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Last Gallery, Llangadog

The Last Gallery - Llangadog, west Wales

I visited The Last Gallery in Llangadog yesterday with friend and fellow artist, Jacob Whittaker. We are showing a joint project in March 2010 in the gallery ( this space for news!)
The gallery was originally a cobblers' shop (hence the name) and retains its delightful original features - a really beautiful little space. Artist, Julie Ann Sheridan and her husband, upholsterer Mick Sheridan own and run the space. Open at specified times in the year, some artworks are offered for sale, but the emphasis is on the experience of viewing art rather than looking to buy it. Since opening in 2007 there has been a consistently interesting programme of shows including Marcus Coates' film Dawn Chorus and Wales based artist Louise Bird's Hyperbolic Spiral Crochet.
Currently Julie is showing a series of her own miniature landscape paintings of the village of Llangadog.

Julie Ann Sheridan - Village View

Monday, 23 November 2009

David Clarke

David Clarke - The Unusual Suspects - seen here

We were sent a link in the gallery today from silversmith, David Clarke. I'm a huge fan of his work, and there are some fantastic images on his blog. The playful sense of subversion and absurdity in his altered silverware always makes me smile. I blogged recently on his contribution to the most recent show in Flow Gallery in London and his work was included in The Everyday (a show originated by Flow and curated by Simone ten Hompel), at Oriel Myrddin Gallery in 2008.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Amy Houghton

Amy Houghton - Mary Croom's Dress - seen here

I like these images of Amy Houghton's work. She is currently showing work as part of Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution originated by Craftspace in collaboration with maker and academic Helen Carnac; currently showing at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. The exhibition "...explores how contemporary craftspeople respond to ideas about slowing down how we work and what we produce, and the importance of contributing to a more sustainable society."

The project blog quotes Carl Honoré, Author of In Praise of Slow: “The Slow revolution is sweeping through our fast-forward culture as people everywhere discover that decelerating helps them work, play and live better [the] Taking Time exhibition shows how craft fits into this Slow culture-quake. It offers a thrilling reminder that every object has a story behind it and that the art of making matters hugely to all of us.”

Amy Houghton - Cardigan Study - seen here

Amy Houghton uses her artistic practice " explore the hidden and revealed histories and stories related to old textiles and photographs..." she 'forensically' unpicks clothing and reanimates the process in film to try to understand and bring to life the nature and history of the garment. I have only seen still images, but it looks extremely interesting, and I really like their ghost-like qualities.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Caitlin Jenkins

Caitlin Jenkins - seen here

Thinking about Ewenny Pottery got me Googling Caitlin Jenkins! I had a joint show with her a number of years ago in the Washington Gallery in Penarth, Cardiff - my sgraffito paintings and her exquisite lettered vessels.

I found this wonderful image of Caitlin's hands on Flickr at The 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Caitlin Jenkins hands - seen here

Ewenny Pottery - Wassail Bowl

Wassail Bowl - Swansea Museum - seen here

I've been thinking about this amazing pot kept in Swansea Museum. It's a wassail bowl made in Ewenny Pottery, south Wales in the mid 19th C. The pottery still thrives and is currently run by 8th generation potter Caitlin Jenkins. Her ancestors first began throwing pots in Ewenny in 1610, but there may have been a working pottery there even earlier as clay was first dug on the site in 1427.

The wassail bowl would have been used as part of a folk custom at Christmas time: "...Wassailing bowls were always decorated in the same way and this one has nearly all the expected traditional features...[the] Christmas tradition of carol singing door-to-door grew out of wassailing. The bowl contained mulled wine which the householder drank for good luck before adding more wine to the bowl." seen here

I have also seen a modern replica made in this style and apparently, it is a difficult thing to produce; this piece manages to have an amazing life and spirit in its making in addition to its virtuosity.
On my recent visit to Flow Gallery in London I saw this piece (below) by Kate Malone which has a strong resonance with the form of the wassail bowl although I don't know if it's intentional.

Kate Malone - seen here

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Once We Were Birds

Tina Carr and Anne Marie Schöne - Sajokasa - seen here
Photographers, Tina Carr and Annemarie Schöne came into the gallery yesterday to show us some of the work that will be included in their January 2010 exhibition, Once We Were Birds. I'm really excited about the show.

Setting out at the beginning of May 2009 they journeyed from the UK to Hungary to meet, speak with, listen to and work with Roma individuals and groups. Staying on a camp site in Budapest for 6 weeks and then in a converted van parked in a Roma settlement in the north east of Hungary, they have documented a remarkable series of still and moving images of Roma communities. Their blog also follows the progress of the project.

We are lucky to have Tina and Annemarie living locally here in west Wales, their photographic projects over the last 20 years have brought a depth and poignancy to a number of issues that are fundamental to the culture of our own communities.

Coalfaces documents " and landscape in the ex-coal communities of Cymer, Croeserw, Glyncorrwg, Abergwynfi and Blaengwynfi. These small, scattered and tightly knit settlements grew in response to the exploitation of high quality steam coal found in the valley. Now and since the destruction of the industry thirty years ago these villages are still dealing with severe problems of adjustment. Jobs lost in pit closures have not been replaced. There is still high unemployment and many families are experiencing a third generation dependent on social security benefits."

This project took 18 years to bring to print as a book - the launch was at The National Library of Wales in 2008.

Tina Carr and Anne Marie Schöne - Croeserw Amateur Boxing Club - seen here

My favourite series of their work is Abandoned,"...a still life series; intimate studies of abandoned homes, barns and places depicting a rural way of life in West Wales that has almost disappeared. This world is explored with almost forensic intensity."

Tina Carr and Anne Marie Schöne - Horns - seen here

Watch this space for more about Once We Were Birds...

More Nick Cave....

Nick Cave - Soundsuit - seen here
Just because this is such a delightful image....

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Nick Cave

Nick Cave - Soundsuit - seen here

Nick Cave - complete art hero! This is from his 2009 series of work shown at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. It made me think of this photo of a Navajo ceremonial mask.

Navajo mask - seen here

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Arthur Giardelli

Arthur Giardelli - Dwellings 1999 - seen here

I was so sad to hear of the death of Pembrokeshire based artist Arthur Giardelli on 2 November. I never had the privilege of meeting him, but I know from those who have that he was an amazingly wise and gentle man. He was born in 1911 in London, so he reached the very grand age of 98. He settled in west Wales in the 1940's and contributed hugely to the arts through education work; with the 56 Group Wales of artists and the Contemporary Art Society for Wales. He was a committee member of the Arts Committee of the Arts Council of Wales from 1965 - 75.

I have often heard tales of Giardelli's amazing personal collection of modernist works from artists he had met in Paris such as Picasso, Braque and Dubuffet and his friends Ceri Richards and David Jones amongst many more.

Most importantly, however is the legacy of Giardelli's own work, especially his constructions and assemblage. Made in relief on panels the work uses found materials such as shells, slate, wood and hessian and reflects his love of the coast, the rhythms and tides of the seashore; still powerfully resonant. He continued working to the end of his life. We were lucky to be able to show some of his work in the gallery in 2008 as part of 56 Group Wales show All of These Things.

I like this piece in Giardelli's own words: "...the visual elements which I wished to compound had to do with tides running over wide stretches of sand, slate, mist, whitewash, stone walls, driftwood, flights of starlings or oyster catchers. I could find no better way of getting the tone of slate into my work and it's characteristic kind of break than by making the pictures of this material. So the slate became headland, or the grey sea or sky. I turned spars and oars I picked up on the beach, sliced up with my saw, into flights of birds swooping away from me at dusk. From shell dust, cork from fisher men's nets, driftwood and bits of brass cut from taps that leaked, I made images of arrows of foam which trail behind incoming breakers. I was given all kinds of things people didn't want any more: a piano, cartwheels, broken furniture, brooms, snapped spade handles; and I worked with them. I learnt the magic of the medium: to make the sun out of yellow mud."

Culture Colony have a wonderful video of curator David Moore talking with Arthur Giardelli at his home - inspiring and uplifting to watch!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Kaori Tatebayashi

Kaori Tatebayashi - Collar - seen here

We have some new ceramics in the gallery from Kaori Tatebayashi - perfectly wonky, artfully imperfect domestic tableware.

Kaori Tatebayashi - ceramic tableware - seen here

I particularly like her hand built stoneware sculptures of clothing and domestic objects - white, unspeakably fine; melancholic. Ghost-like, but solid and brittle - calcifying the everyday nuances of objects into fragile memorials.

Monday, 9 November 2009

A Winter's Tale - Oriel Myrddin Gallery

Oriel Myrddin Gallery - A Winter's Tale

The winter show has opened at Oriel Myrddin Gallery, called A Winter's Tale, it features artists and makers who use ideas of story and narrative in their work. I feel very privileged that I was asked to contribute some work. I am showing a small series of works on paper and a new collection of recently made jewellery.

Kathryn Campbell Dodd - Hoodie 3

Kathryn Campbell Dodd - Charm for the Good Red Road
My favourite pieces in the show are from North Wales based artist, Steffan Jones-Hughes. I am totally enchanted by his Memento series of prints within mussel shells, such a beautiful concept. I've bought a series of three for an early Christmas present.

Steffan Jones-Hughes - Mussel Memento - photo: Steffan Jones-Hughes

Katy Nicola Moloney, a Swansea based jeweller, is also showing and I really like her narrative/domestic pieces. If I could chose, I'd have this lovely copper and enamel Welsh dresser brooch. I also like the humour of her plate and dome rings.

Katy Nicola Moloney - A Very Welsh Dresser - seen here

Katy Nicola Moloney - Just a Slice and After Dinner rings - seen here