Exhibition catalogue. X-10 Pŵer yn y Tir/ Power in the Land. Editors: Helen Grove-White and Annie Grove-White. Published by X-10, 2016.

Ysbyty Ifan (St. John’s Hospital) is a remote and beautiful hamlet in North Wales. The surrounding landscape feels like Icelandic tundra, or moonscape. In the summer, the expansive mountaintop flickers with the white fluff of cotton grass, and mournful curlews can be heard with the joyous skylarks hovering above the heather. There is something of the otherworld about it.

Like most of the remote places where nuclear power facilities are located, this place has layers of history. The black earth at Ysbyty Ifan records the footsteps of pilgrims, the Red Bandits of Mawddwy, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the poet William Cynwal, Tomos Prys, sailor, buccaneer and poet, and Abraham Lincoln’s great, great grandfather, John Morris, whose daughter made the journey to the ‘Welsh Tract’ of Pennsylvania in the 1600s.

 

Steeped in these histories, little has changed in this place since the Knights of St John, otherwise known as the Order of Hospitallers, set up a pilgrim hospital and hostel for weary medieval travellers following the routes from Bangor Is y Coed (Bangor-on-Dee) to Holyhead and Bardsey Island and the Cistercian Way between Aberconwy and Cymer. On their difficult journey this isolated hamlet must have felt like a welcome refuge from the battering of wind and heavy rain.

 

In April 1986 a similar maelstrom of weather carried radioactive material in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster that seeped into the black earth. The radiation in the soil was absorbed by the cotton grass, llus and heathers, which were then eaten by sheep. For over two decades afterwards, restriction orders were placed on the movement of sheep in the area. Yet the journey of atomic particles from the Ukraine had taken a little over 24 hours to reach the hills of North Wales and elsewhere. From that moment on, the peaty earth of Ysbyty Ifan and its histories were forever intertwined with Caesium -137, carried by the wind to these parts.

 

One of the pilgrim routes from Ysbyty Ifan led towards Holy Island on Anglesey, now known today for its busy ferry port at Holyhead. Back in the early 1960s the port provided easy access from the sea for construction materials to arrive to build Wylfa nuclear power station (Atomfa’r Wylfa) along the coast, near the village of Cemaes Bay. It is the most northerly village in Wales (excluding the nearby hamlet of Llanbadrig).

 

The location of the power station here was chosen because of its remoteness, its geological stability and proximity to the sea for cooling the twin nuclear reactors.

Operating since 1971, the plant lies adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is partly owned by the National Trust.

 

Like Ysbyty Ifan, the area has layers of history. The unpredictability of the weather and currents around this part of the Anglesey coast has resulted in a number of shipwrecks across the centuries. One of the most memorable was in AD440, when Bishop Patrick, on his way to bring Christianity to the Irish from the Scottish island of Iona, was shipwrecked during a violent storm. He survived the clamour and turmoil of the storm, taking shelter in a cave on the mainland. In giving thanks for his survival, he founded a church at Llanbadrig (St. Patrick’s Church).

 

While Llanbadrig church still stands proudly on the cliff-top, layers of earth hide other histories of people and buildings. Along the coast beyond Cemaes, David Hughes, a local Victorian philanthropist who had made his fortune as a Liverpool builder, built Wylfa Manor and gardens with entrance lodge in the 1890s. He lived there until his death in 1904. The remains are now beneath the public car park near Wylfa nuclear power station.

 

From David Hughes’s time to the late 1930s, the area became a fashionable location for holiday homes, and at one point Wylfa Head was known as ‘millionaires row’. Lloyd George was a regular visitor. Princess Victoria, daughter of Edward VII, would visit the Hon. Violet Vivian at Cestyll, and they would all socialize together.

 

Cestyll was bought by William Walter Vivian in 1918, for his niece Violet Vivien, daughter of Lord Bodmin and she made it her home. From 1922 onwards she began to design and develop a garden in the valley to the west of the house. The garden is described as “an informal plantsman’s garden which has many small, separate but linked areas, in many cases defined by the bends and loops of the stream, which give it a very intimate atmosphere” (CADW, n.d. ).

 

Cestyll was demolished in 1991. A south-east range of sheds and a garage may still be seen, though are very overgrown and difficult to access. The walled garden, somewhat overgrown, remains and is adjacent to Wylfa nuclear power station, (also known as Wylfa A), and is managed by Horizon Nuclear Power.

 

On the site of Wylfa A itself, once stood a farmhouse. It was bought in the 1930s by Rosina Buckman, a New Zealand-born soprano who had retired from singing 10 years earlier, and then taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She would bring groups of students up to Cemaes and they would perform concerts in the Village Hall. It is said that her ghost still wanders around the site, sometimes seen humming an aria in a voluminous white dress, her pet Pekinese held under her arm.

 

The landscape began to change during and after the Second World War. The name Wylfa, derived from ‘gwylfa’, means prominent place or eminence, and it is not surprising that the RAF built a Chain Home post on the cliffs at Wylfa Head. Its purpose was to detect enemy aircraft by radar or, in some instances, the management of shipping in the Liverpool approaches. The radar worked by ‘floodlighting’ the sky with pulsed radio waves. The ‘echo’ from obstacles in the path would be received and displayed at the base station.

 

After the war, the Central Electricity Generating Board bought Wylfa Head and in 1963 construction work began on the nuclear plant and its two Magnox reactors. The architects for the station were Farmer & Dark, and the landscape architect was Dame Sylvia Crowe, who was also responsible for landscaping at Trawsfynydd nuclear power station.

 

After 44 years of operation, Wylfa A is now due to close in 2015 and another layer of history begins to be made. Decommissioning begins immediately and it is a long and potentially dangerous process. Final site clearance at Trawsfynydd for example, ‘is not projected to start until 2074 with the land returned to its original state by 2083. It is at that stage that the reactor buildings and the steel pressure vessels will be demolished’ (BBC, 2013).

 

The conundrums of nuclear power make it a challenge to discuss dispassionately. Without even considering the politics of the nuclear agenda, we need to consider the emergence and development of our nuclear age.

 

From the beginning of the nineteenth century scientists began to make new discoveries about the world around us. The development of research in this field roughly corresponds with the development of Modernism in fine art. In many ways these scientists and artists had much in common. Often they would work in atelier-like laboratories. They were all exploring what Robert Hughes describes as ‘The Shock of the New’ (1980).

 

Photography was at the forefront of this new era both in the arts and sciences. In his Parisian laboratory, Antoine Henri Becquerel’s experiments led to the discovery of radioactivity in 1896. He observed that uranium could blacken a photographic plate, even though separated by glass or black paper. He also observed that the rays that produced the darkening were capable of discharging an electroscope, indicating that the rays possessed an electric charge.

 

By the end of the century, scientists knew more about the structure and workings of the atom, and had made the discoveries of X-rays, radioactivity and the electron. In 1905 Albert Einstein published the special theory of relativity regarding convertibility of matter and energy (E=mc2), and 10 years later, he published his general theory of relativity. The theory proposed that gravity, as well as motion, can affect the intervals of time and of space.

 

Marie and Pierre Curie worked tirelessly in Paris discovering polonium and then radium. She used her knowledge to establish x-ray facilities at the Front during World War 1. In June 1919, Ernest Rutherford bombarded nitrogen gas with alpha-particles and obtained atoms of an oxygen isotope and protons. This transmutation of nitrogen into oxygen was the first artificially induced nuclear reaction. In 1932 James Chadwick discovered the neutron.

 

In a period of less than a lifetime we had moved from the Steam Age to the Atomic Age. The industrialization of the atom begins. This new era was, and continues to make its mark across the planet, crossing over nations’ lands, peoples and borders regardless. The local is now global, and the global is now local.

 

In the UK, the development of nuclear weapons was authorized in January 1947. By June, under the direction of William Penney, the UK began to design its plutonium bomb, and in August work began on our first atomic reactor. In 1956 the world’s first civil nuclear programme was established, with the opening of Calder Hall nuclear power station at Windscale, England. Within a year, a fire had destroyed the core of a reactor, sending clouds of radioactivity into the atmosphere

 

Five years later in 1962 between October 16 and 28, the world held its collective breath as the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded, bringing the world the closest it has ever come to nuclear annihilation. During those 13 days, in a small village in Gwynedd, North Wales, called Penrhyndeudraeth (Peninsula with two beaches), a “nonagenarian intellectual in carpet slippers in his cottage in North Wales” (cited in Sekel, 1984, p.1), sent a series of telegrams to such leaders as President John F. Kennedy, Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, U Thant (then Secretary General of the United Nations), Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Philosopher, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), in his nineties at the time, sitting in his cottage, is thus credited by many historians as having played an important role in bringing about the turning-point in the crisis.

 

In this exhibition, ‘Power in the Land’, ten artists from Wales, England and other parts of Europe, have each turned their attention to Wylfa nuclear power station as the starting point for exploring some of the local and global themes and concerns related to nuclear power today. They have done this in an open, questioning and exploratory manner that prise open some of the conundrums of nuclear power that we live with.

 

 

References

CADW (n.d.).Cestyll, Cemlyn, Wales. [online] Available at http://www.parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/site/749?preview=1 (Accessed 10 November 2015)

Green, S. (2013). How do you close a nuclear power station? [BBC online] Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/0/24642256 (Accessed 15 November 2015)

Sekel, A. (1984). Russell and the Cuban Missile Crisis. [online] Available at https://escarpmentpress.org/russelljournal/article/viewFile/1632/1658 (Accessed 15 November 2015)

 


Stephen Sheehan


One piece of work that I really want to see again at Liverpool Biennial (various venues til October 2016) is a video in the Liverpool Biennial Associate Artists Exhibition at India Buildings on Water Street.
As a bit of background to this part of the Biennial, here’s what they say:

The Liverpool Biennial Associate Artists Programme is a three-year partnership led by the Biennial with ICI (Independent Curators International) and CACTUS gallery in Liverpool. The program offers 10 artists based in the North of England an international framework for artistic development and support.
As part of this three-year partnership (2016-18), each Associate Artist is paired with a curator selected from ICI’s network of Curatorial Intensive alumni, who will serve as mentors. This will provide the artists with an opportunity to develop their practice, gain an insight into the dynamics of the art world, and develop international networks.
The program will launch at the opening of the Liverpool Biennial on July 9, 2016, where the Associate Artists and the curators will meet in person and hold studio and site visits. In addition to regular conversations, in-person encounters will be made possible through the duration of the program as part of a travel budget provided to each Associate Artist to visit their mentors in their home cities.
Anyway, I really liked Stephen Sheehan’s video piece, Parrot Reflection. At just under 15 minutes long, this film manages to explore some complex ideas in a non-linear narrative way. I asked Stephen Sheehan to give me some background to the piece.
SJH: Where was it filmed?
SS: It was filmed in upstate New York in Averill Park while on a month long residency at ALN (art, letters and numbers) in April this year.
SJH: where did the dialogue come from?
SS: That is a good question! The first piece of dialogue arose from conversations I was having with other artists and fellows at the residency. I was talking to them about what it’s like to live in residence permanently and watch other people come and go.
I compared their situation to be similar to a state of limbo. They seem to be living for ever while an artist doing a residency comes and goes, similar to life; living and dying. The permeant residence watches the birth of that life and the end of that life( start of the residency, end of the residency), yet their status never changes.
There was a consensus that because of the fluctuating of people they find it hard to truly connect with a person because they know that connection will be short lived. I found that rather sad, as the potential to connect was being resisted due to impeding loss.
The second piece of dialogue was in response to all the political goings on while I was there (the general elections, Trump, Sanders and Clinton). There was a sense of paranoia and uncertainty in the air as to what would happen while people listened to the speeches and media coverage. I wanted to create an argument that someone was having with themselves and try to incorporate this uncertainty and show this slightly defensive attitude that lingered.
The scene where she eats the olive is in reference to Victor Harry Feguer who was executed by the death penalty and his last meal was a black olive with the pip still in it. When he was executed, they found the pip of the olive in his suit pocket. Maybe that could be a hidden dialogue? I have always found this to be a statement towards the American death penalty system, a very symbolic gesture of individualism and maybe also raising the idea of something existing after ones death. The olive pip to me, is similar to the documentation of a performance. A remaining element of a pervious action that allows that action to continue living far beyond a human memory. I find the whole idea rather powerful in such a fragile existence we find ourselves in.
SJH: What were you thinking?
SS: Parrot Reflection had the intention of being a film about a person who becomes curious and obsessed by not having a 360 degree view of the world they live in, and arrives at the conclusion that by not having a 360 degree view, they are not experiencing 100% of their own life and the world.
The person comes across a mirror and discovers that the mirror allows one to see behind themselves, creating a new view, but my holding the mirror up, the front view is then blocked which brings the person back to the same problem; that was the foundation for the film.
But, when I arrived in Albany, the location had a bizarre time warped groundhog day feel to it.

Averill Park, where I was located, had a sense of a drive through town (a town where you don’t stop, you just pass by it). It was once home to a bustling textile industry, but now, this sleepy town, surrounded by mountains, trees and lakes… had a heroin problem that was on the rise. Maybe people were attempting to escape from the simple American life.
So, while attempting to incorporate the initial idea of a person wanting more from life, I also wanted to portray a state of limbo where the film existed. I wanted to remove Averill Park from being a real American town and transform Averill Park into limbo. I feel the location looks like a designed set. For me, the place doesn’t seem real.
The dialogue that happens in the film is scripted, and I wanted the scripts to be visible. I wanted to portray the film as a performance and not hide the fact that the dialogue had been written for the people reading it. I am reading a book called: Escape Attempts: The Theory and Practice of Resistance in Everyday Life, and it generates ideas about our dialogue being scripted as a way of not facing the truth of our existence, so even our dialogue that we use to get through life is a distraction to reality (that’s what I understood anyway. I could be totally wrong!).
So by these people reading scripts, they are trying to distract themselves and ignore that they are in a state of limbo. That is why the conversations take place indoors, and behind theses conversations are windows, so the viewer can observe the conversation and the life beyond the conversation. They are separated. I attempt to make this reference with the moth stuck between the two panels of glass of the window.
The ‘single olive’ on the plate is in reference to Victor Feguer. Victor Feguer was the last person to be put to death in Iowa. For his last meal he requested one black olive before execution. The pit of the olive was found his suit pocket after he was executed.
In segments of the film I included the idea of someone (me) looking for something more in life as I wandered through the snow. I eventually come across the mirror in the snow and I make reference to my initial idea of attempting to see more of life, hence why I climb up the ladder and look in the mirror in the hope of seeing something new, something more.
As the film draws to a close I begin to reject the mirror as being this ‘freeing’ tool and bury the mirror in the ground, the ground which exists in this Limbo town which I have created or believe exists. This signifies the end of me, hence the dead mouse, which was killed in a mouse trap during my stay. ( I didn’t kill the mouse!) The mouse resembles death, and the falling of tree is symbolic to the falling of existence. The tree was always falling, it was momentarily held together by string, which was eventually severed.
The ending, is the end of the film… but the game of chess which is static is not over, so it allows for a continuous idea to exist beyond the film of something more.
SJH: Were you conscious of there being an element of “Twin Peaks” to Averill Park?
SS: I think I need to watch twin peaks! A few other people have mentioned similarities between them! I have just read a little description of it now, and it sounds like Averill Park! Maybe not the murders but the quite town with stuff going on unaware to people who pass through. Maybe twin peaks ‘the fictional town’ is Averill Park! I am ordering twin peaks of Amazon, now. I like that a few people have now made a similar connection.
SJH: Did the concept of the Narcisus play on your thinking? I realise from your explanation that the mirror was a device for seeing more, but were you aware of the connotations with the self obsessive?
SS: The self obsessive thing was an equally important element to the mirrors involvement. By holding the mirror up to the world you can see new things but we do this for ourselves as a way of self development due to an obsession with ourselves, whether we admit it or not! . I think it makes a comment on humans in general. We are quite egotistical animals. Maybe that’s why I am present in my work, I am aware of myself and obsessed with myself a second person!
SJH: How important was the music choice?
SS: The first track ‘If I had a hammer’ by Trini Lopez was selected by chance. When I arrived I was being shown around and came across a large selection of vinyl records in a warehouse. We were short on time and had to hurry, so I grabbed any old vinyl which happened to be this one. I played it with the intro and it worked so well: It was love at first sight!
The second song I remembered hearing before I arrived there. It is called ‘With these hands’ by Eddie Fisher. The song is supposed to be passionate about clinging onto your lover, but when you listen to the words they are very controlling words; obsessed words! They go well with the departing of the mirror scene. This song could easily act as another conversation about struggling to let go of the ‘mirror’, the mirror being about self obsession and wanting more. So, I think the music choice could become an important role in future works as it can create it’s own conversation between the sound and visual which would hopefully add a new element to the work and the ideas being expressed.
SJH: Can you explain a little about how you see the mentor scheme working?
SS: I’m quite excited for it. I think it will work well. To work with a curator outside a sole curatorial context can, and hopefully will be beneficial as they will offer their professional opinions or advice as to how to develop our career and they also have connections which can aid the opening of opportunities to us. So far, it’s all been positive across the board. We had a chance to meet all the mentors and they are really nice and on the ball. I can see it being a beautiful collaboration!
Parrot Reflection can be seen at India Buildings as part of Liverpool Biennial until October.


There is something of the magical, the otherworldly about the must see exhibition at the ABC cinema in Liverpool’s Biennial (until October). You are faced with decisions of what is reality and what is artifice? Film by its nature forces us to address these questions. When we go to watch a film we are drawn into a world, space and time, that requires us to suspend disbelief and go with the narrative and time frame that we are immersed in. Cinemas therefore become vessels for storytelling and histories which may, or may not, be based on fact, but which nonetheless are not “real”. 
In the 1990s David Lynch’s seminal tv drama Twin Peaks played with this idea and challenged the linear narrative structure of most television productions. What we were presented with was an extension of Lynch’s dystopian dream / nightmare that had been a signature of his earlier movies. A surreal / super real vision of saturated sound and colour. In the ABC cinema space, a Grade ll listed Art Deco building that opened its doors in 1931 and closed in 1998, artists Samson Kambula, Fabien Giraud & Raphaël Siboni, Marcos Lutyens and sculptures by Lara Favaretto, Rita McBride, Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian have been curated in such a way that this space in the Biennial really works on so many levels. 

As I entered the space I had a funny feeling I wasn’t in Liverpool anymore, to coin a cinematic phrase. I had travelled both in time and space. The entrance was a small door on the corner of Elliot Street and Lime Street, like a portal into this other world. The last film to be shown at the ABC, in 1998, was Casablanca (1942). A classic film noir which both romanticises and sharply captures North Africa in 1941 as European emigrants flee the war in Europe. This is clearly the reverse of the current situation with thousands of people willing to risk their lives to escape war, persecution and poverty by crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. We are forced to consider reality from both sides in Samson Kambala’s short black and white films which are dotted thoughout the venues of the Biennial. Kambala has invited a group of children to imagine Casablanca’s content and as part of his “Nyau Cinema” he has subverted the conventions and limitations of everyday life. I like these films very much, they are playful, and at under a minute each they follow Kambala’s principles of Nyau Cinema https://vimeo.com/133425737

The sloping floor of the space and the darkness unsettled me at first and I stumbled trying to navigate it. I felt a sense of uncertainty, I was taken out of the everyday and into something new. Having walked around the structures showing Kambala’s films I noticed what I thought was a reflection of a film in colour. I was reminded of mirror scene in The Lady From Shanghai (1947) and the reference to this in Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) https://youtu.be/VNiFfZQwIKM 

I was thinking about Jean Cocteau as I became fixated on the film behind the gauze. I had no sense of scale, and as I moved closer I realised it was not a reflection but another world; a vast cinematic space with chairs and people and a full size screen and my mind exploded. The realisation that the universe within the ABC had just expanded. I sat down to watch the film, which is both beautiful from a film making perspective and engaging. I felt once again as though I was having to reset my understanding and ask “What is reality?”

Fabien Giraud & Raphaël Siboni’s most recent episode of their series The Unmanned which recounts a history of technology in reverse is ‘1922 – The Uncomputable’. The film uses the work and thinkings of Lewis Fry Richardson, who explored the notion of building a weather forecast factory. People compute data to predict the weather. I found it fascinating and will definitely return to rewatch it. Every Tuesday the entire Unmanned series will be screened.

When the film ended the whole artifice of the space was exposed as the cinema was flooded with light, revealing structures, sculpture, the decaying splendour of the golden age of cinema. We were then placed into what felt like a hypnotic trance by Marcos Lutyens sound piece. Had it all been just a dream? We were then plunged back into darkness, tracing our way to the exit, and the blind of daylight.
ABC Cinema

Lime Street

Liverpool

L1 1JQ

Open daily 10am – 6pm


The mountains resounded to the sounds of repetitive brass instruments calling to one another across this dramatic landscape. In a piece that explores the transitions and cycles that take place across the year on a hill farm such as Hafod y Llan at the foot of Snowdon. For the past three years Louise Ann Wilson has been observing the annual farming cycle. We were invited to take a remarkable journey on foot through installations and performances, inspired by this iconic location, its history and its people. The production is also supported by Migrations.

The last time such a gathering took place was with Gladstone and the route we took follows the Watkin Track that led many people up to hear the prime minister give his speech. (Interesting article here)

Along the way, as we were shepherded along the sometimes precarious path, we were able to see a number of art installations. We were in the first of many such groups and it felt as though our guide was quite anxious to set a good pace, so much so that we didn’t really have time to linger at many of the artworks, sites and live art performances on our way up. In fact, by the time we’d got to the more level ground I was quite exhausted.

The highlight, and in fact the most coherent bit of performance, or maybe I should say theatre, was in the slate mine nestling beneath Snowdon’s summit. Within the walls of a ruin a bed was placed. The actors gave a poignant and at times deeply moving account of the year in this remote Welsh speaking place where people and their animals’ lives are intertwined in an intimate and interdependent way. We came closer to understanding the term “cynefin”.

“I belong. Here. Now.
I have always known this,
I am. It is my place, cynefin.”
From Haf/Summer by Gillian Clarke

Another highlight was the band playing on the way down the mountain, as a flock of gathered sheep were brought in from the mountains and taken down to the safety (or maybe not) of the farm.

At over 4 hours the performance felt as though it was a little long, some of the art interventions were distracting and unnecessary, but over all it was a really enjoyable, if very tiring, day. The piece has been written by Gillian Clarke and her poetic sensibility pervaded the performance and was even physically transcribed onto the landscape. The acting was superb with standout performances from Meilir Rhys Williams, Ffion Dafis and Gwyn Vaughan Jones, but as often is the case with National Theatre of Wales I would have preferred a clearer narrative at times.

sounds

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More Than Honey

11Sep14

Lifeonthecutoff's Blog

DSCN5512What better way to start or end one’s day than with a little dip into the honey pot, especially in September, which is National Honey Month?

During the harvesting season, I seek out vendors at local farmers markets and farm stands for jars of this liquid gold. It is said that consuming local honey has health benefits, especially for those with seasonal allergies. I don’t know how scientifically true this is, but, I do know that I don’t sneeze as much when I’ve had a wee tad of local honey on a regular basis.  I always find honey farmers are eager to talk about their honey and that this year they say their bees are producing more.

My gardening friends and I all agree, we are seeing more bees in our gardens. A good sign that leaves one hopeful, in a very tentative way.

I’m a romantic, at heart…

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Adrian Masters. Not the politics blog.

Four photographs of Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford, 1902 Four photographs of Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford, 1902

If you’re remotely interested in Virginia Woolf, the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition is both utterly fascinating because of the historical artefacts and images on display and worth experiencing for the quality of the art. I saw it in the summer but it’s on till the end of October so I’m hoping to make a return visit.

I’m already a fan so loved the frisson of looking at letters, photographs, children’s drawings, diary pages and books with a direct connection to Virginia, her family and friends.

Near the beginning of the exhibition are the four famous and haunting images of a young Virginia Stephen by George Beresford. Near the end are two heartbreaking letters written to her sister Vanessa and only found after she’d killed herself. I’ve read those awful words many times before:  ‘I am certain now that I am going mad…

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A while back I was asked to curate an exhibition for the cafe area at MOSTYN. Caffi Celf: Insight 2

Eleanor Brooks
Antonia Dewhurst
Morgan Griffith (Sonomano)
Sara-Jane Harper
Catrin Menai
Simon Proffitt
Alan Whitfield

All of the artists are part of Helfa Gelf, the month long artists’ open studios event in North Wales, which starts this weekend.

The idea behind the exhibition was that I wanted to find a group of work that explored the idea of place in some way using drawn, painted or graphic media. Eleanor Brooks’ work all features the hearth and fireplace which is the heart of her home near Beddgelert. This is the place of evenings and nights in the winter, where stories unfold and imaginings take place. It was a joy to install these works on one of the hottest days of the year, back in June. Toni Dewhurst’s work often references homesteads of one sort or another and I was really interested in her drawings of huts/sheds. We share a passion for corrugated tin. Morgan Griffith uses collage in a way that presents fresh perspectives on familiar objects or places. He plays with visual language to create works that are familiar and yet unsettling. Sara-Jane Harper uses drawing to map her surroundings. Her long drawings have a fluidity of line that I particularly like. Catrin Menai’s work is subtle and understated, there is untold narrative unfolding from within the beautiful images she creates. Simon Proffitt (Who will also be showing a major new work as part of Oriel Wrecsam Offsite at Undegun in Wrexham Town Centre this month) uses graphic design skills to portray a series of portraits which seem to explore the notion of whether a place is made up of those in it, or do people create the place, do we ‘belong’ somewhere or does somewhere ‘claim’ us. Alan Whitfield is a talented photographer and here he presents empty or abandoned spaces. All of the work has an element of unheimlich about it, the Freudian concept of an instance where something can be both familiar yet alien at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange. I particularly like this in work. I like the duality of familiarity.

All of the work is for sale and available through Collectorplan

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