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...
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 manifestation...watch this space.