Monday, 31 May 2010

Louise Bourgeois Dies

R.I.P Louise Bourgeois who died today. What will the world be like without her?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Gareth Hugh Davies

Gareth Hugh Davies - Clochyrie 2008 - seen

One of the great things about Oriel Myrddin Gallery is that all the staff are artists too; we are all either practising artists, writers or crafts people or were trained as such. One of our crew, Gareth Hugh Davies is a painter and is currently showing work at St David's Hall Gallery in Cardiff. The show continues until 11 June.

Gareth Hugh Davies - Limen 2010 - seen here

Gareth uses painting to explore the liminal , the difficult to articulate thresholds, the unknowable and mysterious. He says of his own work: "My work is an investigation into the relationship between the aesthetic, cultural and mythological in landscape painting..." and painting is a unmatchable vehicle for this kind of exploration. He quotes Simon Morley on this process in his artists statement: '...a mental state in which this self is brought to the brink of dissolution through confrontation with the powerful experience of unboundedness of no longer being securely sited within a unified self'.

Gareth Hugh Davies - Equinox 2010 - seen here

Alongside this 'spritual' investigation, there is a darkness - menace, even, in Gareth's work. The traditional form of landscape painting provides an anchor which allows it to tread into unstable territory. Twighlight and night scenes make the familiar worrying, glowing orange lights in house windows, bonfires and car headlights become ambiguous points of connection in the indigo of dusk and night time. Welcoming and friendly on the one hand, dangerously alluring on another - we become moths at the flame. Tracks and traces in snowy woodlands lead us...where - to whom, or to what? Gareth had a solo show at Oriel Myrddin Gallery in 2007 entitled Olion, a Welsh word which hints at these tracks, traces and marks both in the content of his work and in the process of painting as a medium.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

We Have The Mirrors, We Have The Plans

We made a trip to North Wales yesterday to visit the newly redesigned and rebuilt Mostyn gallery in Llandudno. Three years and £5.1 million of investment have transformed the gallery into a top class space for contemporary art and a feather in the cap for art in Wales.

The first exhibition is a survey of contemporary artists working in Wales. Five curators have been invited (Amanda Farr - Oriel Davies, Hannah Firth - Chapter Arts Centre, Karen MacKinnon - Glynn Vivian Gallery, Eve Ropek - Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Chris Coppock - Formerly Ffotogallery) to choose a representative group show of 25 artists and artist partnerships. The show is planned to be repeated every four years to 'take the pulse' of the arts scene in Wales.

The building is beautiful - the guiding principle has been "Simplicity, subtlety and sophistication - plus one or two surprises" and that has been achieved with bells on. Rumours tell that the opening on Friday night was sardine full with folk from across Wales and beyond and fairly riotous, a fitting celebration for the project's realisation. The gallery retains its 1901 terracotta facade and is now topped off with a golden spire functioning as a landmark for the gallery. The project has been designed by Dominic Williams, architect of the Baltic Centre in Newcastle. The building has six gallery spaces, educational facilities, a new cafe and shop space. Improved behind-the-scenes facilities have upgraded the conservation status of the gallery which will allow for significant loans from other collections.

The show is a good survey of current practice, some omissions, some surprises; but good and well considered curation. The hardback catalogue which accompanies the show (at a bargain £5) is a good investment too. I enjoyed the show as a whole and particularly Carwyn Evans work - a series of dry-point prints of singular ploughed fields, a collection of occasional tables 'ploughed' on their tops like a mini agricultural landscape. The series of Peter Finnemore's photographs from various stages of his career, exceptional, visionary work. Sean Edwards formal investigations of the everyday potential of sculpture. Berminghan and Robinson's hut constructed from the archived documents of Oriel Mostyn prior to the expansion. Richard Higlett's/Wally French's painted paint brushes. Paul Emanuel's sheep fleece studies...

Carwyn Evans

The strangest moment of the day for me, however happened shortly after we arrived. We walked in on a performance piece by Aberystwyth based Showroom, Y Term Cymraeg am 'Road Trip' (The Welsh term for 'Road Trip')a re-enactment of a former performance at the National Eisteddfod in Bala last year. The last part of the performance was a tombola using cloakroom tickets we had been given at the door, the prize was the actual tombola - a beautifully made object which had been a feature of the Showroom socials that the group had held in Aberystwyth. I won! My ticket was 158. I will honour the spirit of the tombola and cogitate on it's next artistic this space.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Artes Mundi 4 - Winner announced

The fourth Artes Mundi prize has been awarded to Israeli artist Yael Bartana. The work of the eight shortlisted artists continues to be on show at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff until 6 June.

I found Yael Bartana's work intriguing and powerful, I came away feeling exercised and challenged; acutely aware of the difference in cultural signifiers, the unfamiliarity.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Over Your City Grass Will Grow

Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow - Sophie Fiennes film of Anselm Kiefer's studio estate - seen here

This interview with filmaker Sophie Fiennes about Anselm Kiefer's extraordinary project in La Ribaute, south of France was on The Guardian website this morning. Shown this year at Cannes, Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, is a documentary film about the artist's work and processes in the labyrinthine structure he has created in an abandoned silk factory he took over in the early 1990's. The project has now reached a halt, Kiefer has moved away from the site to Paris leaving it, for now to the elements.

I was torn as I watched the interview. The opportunity, as an artist to spend 10 or so years obsessively building a space, a monument like this is immensely beguiling. In his review of the film also in The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw quotes from Heidegger's essay on boredom "It is only when one is bored, that one's consciousness settles, reluctantly or even fearfully, on oneself and the nature of one's own existence." seen here. There is a monstrous aspect to that idea alongside the glory of such project. It parodies the Nazi ideologies that Kiefer has spent much of his artistic career addressing, it embodies the horror of human endeavour alongside the pure inventiveness and obsession that drives us.

I like the idea of a woman making this documentary, in fact it seems almost imperative. Kiefer's structure is arguably a masculine adventure. She brings her gaze to bear upon it, initially as a kind of servant to its brilliance, but ultimately, as she says in the interview, she casts aside that subservience to the artist and his creation in the edit and brings her own ego to bear upon the finished film. Therein lies another layer of horror and irony, which Fiennes highlights, that of Leni Riefenstahl and Triumph des Willens, her documentary film of the 1934 Nuremburg congress of the Nazi party.

Anselm Kiefer and Sophie Fiennes - seen here

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Collect 2010

Collect 2010 international art fair for contemporary objects was held at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea for the second year over the weekend. I really enjoy the event, it's great to get this international perspective on craft objects. I'm not terribly keen on the Saatchi Gallery as a venue for the fair, the grand vision of the space is quite hard edged and somehow felt at odds with the intimacy of looking at beautifully crafted work. The event is unashamedly about selling however, and the work is expensive - so perhaps the Saatchi venue ultimately lends a bit of a hard-sell business edge to the proceedings. Being a complete pauper however, I am in no danger of being seduced into buying, so I am free to simply enjoy the work in and of itself!

Iris Eichenberg - Tranenmeer - seen here

One of the galleries that has stayed in my mind is Galerie Louise Smit based in Amsterdam. I liked a number of the makers, especially a very conceptual collection, Pink years later by Iris Eichenberg. Influenced, I would imagine by Louise Bourgeois, the work teeters between sexiness and repulsiveness using materials like fleshy pink plastic, gold, copper-plated silver, wool, rose quartz, tiny beads, ladies tights and girly ribbons. The elegant woman manning the stand showed us how to wear the pieces; with her elegant slim neck she could make a pair of flesh colour tights look amazingly glamorous!

Design Academy Eindhoven

Studio Formafantasma - Autarchy - seen here

We went to London on Monday - first stop - Sotheby's in New Bond Street to see a show curated from the 2009 graduates of the Design Academy Eindhoven. This exceptional academy has been incredibly influential in current design concepts and products. Beautifully curated, displayed and lit, the show used a series of design led questions as catalysts for the work on show. For instance: "Can we use easily available ingredients to produce?" is tackled by Studio Formafantasma in a beautiful range of domestic ware called Autarchy (Vessel).

Other questions included like things : "Where do you like to take a bath?", "Why aren't we using a hot water bottle anymore?", "What kinds of feelings does hair provoke?". One piece I really liked was in response to the question: "How can we make tender the last goodbye to a loved one who has died?", responded to by Roos Kuipers with a beautifully crafted elmwood bier which replaces the harsh physical and emotional idea of the coffin with a softer ritual for saying goodbye.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Atelier NL

Modern Painters May 2010 - seen here

I used to subscribe to Modern Painters magazine, but I gave it up a while back - it seemed to get less and less relevant to me. This month's cover really tweaked my interest however both the objects shown in the image and the painterly treatment of the shot.

The pots shown here are part of a collection called Drawn from Clay, made by Nadine Sterk and Lonny Van Ryswyck of Atelier NL in the Netherlands, the winners of the inaugural 2010 re:vision Design Award, set up by Modern Painters. The award seeks to address "...the disjunction between our material culture and the resources exploited to support it..." The magazine sees 'design' as the perfect intermediary discipline through which to consider these issues without adopting a "...Luddite attitude toward consumption."

The makers met in 1999 at the Design Academy Eindhoven and after graduation launched Atelier NL in 2006 to pursue their interests in local resources for clay. To make the Drawn from Clay series they studied geological soil maps and set about visiting and seeking the permission of landowners to collect buckets of particular soil types from Dutch regions to make clay. They have discovered 14 clay types from different regions (Polders) of the Netherlands. Nadine Sterk says of the project "What I really like about this material is that so many details, so much history, jump out from a little piece of soil...the surviving brick factories still use natural clay, but they mix it with all different minerals to get the perfect colour"...because of this homogenisation, plus the prevalence of white-glazed porcelain, we tend to forget that ceramics are made of earth or that towns and nations have forged identities through architecture, tools and tableware whose peculiar characteristics owe much to the dirt beneath the inhabitants' feet.' P.65 May edition of Modern Painters

There is a beautiful balance between the rustic simplicity of the form and materials and the contemporary additions of pewter and glass; both elegant and earthy.

Atelier NL - Drawn from Clay - seen here

Friday, 7 May 2010

Colin Mains

Colin Mains

Colin Mains is a young Irish artist who graduated from West Wales School of the Arts in 2009. His work is included in Oriel Myrddin Gallery's current show 'Outsider'. The work is a mix of documented performance, film and art object. The piece chosen for this show is part of a series in which the artist has made footwear from unyielding and uncomfortable materials. In this case he has roughly hewn a pair of clog type shoes from wood and the accompanying film shows him walking on a wooded slope in the shoes, struggling with their rigidity and textures to make progress.

It is a very moving piece of work; elegant, simple. The performance is masochistic almost, torturous - a trial, an endurance. It has the religious dimensions of the pilgrimage and of the martyr and the ritualistic feeling of a tribal rite. The presence of the shoes in the gallery as an art object brings another unexpected layer to the concept, they become fetishised. They make their own statement about materiality, about the stuff of the natural world and our struggles to master and dominate it. They become symbolic of the task.

Jonathan Anderson - Richard and Rosemary Wakelin Purchase Award

Oriel Myrddin Gallery's Gallery Manager, Meg Anthony, has been the selector for this year's Richard and Rosemary Wakelin Purchase Award for The Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea, awarded this year to Swansea-based artist Jonathan Anderson.

This annual award is given to a Welsh artist whose work is purchased for the Gallery’s permanent collection. Meg selected three small-scale sculptures from the artist’s recent ‘house’ series [Concrete House (2009), Concrete House with Coal Seam (2010) and Sand House Mould (2006-8)] which she describes as: "...poetic and profoundly moving, as the house form draws us close to the artist’s psyche as well as questioning (dis)harmony on a social and political level."

Jonathan Anderson - seen here

There are a series of wall based works on show in the upper galleries along with the purchased works including one of my favourite pieces which uses wallpaper, coal dust and driftwood. The show continues until Sunday 20 June 2010.

Peter Coviello

I went to the opening of a retrospective show at St. Dogmaels Gallery near Cardigan on May Day. The show features the work of my friend Peter Coviello who died in 2006. Peter was born in 1930 and would have been 80 this year; I only knew him for the last four or so years of his life. He did have a pretty full and wild time however, every inch an artist he led a 'complicated' and convoluted life.

He began his artistic career at Guildford School of Art with a traditional art school training for the times, and his own work was in the same mould in his early career. In the 1950's, exposure to the American Abstract Expressionists via Mark Rothko changed his perspective on painting overnight and his work began to explore the themes and ideas he was being exposed to. He was recognised fairly quickly and his work was bought for collections such as the Tate and Peter Styvesant. In 1960, Peter was curated as part of the exhibition Situation, which took place at the RBA (Royal Society of British Artists) Galleries, London.

His personal circumstances were to knock him into a different discipline for a while, as a potter he lived in Canada and, with his usual exemplary skill, he established himself to great accomplishment in that area for 10 years. When he came back to the UK, after a time in London, he came to live in west Wales having returned to painting. The next couple of decades saw him moving between London and Wales before he came to Rhos in Ceredigion with his then partner, Nura and stayed until his death.

Peter suffered with angina and had three heart bypass operations starting in his 40's, he was ill when I met him and he was candid about the fact that he would not be around for to much longer. I met him at the opening of a big solo show of paintings I put on at Carmarthen Library in 2002, we hit it off immediately and later that year we shared a show at the Guildhall in Cardigan. Various other smaller shows followed. He lived across the hills from me and we saw eye to eye. He was a mentor in some ways - wise, funny, charismatic and deeply involved with his art, but he was so alive and open to the world, I hope I was able to share some of my own experience and ideas with him too. It adds an amazing depth to a friendship when you are under no illusion that your time is limited from the start.

His work is many, many layered; it deals with the mysterious, the scientific, the religious, the sensual, the symbolic. He was latterly very interested in quantum physics and we had many long discussions about what that might mean for an artist. I miss him very much.

The show has been organised by artist and art historian Peter Rossiter who, along with many other artists in the Cardigan area, was similarly effected by Peter's friendship. It continues at St. Dogmaels' Gallery for about two months.