Gum Arabic, Tree of Life, Toast and Pyjamas.

31Oct09

Spent two days with Catherine Kleeli this week. Catherine was running a really great workshop at the Regional Print Centre in Gum Arabic Transfer Printing. It’s a process that allows you to print from photocopies in a process not dissimilar to lithography. I went down to Carmarthen and visited Oriel Myrddin (see review on a-n), a beautiful gallery and shop, with a great range of books and gifts. It was the last weekend of Edwina Bridgeman’s Orchard exhibition, which I loved. I also went over to the Library across the road, where I saw some interesting local history displays, including a group of printing presses and an old pub sign.

Venue
Oriel Myrddin
Location
Wales
Edwina Bridgeman’s exhibition at Oriel Myrrdin in Carmarthen comes to an end this weekend having toured the UK since April 2008. It originated from New Brewery Arts in Cirencester.

Oriel Myrrdin is a beautiful gallery in West Wales that shows a variety of exhibitions that bridge the divide between Fine Art, Applied Art, Craft and Design. This was my first visit and I was impressed.

Edwina Bridgeman’s installation Orchard filled the main gallery space and consisted of a number of individual pieces, collective works, and a battered kitchen table used for the creation of work by visitors in response to the ideas explored in the show. The work explores ideas of memory and storytelling (Something the gallery will expand on in the next exhibition, A Winters Tale opening on 6th November).

The work on show here illustrates people’s personal stories and experiences. Edwina Bridgeman is a collector, not only of tales, but also of driftwood, found things, discarded things, lost things. She gathers them together and weaves her stories, creating elaborate theatrical settings that hint at her experience as a scene painter. The various elements are lovingly brought together to create objects that have an imaginative and lively character all of their own. Although well-made, there is something wonderful about the way that the work has an unfinished quality, they are not laboured, they still have life in them. There is a huge range of skills being employed to imbue the misplaced and found with richness.

The exhibition was conceived as an evolving group of work, that would encourage viewers to contribute their stories, and the artist would, in response, create new work. The three large-scale trees, which make up the orchard were the least successful pieces in the exhibition. I particularly liked the Tree of Life, a series of pieces named after local apple varieties, and a bird house piece.

There is something child-like and innocent about the work, which I like. I find myself forgiving the almost sentimental aspects of it. I am drawn in with excitement and wonder at the objects found in charity shops, given new life and meaning in the branches of a tree. A china budgie, a plastic toy cow, a clothes brush “made in England”. The objects, which, as a child, I remember being fascinated by, are given new meaning and act as signifiers to a time gone by.

We then went on to Llandeilo. I spent half an hour reading Monocle magazine while in the Toast shop (my companion loves this shop and was trying things on). The magazine is really interesting, beautifully designed and printed on really nice paper. I then had a delicious ice cream from Heavenly round the corner before heading off to the National Trust’s Dinefwr Park. There was an exhibition of Bardic Eisteddfod Chairs, but some labels in the wine cellars, some war issue pyjamas, and a fantastic trench coat particularly took me.

On the return journey, which was horrendous in the dark drizzle, we stopped off at Aberystwyth Arts Centre to catch the Ellie Rees exhibition (see review on a-n), which I really enjoyed.

Pretty Eyed, Pirate Smile
Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth
10 – 31 October 2009
Venue
Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Location
Wales
Ellie Rees’ exhibition at Aberystwyth Arts Centre Pretty Eyed, Pirate Smile has been on for a little less than a month. I was able to see it on its’ last weekend. In the autumn of 2008 she was one of the first artists in residence in the Thomas Heatherwick designed Creative Units.

A series of 6 films were screened in the darkened space of the main gallery. Two pieces in the exhibition were initially shot at Aberystwyth, Beyond Narcissus and the eponymous Pretty Eyed Pirate Smile.

Although beautiful, the title work was the least interesting and engaging, however it is beautiful; a dancer, or performer in a pool of light, almost like a fairy she is floating above a pair of cupped hands. This piece was a dual channel video, with each element projected separately. Beyond Narcissus and Reader, I married him were both screened on flat-screen, wall-mounted TVs.

Beyond Narcissus shows an intimate embrace, at first sight it appears to be a couple but it gradually dawned on me that it was a woman and a mirror. The filming was soft and delicate, like a rose. It was sensuous and sensual.

Reader, I married him reminded me of two reference points, the first, a rather beautiful woodcut I have recently been looking at in the Whitworth Art Gallery collection by Edvard Munch, called The Lonely Ones. Like Munch, Rees presents us with a very still, motionless protagonist, whose face we do not see. She is standing on the edge of a lake gazing out, across, into… we notice the stillness of the scene, the gentle movement of the water, the sunlight dancing on the lake’s surface. The woman, in a wedding dress eventually walks determinedly into the water and vanishes beneath the surface. I wondered if this might be a reference to Virginia Woolf, who famously ended her life by walking into the river near her home and I later read that it was indeed inspired by this event. Both references inspire contemplation but at the same time we are reminded of the deep depression experienced that led to that isolation, that determination to end it all.

Another piece that has literary references is You Didn’t Call, So I Read Jane Eyre Instead. A woman in a black hat, wonderful red dress and very high yellow heels climbs incongruously up a ladder set against a blue-sky backdrop, with wispy white clouds. She precariously settles herself at the apex of the ladder and opens a book. A female narrator then begins to read from Jane Eyre, in which Charlotte Bronte challenged the patriarchy of the time.

There is humour and irony in all this work, not laugh out loud funny, just an intelligent commentary on the roles played by women, what it is to be a woman. How romantic to be scooped up by a Hollywood legend, Scoop, but equally how ridiculous, and demeaning. The works are all beautifully executed and performed and I thoroughly enjoyed the show.



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