Sunday, 17 July 2011

Henry Krokatsis

Henry Krokatsis - Dantalux, 2010 - seen here

I went along to Chapter Arts Centre last week and had a quick look around their new show A Fire in the Master's House is Set, curated by Simon Morrissey. I didn't have time to fully explore on this occasion, but I was immediately struck by two fantastic works by Henry Krokatsis which use found mirrors cut up and rearranged to fit together into one hybridised piece. The way the mirrors are placed serves to fragment the reflection so that a full image can never quite be seen. I didn't know about this artist so I'm intrigued and excited to find out some more.

Meri Wells - The Wakelin Purchase Award

Meri Wells - The Wakelin Purchase Prize winner 2011

This year's recipient of The Wakelin Purchase Award is the mid-Wales sculptor, Meri Wells. The award allows a selection of work by a Wales based artist to be bought for the Glynn Vivian Gallery permanent collection in Swansea. The selector for 2011 was Andrew Green from the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Meri Wells lives and works near Machynlleth and has been quietly making her extraordinary, ceramic, anthropomorphic creatures for many years. I remember seeing a show of her work in The Tabernacle in Machynlleth some while ago which exhibited some of the larger scale pieces she makes, including strange characters from the Mari Lwyd folk tradition.

Meri Wells 

The creatures she makes are uncanny, archetypal and perhaps slightly mournful. They strike a deep chord and their earthy, salt-glazed finishes make them seem to be from the most fundamental part of our psyche. Liminal beings half-in and half-out of the mythical and the imagined. For me her work has a very powerful quality, an otherworldliness that somehow imbues these sculptures with a supernatural presence. I feel very pleased that she has received this recognition for her work and hope to see more in exhibitions and collections in the future.

Meri Wells

Second Star to the Right and Straight on Until Morning

Ben Rowe - Second Star to the Right and Straight on Until Morning

I finally got to see Ben Rowe's solo show, Second Star to the Right and Straight on Until Morning at Mission Gallery in Swansea this weekend, it closes on 24 July  so there is only a week left to catch it. 

The craftsmanship involved in the making of his MDF recreations of futuristic machines from iconic 1980's films is incredibly impressive. There is an obsessive focus involved in his working process, it can take him many months to create one of his sculptures in all its minute detail. 

The blandness of the material is unsettling, Rowe uses it to speak about the futility of escapism - the fictional machines he references often involve some kind of travel, but the uniformity of their construction in his hands and their ultimate uselessness denies the fantasy. The effect is somewhat dystopic, it does not bode well somehow for our society. Ultimately we have to stand face-to-face with the existential reality of ourselves in our world with all the frustrations and yearnings that involves but with little control over its mechanics.

Perhaps this is the purest kind of gesture an artist can make (and perhaps it is only artists that CAN make such a gesture) in confrontation with this unbearable futility of being.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Structure and Material at Spike Island

Karla Black - What to ask of others (2011) - photo: Jonty Wilde seen here

I like the look of this exhibition, Structure and Material which is open from today at Spike Island in Bristol. Works from the Arts Council Collection by Claire Barclay, Becky Beasley and Karla Black consider current sculptural practice in Britain.

Becky Beasley - Infirme - seen here

The exhibition looks at the materials that the artists use, and draws parallels through "...instability, ambiguity and fragility." The show runs until 4 September.

The National Museum of Art - Cardiff

The National Museum of Art in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff opens its doors to the public tomorrow. A project that has taken 10 years to complete and an investment of £6.5 million comes to fruition in an integrated series of 6 new galleries which will house the complete art collection of The National Museum from Tudor to modern works.

A temporary exhibition, I cannot escape this place opens the gallery wing with work from Welsh artists such as Shani Rhys James and Carwyn Evans (above) alongside leading British and international artists including Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Rachel Whiteread.

Friday, 8 July 2011


Last Saturday I popped in on g39 in Cardiff to say goodbye to their current venue. The three storey town house in Mill Lane has housed the gallery for the last 13 years, and in that time Cardiff has changed around it, it now sits slap-bang in a prime spot near the new shopping centre. The new venue has not yet been announced but, as the palindrome that creates the title for the last exhibition in the venue suggests ¿AreWeNotDrawnOnwardToNewEra?  it's not an ending, but a transition. Here are some images from the day.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Homage: New works by Roger Cecil

Roger Cecil - Untitled 2011

We are delighted at Oriel Myrddin Gallery to have opened our current exhibition of paintings by Abertillary artist Roger Cecil. We were very lucky to have a show of Roger's work at the gallery called Cariad in 2006, and now, 5 years later a completely new body of work has been created especially to show in the gallery. 

The progression in Roger's work in those 5 years is self evident in this cohesive collection of works, more minimal and less 'worked' than previous paintings, the artist often allows the board on which he works to become part of the composition. These are resolved and confident works from one of Wales' best painters working in the mature years of his career. It is inspiring to find an artist continuing to push his practice and develop his work at this stage of his life when it might be quite easy to rest on one's laurels.

Roger was at the opening on Saturday 25 June, but with customary modesty left the building when Meg Anthony, the Gallery Manager spoke about him and his working processes, he is a down-to-earth man who finds superlatives uncomfortable.

We are very proud that this show is being exclusively shown in the gallery, it continues until 27 August. If you are at all interested in contemporary painting, don't miss this exceptional show!

Laura Ford - Beast and Other Works

Laura Ford - Beast & Espalier Girl - seen here

The Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea is currently showing Beast a work which has been purchased for the permanent collection from sculptor, Laura Ford. The piece is on show in the foyer along with a brand new work called Mummers (2011) and Espalier Girl (2006) until 4 September

Beast was shown as part of the Venice Biennale in 2005 and again in 2006 at Glynn Vivian Gallery as part of the Contemporary Sculpture series, it has been a very popular work with audiences which has led the gallery to include it in the permanent collection. 

In recent years Ford has used textiles to make strange and uncanny figures, often life size, they have a familiar tactile quality whilst also carrying a sense of impending menace. They have the unsettling qualities of '...a bad dream or a spooky story...' and invite the viewer to concoct imaginary narratives. Beast sits bulkily on a too-small stool, he is made of sack cloth, undeniably human but with suggestions of animal features - a tail, a possible beak. It feels like he may be incarcerated...a prison, a military establishment, a secure hospital? He asks us questions about the projections we use to unburden our own sense of psychological discomfort. 

Mummers is another extraordinary and truly 'uncanny' work, life size figures of boys engaged in some kind of school boy game suggest at first a playground scenario - it becomes clear however that one of the characters is lying prostrate on the ground surrounded by his peers - one of whom is holding an iron rod. All the figures wear a shaggy costume of fabric strips reminiscent of a 'Mummers' play, a traditional folk performance usually enacted ritually each year which acts out a story of the death of a mythical king. The figures have a extraordinary sense of suspended life, it is a tableaux that is frozen at a moment of horrible realisation and touches on issues about the moral boundaries of children which are exceptionally disturbing.

Upstairs in the main gallery space is an exhibition of three international film works which examine themes of love in particular cultural contexts. I Know Something About Love part II features work by Yang Fudong (China), Shirin Neshat (Iran) and Christodoulos Panayiotou (Cyprus). The themes of the show seem to mark something of a refreshing change of focus and curation - an investigation of this most unstable and powerful of states and the cultural restraints that define its unfolding.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Venice Biennale 2011 - Roundup

Three weeks after my trip to The Venice Biennale all the little thoughts and the sensory delights are beginning to settle into place. Here is a fragmentary summary of a few of my favourite shows and works.

America's offering Gloria, features work by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla. Every now and again a deep, ominous rumbling and squealing can be heard across the Giardini, in fact it is a piece of performance that takes place at set intervals outside the American Pavilion. An upturned desert tank sits with its massive caterpillar tracks in the air; affixed to them is a running machine on which an olympic athlete, in American colours begins to run. As he does so the tank tracks begin to turn and grind. It's an uneasy sight - surprising and funny, but then the clean-cut perfection of the athlete is uncomfortable - in a Leni Riefenstahl way. The tank makes blunt reference to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is rendered impotent, animated only by this American fantasy of the strong, healthy, clean-living winner running to go nowhere.

Inside the show two further performances take place. Sculptures of aircraft seating, made by cutting-edge rapid prototyping techniques, stand in the gallery spaces, at regular intervals highly trained gymnasts perform meticulously controlled set pieces using the sculptures. These references to  9-11, these fragments of aeroplane - is this an act of reclamation? Or is it an act of futility? A film in another room shows a series of vertical poles in open landscapes against which more of these superb athletes hoist themselves horizontally like human flags. It is a seriously thought provoking exhibition and has stayed with me nagging at notions of national pride and atrocity.

Hew Locke - Starchitect

Artsway's New Forest Pavilion in Dusoduro showed some memorable work. The venue partners with other galleries in the UK to create residencies and the works on show are the results of these projects. The artists represented this year are: Gayle Chong Kwan, Dave Lewis, Hew Locke, Mike Marshall, Christopher Orr and Sophy Rickett. 

I particularly liked Hew Locke's Starchitect installation which transforms the space into a fantastical grotto of kitsch sculptures constructed from all kinds of cheap treasure and objects. Mike Marshall's beautiful and poetic film piece A Prism Splits Light shows Vietnamese migrant workers picking olives in Cyprus. Christopher Orr's works explore the Romantic and the Sublime in painting utilising a deliberately anachronistic style. Sophy Rickett's The River shows an installation of documentary style film and sound pieces which record an evening spent with people who are waiting to see of the 'Severn Bore' - a little tidal wave that sweeps the Severn River each year, a surprisingly warm and distinctly British gathering.

David Casini

Upstairs from Artsway in the stunning Palazzo Zenobio there a series of five works by artist David Casini, installed in one of the superbly elegant rooms. Casini's delicately constructed sculptures sit underneath glass domes like Victorian specimens, spindly architectural forms grow out of and yet set up a contrast with natural materials such as coral. These delicate little structures have quietly impressed themselves on me and I keep conjuring them in my mind's eye in their exquisite setting.

Hans Op de Beeck - Location 7

One of a Thousand Ways to beat Entropy, supported by the Courtauld Institute shows the work of four artists. I particularly liked the work of Hans Op de Beeck, Location 7 a suburban home has been reconstructed in full detail as an installation, but every object, including the garden which can be seen through the window is made of dark grey concrete, even the rumpled bedsheets are solid. An evocatively sad piece of music plays and a stultifying pathos imbues the scene. It is a remarkable piece of work.

Grayson Perry - The Walthamstow Tapestry

Penelope's Labour:  Weaving words and images is a must-see for anyone at all interested in textiles and especially weave. This beautifully curated show is in the San Giorgio Maggiore Exhibition CentreAlongside the finest historical tapestries and carpets new work, often made on high-tech state of the art looms is on show. You can see Grayson Perry's stunning The Walthamstow Tapestry and Mark Quinn's ultra contemporary weaving which reference flowers and flora. I was utterly fascinated by a delicate yellow silk wrap which had been entirely woven from the spider silk of the Golden Orb spider. This is a sophisticated and beautiful show. There is a lovely catalogue to accompany the show - I'm kicking myself that I didn't invest!

Venice Biennale 2011 - Penelope’s Labour: Weaving Words and Images from ikono tv on Vimeo.

Here is a link to my Flickr set of images from The Biennale.