Monday, 25 April 2011

Blue Birdhouse

seen here

Thanks to Jim Linderman on his excellent blog Dull Tool Dim Bulb for posting this birdhouse today,  built 50 years ago in Michigan. I just love the simple, beautiful, functional nature of it.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Project Object

I'm very excited that our new series of shows at Oriel Myrddin Gallery has opened - under the banner of Project Object, we have invited four artists; Peter Finnemore, Carwyn Evans, Becky Adams and Jools Johnson to occupy the gallery space with special objects that evoke intruiging stories. Using objects both personal and particular and a spirit of experiment and happen-stance, each of this artist-led series will develop differently.

I've started a sister blog to document Project Object - I hope you might visit and follow to keep up to date with everything that's happening over the next 8 weeks.

Carwyn Evans: Altro 19 - 30 April. Working with material unearthed from his father's land in Newcastle Emlyn, Carwyn Evans 'purifies' it, eradicating any sense of place, identity or culture from the material so that it can only be seen as ‘stuff’, dislocated from notions of culture and mother or fatherland.

Peter Finnemore: Groove 4 - 14 May. Peter Finnemore has collected 45 rpm vinyl records for many years, focusing his collection on those that relate to Wales. Seeing his records as democratic markers of cultural history, as ‘vinyl bones’, and as vernacular folk art, many of them relate specifically to Carmarthen.

Becky Adams: Memento 17 May – 4 June. What compels us to keep objects, hoard objects, covet objects? An exploration into the emotional connection and history attached to personal objects, Becky Adams throws light on the personal stories attached to seemingly benign objects and creates a visual library that documents memory, recollection and personal story.

Jools Johnson: Aurora 7 – 18 June. Jools Johnson manipulates recycled computer materials to create artworks that resemble futuristic constructions and miniature cities. Recent installations create unsettling atmospheres and ethereal backdrops for new architectural models that articulate fundamental questions about our own existence.

Project Object: Collect
7 May – 4 June. Carmarthen Museum in Abergwili houses the county’s collection of treasured archaeology, social artefact and artworks. The museum have kindly loaned a small selection of items as part of Project Object. The gallery would like you to loan a significant object of your own to be shown alongside in the studio space during the show so that we can create our own living museum of special things.

Placement at Oriel Davies

I went along to the opening of Placement - Ceramic Collection: Wales & Scotland  at Oriel Davies in Newtown on Saturday evening. The exhibition has been curated by ceramicists,  Lowri Davies (Wales) and Dawn Youll (Scotland) and brings together artists working in ceramic from both these regions.

This is one of the best shows I have seen for some while, I really enjoyed the choice of artists, the subtlety brought to the show by the curation and the physical layout of the gallery. The artists chosen for the show are: Stephen Bird, Claire Curneen, Lowri Davies, Ken Eastman, Nick Evans, Laura Ford, Anne Gibbs, David Shrigley, Cecile Johnson Soliz, Connor Wilson and Dawn Youll. 

The artist which both curators had on their wish list for the show was Laura Ford, and through making that connection they found that other suggestions unfolded around the ideas of ceramic in the widest contexts; the boundary between fine art and craft is truly irrelevant in this show. 

"Placement explores the subject of place, whether geographical or make-believe, and associated ideas around arrangement and placement, whether located to a place or within history. It aims to highlight important associations in the field of ceramics concerning location, geography, geology, ritual, commemoration and souvenir. Works by eleven artists reveal how ceramic objects can, and have been, used to articulate a particular language: telling stories and connecting us with both past and present."

There is such a feast of exceptional work in this show it's hard to decide on any favourite artists or works. Dawn Youll's work is stunningly well resolved in every way, it combines ideas about form, semiotics, materiality and concept effortlessly and elegantly. There is a major article with her in this month's Crafts Magazine which is featured on the front cover - very much worth grabbing a copy.

Stephen Bird's chaotic ceramic sculptures crackle with a nervous spirit of obsession. Much of his work is a subversion of the traditional English figurine, playing with the inherent colonialism and notions of class they embody and muddling them up to create fantastic, hybridised figures and scenes which borrow across global and contemporary culture.

Claire Curneen's trees feel powerfully mythic, red earthenware with gilded roots and branches, these forms are subtly abstracted from her often overtly figurative work and bring with them a slightly darker and richer language. I had no idea that David Shrigley made ceramic work, but his objects (a pair of oversized black boots and a bomb) are extremely sharp and funny. Lowri Davies delicate tea service and vases are the result of a keen and modestly authoritative understanding of both materials and historical references. Conor Wilson brings a magpie's eye to his pieces, they feel like they have been assembled and made beautiful with eclectic borrowings from many different sources, they are slightly rude, slightly dreamlike, slightly decorative and shot through with a complicated narrative.

If you are anywhere near Newtown between now and 6 July,  I strongly recommend a visit. Whilst you are there you can also catch Jonathan Anderson's installation, Aggregates in the Test Bed space at the gallery. The confined square footage of the space brings a tangible sense of claustrophobia to the work, but the irreverent, anti-capitalist humour that is evident, especially in the 3 dimensional objects he has chosen for the space lifts it and brings it into an interesting conversation with the Placement works in the main gallery spaces.

Tessa Hunkin Mosaic Commission

Tessa Hunkin - Design for Lyric Theatre Mosaic Commission
seen here

We are rather proud in Carmarthen to be able to boast a new mosaic commissioned from artist, Tessa Hunkin outside The Lyric Theatre in King Street. It was installed last week by Tessa and her assistant. Oriel Myrddin Gallery Manager, Meg Anthony organised the call for submissions and steered the selection of the design. Tessa has a long history of working to public commission including a piece designed by Welsh artist, Ivor Davies which was installed in Westminster Cathedral last year to coincide with the Pope’s visit to the UK. 

It is a beautiful piece of work, and exceptionally well crafted in muted colours and gold with roundels of significant local themes.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Drawing Symposium - The Uses of Drawing

Oriel Myrddin Gallery held a Drawing Symposium - The Uses of Drawing - last Saturday as part of the participatory events inspired by The Jerwood Drawing Prize which is showing at the gallery (it closes this Saturday, if you haven't been yet!). In keeping with the ethos of the prize which aims to "...provide a forum to test, evaluate and disseminate current drawing practice, and to gain knowledge and understanding about the field through the artists currently making work within the discipline." we invited speakers from a range of disciplines to a day-long discussion on the uses of drawing bringing together multi-disciplinary approaches to the uses, relevance, benefits and value of drawing as a creative solution and technical discipline.

The day was chaired by Carmarthenshire artist, lecturer and writer, Osi Rhys Osmond, ever charismatic and provocative, Osi was a natural choice to bring the best out of our speakers and our audience. The speakers included: 

Roger Moss,  Sculptor - "Let there be drawing (apologies to Epstein)."

Marilyn Allen, Artist - "Drawing in Contemporary Practice."

Dr Wayne Forster,  Deputy Head of Welsh School of Architecture - "Architecture and the Thinking Hand."

Sally Moss, Curator - "Drawing and the Athens of Wales" The history of drawing at Oriel Myrddin Gallery.

Julia Griffiths Jones, Artist/maker - "Drawing out the Collection" -  Working with the National Wool Museum Collection.

Ken Brassil, Archaeology Learning Officer National Museum of Wales - "Timeline: archaeology maps the past."

It was a brilliantly sunny day, so we felt very encouraged that over 40 people packed the gallery space for the day forgoing the beach or the deckchair. We sat amongst The Jerwood Drawing Prize works which gave a fantastic context to the proceedings. The speakers ranged over diverse territory.

Roger Moss talked about the sculptor's process, the way that the drawing materials themselves often bring a materiality and substance to sketching. He discussed the freedom and fluidity the sketching process could bring, comparing at one point a Rodin experiment in stone to the work of Eduardo Paolotzzi and reminding us that nothing is new under the sun. He related some lovely personal stories including sitting next to Claus Oldenburg at dinner and coveting the little explanatory sketch he made on the table cloth - British reserve saw the drawing scrunched into the bin at the end of the meal...much to the sadness of those eyeing up the opportunity to claim it.

Marilyn Allen, erstwhile lecturer in Contextual Studies at West Wales School of the Arts, talked in particular about how performance artists use the 'trace' of their performance - how can you sell a memory or a ghost? She used a wide range of references including Maryclare FoĆ”'s walk through Manhattan, Line Down Manhattan (2003),  dragging along a lump of English chalk, a conceptually succinct expression of the question. She also made reference to artists such as Rebecca Horn - especially her pencil mask, Bleistiftmaske (1972), and Tim Knowles Tree Drawings.

Dr Wayne Forster brought a really interesting dimension to proceedings, talking about the tripartite stages of drawing with which the architect typically engages; conceptual, developmental and finished. Each stage demands a very different approach through the very practical function of its language. Swiss architect, Peter Zumthor provided a lynch pin to the talk especially The Therme Vals in Switzerland. 

Curator, Sally Moss is an avid historian and has a vast knowledge of the town of Carmarthen and especially the building in which Oriel Myrddin Gallery is housed. Built as a dedicated art school and designed by architect George Morgan, it opened it's doors in 1892 and was built by public subscription. Sally reminded us that the funds to create this pioneering establishment were raised by the residents of the town, not just the culturally elite, but also ordinary working Carmarthen people. She read us inspiring and inspired sections from the speeches made in support of the art school, one of which set out its ambition for Carmarthen to be 'The Athens of Wales', a heartland of culture.

Julia Griffiths Jones, Carmarthenshire artist and maker, talked to us about her practice and the roots of her research in eastern europe. Taking inspiration from traditional textiles her work has developed a very distinctive style which incorporates 'drawing' in metal wire and textiles. In recent years Julia has worked closely with The National Wool Museum in Drefach Felindre, creating a number of works which are now permanently housed in the museum.

Our last speaker of the day, Ken Brassil from The National Museum in Cardiff enlivened the final presentation with his highly unique speaking style. Inspired by the Tim Ingold book, Lines - A Brief History, he took us on an abstract journey of archaeology and the changing face of the technologies and techniques of gathering and recording information.

Invigorated by the day, one of our visitors told me how much she'd enjoyed the day, in fact it had made her feel rather moved - she had 'nearly cried six times'. I think this exemplifies the passion with which drawing and its functions are held. Summing up, Osi Rhys Osmond pleaded the case for drawing to be taken far more seriously as a language and communication tool, a key to the future.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Piet Hein Eek

Thanks to Hazel Terry for posting this video of Piet Hein Eek this morning. The ethos behind the company is very inspiring. Oriel Myrddin Gallery will be showing an exhibition of Dutch design in September curated by Pembrokeshire's Freshwest Design - Piet Hein Eek is not part of the show, but the show will feature designers influenced by the prestigious Eindhoven Design Academy including Maartin Baas, Riener Bosch, Formafantasma, Daphna Isaacs, Chris Kabel, Digna Kosse, Christien Meindertsma, Mieke Meijer, Berjan Pot, Tejo Remy (TBC), Frederik Roije, Peter van der Jagt, Nathan Wierink.

The Dutch Collection is particular: its emphasis is creative, questioning, light and holistic.  A spirit of research and adventure has meant that selection, curation and delivery have transmogrified into a Freshwest/Netherlands road trip.  Marcus Beck and Simon Macro (Freshwest Design) and Joby Barnard (photography/design) venture to Holland in a van to meet with designers on a whistle-stop ‘select and collect’ tour from some of the best design studios in The Netherlands.