Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Jonathan Anderson

Jonathan Anderson - Coal Dust Mandala - seen
I'm so pleased to find that Swansea based artist Jonathan Anderson has a new website. His work using coal dust continues as Coalodonia "...a subterranean nation...an internal, subconscious dark terrain. He mines for diamonds, but digs up coal." Peter Finnemore seen here.

The artist has utilised coal as a material in his work for the last two years; "Aware of the temptation to slip into cultural cliché, Anderson presents an ongoing poetic drift of marks and
symbols upon found objects including lining paper, cardboard, souvenir trinkets and bank-notes."
Tim Davies seen here.

Dark and elegant in their simplicity, Jonathan Anderson's works continue to deepen the complex archetypes they conjour.
Jonathan Anderson - Dark Bulb - seen here

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Invisible Blanket - Louise Bird

Louise Bird - The Invisible Blanket - seen here

Louise Bird explores ideas about science and scientific philosophy through her artistic practice. She draws parallels between the actions of crochet and the continual creation of matter. She articulates science and mathematics through the processes of making and "...investigates the relationship between the invisibly small and the unimaginably huge."

Experimenting with unusual materials such as fishing line, Louise's pieces grow painstakingly slowly, sometimes taking up to a year to finish. She uses film and photography to animate and experiment further with her work. Here's a fantastic film made during an installation project in collaboration with Jacob Whittaker, Loopholes shown in The Tannery, Machynlleth in 2009.

The Invisible Blanket is currently coming into being....

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Peter Finnemore - Glynn Vivian Gallery

Peter Finnemore - Birdwatcher - seen here

There is a show of recent acquisitions from Carmarthenshire artist, Peter Finnemore in Room 1 at the Glynn Vivian in Swansea. Birdwatcher is an installed film piece shown on five LED mini screens and they are also showing a series of projected short films.

A great bit of curation by the gallery, this show works in subtle tandem with the main exhibition, Willie Doherty's Buried, whilst also bringing a lightness of touch to difficult subject matter.

Willie Doherty - Buried

Willie Doherty - Buried - seen here
We spent Saturday in Swansea and made a visit to see the Willie Doherty exhibition at the Glynn Vivian Gallery. The show hosted the two video pieces Ghost Story (2007), first shown at the 52nd Venice Biennale, and Buried (2009), commissioned by and first shown at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.

The work is relentlessly dark touching as it does on the artist's own experiences of the The Troubles in Northern Ireland and in particular his witnessing of Bloody Sunday from the window of his family home aged 12.

"Buried is a show about landscape and memory, about repression and resurgence and the difficulties inherent in representing contested and bitterly painful events in a post-conflict situation. It steps away from the simple accretion of historical events or factual detail, instead pursuing oblique and poetic routes toward a truth, not of the grand sweep of history but the intimate and painful price it exacts on the individual psyche." seen here

Both films are deeply effecting. Buried was made as a companion to Ghost Story and seems to focus the intensity of the events alluded to in Ghost Story. The high quality of the film making lends it an exquisite depth and clarity. It is beautiful and poetic, and at the same time dank and scrubby. There is a supernatural resonance in the aesthetic, a sense of expectation and narrative tension which is not, ultimately satisfied. The glimpses of detritus and residue within the wooded space we witness are ambiguously horrific.

Here is an excellent review of the show.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Inside the Birdhouse

Kathryn Campbell Dodd - Poem House

In 2005 I began making a piece of work called Inside the Birdhouse which was originally shown at The Fire and Iron Gallery in Surrey and consequently travelled as part of an Arts Council of Wales project to non-gallery venues in Wales - here's a link to the website for the project. I began by commissioning a doll's house which I painted and lettered and then used as the setting for a strange little stop motion film peopled by my mother's collection of owl figurines (my profile pic is a still from the film) and animated by strange objects inspired and drawn from Welsh Halloween customs. The video was then installed within a white birdhouse into which you have to peep to view the film.

Kathryn Campbell Dodd - Inside the Birdhouse (installed with Economic Values 1 & 2)

In Crafts magazine last month (December 2009) I saw a lovely article about Beatrice Baumgartner and her stop-motion film La Maison Oubliée which is also set within a doll's house. A really beautiful piece.

Beatrice Baumgartner - Crafts Magazine (December 2009)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Once We Were Birds

Tina Carr, Annemarie Schöne and Angharad Pearce Jones at Oriel Myrddin Gallery

We had S4C in Oriel Myrddin Gallery today filming our new exhibition, Once We Were Birds, for the TV show Wedi 3. The presenter is Angharad Pearce Jones, a prolific and highly skilled Welsh sculptor who mostly works in metal and moonlights on tele!

Once We Were Birds is predominately photographic with some video work, it documents the artists odyssey in the spring of 2009 to visit Roma communities in Hungary. The artists, Tina Carr and Annemarie Schöne brought a fabulous book about gypsies in Hungary into the gallery today too which contains the little folk story from which the exhibition is named; translated by Péter Szuhay, World is a ladder, which some go up, some go down: Pictures of gipsies in Hungary in the 20th Century. It's too lovely to edit, so here is the full text:

Once We Were Birds….then became what we are – the Gipsies. Each of us had wings at that time and did not have to earn our bread by begging and picking; we just flew with the other birds and ate what they were eating. In the fall, when – sudripe hi odjari – that is, the weather turned cold outside, we took wing with the other birds and headed for faraway Africa. When we were bored here, we flew there, when it was boring there, we flew further on, that’s how it was.

Well, it wasn’t a golden life either, for the captive bird has a better one, as the silly “gadzso” , it’s keeper, pets it – “csiriklori, verebori” – and throws seed in the cage, every day. But the free bird gets its own food, at any price. In turn, it is free.

To make a long story short, when we were flying over fields parched by the sun, for many-many days, without food or drink, well, one night, or rather dusk when you can still see, we saw rich fields down under. Then the Gypsy-chief, I mean our bird-chief, waved with his wings to go down; we did so and started to pick the nice wheat grains.

As hours passed by, we happened to eat ourselves chuck-full after many days of “bokhalipe” (fast), so that we couldn’t possibly fly that night. So we stayed the night, then morning came and we ate again for we were hungry again. Then we couldn’t take wing again, and came the noon, and came the night and we were still there.

In the meantime, we kept getting fatter and fatter. By then, we couldn’t possibly fly up even if we wanted to. To be sure, we got accustomed to this new comfortable life, when there was no need to fly neither here, nor there, for men I mean birds could find everything in the place. Before long, we couldn’t even jump, let alone fly, only to pace slowly, leisurely.

Then fall came and the rich field started to wither, did not yield more and the rats and voles helped to pick up the remaining grains from the ground. There was nothing else to do than to get down to harvesting as we learned from the animals of the field. We scraped holes, lined them and filled them with what we still had, then covered them. Finally, we started to throw together twigs and straw so as to make a hovel for passing the winter in it. While working, our legs became thick; our wings degenerated and became arms. It was the end of our beautiful life, the end of flying from one world to the other. Why, we Walachian Gypsies – once “puro rom” – are birds even these days. If we pitch a tent in the valley, we long to be on the hilltop, if we stand on the peak, we wish to fly into the valley. Only now we have to get there on foot.

We live a life of laziness, scraping together penny by penny, for the simple reason that one day we all become birds once again.
Bartos, 1958.23-25

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Nine Artists' Films

Jacob Whittaker - Tying Tone Arms - seen here

Tonight we went to see the screening of Nine Artists' Films at Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan, part of the 2010 Film Festival. Seven locally based artists, working with film showed a series of nine short films.

The show was really well attended and it's been a topic for conversation today. The filmmakers were invited onto the stage after the showing for a Q & A session with the audience, this really helped to give some context to the works.

Simon Whitehead's work Anemos was commissioned by the BBC. Sean Vicary's Sea of Glass was commissioned as a response to music in an audio-visual performance. Rueben Knutson made his film 1000 Days as the outcome of a residency in the haematology department of a hospital. Jacob Whittaker and Penny Jones' Taith Cranogwyn operated as a documentary. The other contributions were made as art films. One possibly needed this background to interpret the films in relation to each other; the different approaches made the dialogue between the selection a little problematic.

I am easily seduced by classy production, and in this vein I enjoyed Anemos, a visually rich film of a choreographed performance which personifies the element of the wind and the production of wind energy. The choreography was compelling and worked beautifully with the costume of grey-blue silk dress and coat, the rich lighting created narrative. Some of the small gestural hand movements in the piece were exquisite . Sean Vicary's Sea of Glass was similarly classy, a sophisticated stop motion piece animating out sized shells spinning against the Cardigan coastline.

My personal favourites were Jacob Whittaker's Three Vinyl which "...uses found (Hi-Fi and sound equipment) objects, and my aim is to use them, as much as is possible, in the state in which they are found. Basic repairs are made merely to achieve some sound, with any problems leading to their being discarded playing an important part of the composing process. With turntables (the artist) often intervenes further by tying the tone arm back in order to interrupt normal play. The work is then produced live without headphones or post-production, using randomly selected loops from often randomly selected records."

Of the three pieces I had seen Tying Tone Arms before, an aesthetically beautiful, slightly voyeuristic, nostalgic film of decks backed with the drones of stuck vinyl; cacophonous music that develops its own rhythms and tensions. The middle film Shaky uses a faulty record deck that shakes and shudders the needle across the vinyl making a bizarre visual effect as the tone arm vibrates alongside the boings, scratches and tremblings of the sound track. It has a peculiar tension and a curious sense of passive-aggression in the juddering malfunction of the machinery and the fate of the vinyl it reacts with.

I enjoyed Penny Jones' Rant, a silent short of the artist in various outfits and in various locations raging and ranting at the camera about unknown grievances. It is important to know that Penny is an older woman because it completely alters the contexts of the work. A young woman behaving in the same manner would convey completely different signifiers. It was uncomfortably comical and had resonances with the inflential Carmarthenshire filmmaker and photographer, Peter Finnemore.

Rowan O'Neill's Menyw a Ddaeth o Gatraeth / A Woman Came from Catterick had some lovely motifs within it, a nostalgic, symbol laden film utilising props and film techniques that took the piece into the realm of folk tale. "My Grandmother moved from the area close to Catterick in the mid 50s to settle in rural West Wales. In my Grandmother’s suitcase I keep the relics of a long forgotten strife…” Rowan references the militaristic contemporary and historic roots of Catterick with a repetitive sequence showing a soldier rhythmically cutting a huge pile of carrots with her Grandmother's kitchen knife - a beautiful but disturbing vignette.

Well done to Theatr Mwldan for the initiative, more please!

Left to right: Penny Jones, Jacob Whittaker, Simon Whitehead, Rueben Knutson, Sean Vicary, Ruth Jones, Rowan O'Neill

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Ifor Davies: Ymadawiad/Departure

Ifor Davies talking at the opening of his show Ymadawiad/Departure at Theatr Mwldan, Aberteifi

We went to Theatr Mwldan in Aberteifi this evening to the opening of Ifor Davies' new show Ymadawiad/Departure. Ifor talked us through the work he is showing; learned, funny and entertaining, he approaches his work with openness and curiosity, letting his paintings into the world to discuss themselves with their viewers with modest light handedness.
I have been lucky enough to visit Ifor in his studio in Penarth, Cardiff, a fantastic place with a space which acts as a kind of personal gallery downstairs. He was very generous both with his time and his conversation. He's a good storyteller too and told me about meeting Marcel Duchamp in Paris.
Ifor Davies is an seminal figure on the Welsh art stage. His work is strongly rooted in Welsh culture and political activism. In 1966 he helped to organize the Destruction in Art Symposium in London and he was an early member of the activist art movement BECA in the 1980s. In 2004 his work was included in Art In The 1960s at the Tate Britain. His paintings and assemblages are deeply layered with his concerns and the mythologies and deep histories of Wales, but are in no way insular, they are equally imbued with Ifor's profound art historical and international perspectives.
The work has been made specifically for this show and relates to Cardigan and it's 900 year history, it runs until 20 February.

Jeanette Orrell

Jeanette Orrell - seen here

I've been looking at the work of north Wales based artist Jeanette Orrell, the wire birdcages I posted yesterday reminded me of her wire sculptural drawings. She also makes drawings and prints on paper.
The work is quiet, modest even - there's a fragility about the sketchiness, an only-just-there-ness. The wire utensils, however are over sized at around 75cm which is not necessarily apparent from the images and I have not seen the work other than in print and online. The work is undoubtedly feminine concerned as it is with the domestic; and viewing as a woman this fragility creates a slight sense of discomfort for me. There's a dreaming quality, an insularity that comes from the intimate, day-to-day nature of domestic life - the lightness of the techniques might hint at how tentative identity can feel when one is deeply involved with nurturing the lives of others.
The scale of the work is interesting, have the pieces become iconic? Totemic? Surreal? Funny? Over bearing? I hope I can see them in the flesh at some point to find out. My personal response is one of disquietude, the unusably light construction and scale of the utensils and objects niggle at my sense of autonomy and weight as a woman; both beautiful and subtle, their sub text is slightly unsettling.

Jeanette Orrell - seen here

Friday, 15 January 2010

Delaine Le Bas: Witch Hunt

Delaine Le Bas - Witch Hunt - seen here

I'm looking forward to seeing Delaine Le Bas' Witch Hunt at Chapter in Cardiff in February. Delaine Le Bas works through a range of media to discuss issues about the 'outsider' in society. Although she has often been attributed an 'outsider artist' tag herself, she is infact a graduate of St. Martin's School of Art. Cathy Lomax says of her work "Delaine Le Bas's magpie practice encompasses painting, sculpture, film, embroidery, installation and well just about everything else in a crazy mixed media bricolage. Her Romany background is apparent in every flourish and twist but is never a forced point, integrating effortlessly within the fabric of her installations..."

Witch Hunt is "...a multimedia project comprising installation, performance and new music. For Chapter Gallery, Delaine will create new ecclesiastical structures reflecting the religious dimension of the Witch Hunt, and weave within them new work which explores the role of language in identifying the 'other..." seen here

Strange - I read about Delaine Le Bas just last night through her contribution to Paradise Lost, The First Roma Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2007. We are currently showing an exhibition called Once We Were Birds at the gallery by Tina Carr and Annemarie Schöne which documents their travels in Eastern Europe to visit Roma Communities and I was researching Roma artists. Then today - voila! - Chapter posted information about Witch Hunt...

Miss Flite's Birdcages

Fun Is Always In Style - Birdcage - seen here

I found this lovely project today through Flickr. I don't know the artist's name, but on Flickr she is Fun Is Always In Style and is based in California. The series of birdcages use reclaimed domestic objects and relate to the character Miss Flite, in Charles Dickens' Bleak House. Miss Flite is an elderly eccentric whose family has been destroyed by a long-running Chancery legal case through which she expects financial settlement. Somewhat unhinged by her obsessive fascination with the legal process, she owns a large number of little birds in cages which she says will be released "on the day of judgement". The birds have "...allegorical names like Hope, Youth, Beauty & Words, Confusion, Jargon, Plunder, Precedent, Despair, Ruin, Sheepskin, Spinach & Gammon to signify the consumption of all things by fruitless law cases." seen here

Fun Is Always In Style - Birdcage - seen here

Fun Is Always In Style - Birdcage - Seen here

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

All Tied Up

All Tied Up - an exhibition of scarves at Ruthin Craft Centre

We had an email in the gallery today about the forthcoming show at Ruthin Craft Centre in North Wales. All Tied Up features some of our favourite textile weave artists in a show featuring scarves. Gaurav Gupta (Akaaro), Mica Hirosawa, Alpa Mistry, Margo Selby and Wallace Sewell have all shown with us.

I particularly like the work of Delhi based Gaurav Gupta; so incredibly elegant.

Gaurav Gupta, Akaaro Studio - Crack - seen here
We will be hosting a weave show ourselves later in the year, Warp and Weft, curated by Laura Thomas, which will look at the applied work of contemporary weavers.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Mario Merz - Arte Povera

Mario Mertz - Untitled, 1998 - seen here

I popped in on my friend Louise Bird today - she's just moved into a new home. Her art books were all on display whilst they had not been so accessible in her old place - my eye kept drifting along the row and eventually I pulled out an Italian catalogue of Arte Povera works. It reminded me how interesting and relevant the movement remains today. I revisited Mario Merz's Igloos and researched a bit more when I got home - here's an obituary from The Guardian from 2003.

Mario Merz - Igloo Nero - Seen here

Friday, 8 January 2010

Mary Sikkel and Simon Gaiger

Treasure Trouvé - from World of Interiors (February 2010)

We're all a little bit proud in the gallery of our Education Officer Mary Sikkel and her husband Simon Gaiger. Both trained as sculptors, they met at college many moons hence. Their exquisitely beautiful west Wales home is featured this month in World of Interiors magazine (February 2010). Feast your eyes - but go out and buy a copy too to keep forever!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Steffan Jones-Hughes

Steffan Jones-Hughes - Narrative, 2008 - seen here

I mentioned Steffan Jones-Hughes as part of the show A Winter's Tale at Oriel Myrddin Gallery recently, and the more I get acquainted with his work the more I enjoy it. This little video is about a new body of work that he is working on called Perhaps Sometimes Magic Happens.

Steffan Jones-Hughes - Fragility, 2008 - seen here

Steffan Jones-Hughes - Lost and Found, 2008 - seen here

Steffan uses different media to make work; print and book works, found objects, drawings, paintings, installations. The images are folkloric, slightly dark, slightly disturbing. Language infuses everything.

Steffan Jones-Hughes - Tarnished, 2008 - seen here

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Willie Doherty - Buried

Willie Doherty - Still from Buried - seen here

As soon as the snow has melted and I can travel again I'm heading off to Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea to see their latest show Buried by Willie Doherty. Irish artist, Doherty is showing a selection of films and photographs including a new film Buried, made and shown in context with an earlier film, Ghost Story.

Doherty has made work throughout his career that address The Troubles in Northern Ireland with particular reference to his witnessing of Bloody Sunday in 1972.

"...Doherty's focus on place, on the landscape which can no longer contain its histories and memories, avoids simple resolutions, acknowledging instead that long histories never die. In Doherty's work, the past is buried but ever present. Doherty's work blends fact and fiction, history and memory, and has an odd sense of timeless urgency - that these are concerns affecting us all, issues that will not go away." seen here