How did you start out on this path? Did you always know this was what you wanted to be doing?

I’d always known I wanted to make work but in truth I hadn’t seen myself working with bronze and most certainly not as a ‘founder-sculptor’ with the foundry being so central to my practice. My decision to read History of Art opposed to Fine Art as a degree was actually a consequence of knowing I wanted to make my own work. I wanted to gather as many references and influences as I could, not necessarily limited to the perspective of one schoool of thought or tutor’s preference. Finding a way back to the studio following a very academic course inadvertently led me to working with bronze – a little serendipity.

How has you work evolved since you first started making?

First in the change of medium – moving from painting to three dimensional work and casting. Within that, it’s changed a great deal as I’ve learnt more about the process and the materials I work with. Within my broader practice, the content of my work shifts quite frequently. It’s often tied to what i’m reading or researching project by project. Some projects like my Pomarius studio have grown and gained their own independence as an ongoing craft design series but the work still feeds back into my general practice and the development of new works with a very different aesthetic.

How do you approach studio time – get yourseld into the right frame of mind for creating/ making? Do you work better at certain times of the day?

I try to ensure I get to the studio everyday, even if I only manage a couple of hours. I also try to get some rest time/ space at weekends to read and find areas of interest even if that’s just going for a walk somewhere.

Casting my own work provides a strange tempo because you’re periodically pulling out of the purely creative acts and into more of a technician role to mobilise for a pour or the kiln. But i think that can also allow for some reflection time and builds a frustration or appetite to return and develop a piece or idea left waiting.

How do you challenge yourself within your work? Do you always see yourself working in this medium?

I think bronze and wax (as it’s the latter I feel i really work with) will always be integral to my practice. That said, I’ve shifted before and I can see building upon these materials within my work, adding to as opposed to abandoning this way of working.

What would/ has been your ideal commission?

With Pomarius, i’ve always loved working closely with an individual with a real insight into botany and gardening as there’s so much to learn from them. That and commissions that come from deeply personal stories and relationships with places. Those commissions are always the most rewarding and I find the works are enriched by provenance.

We know that social media channels such as Instagram play a pivotal role now in giving a platform to artists. To what extent has it benefitted you?

                    Do you think its possible for it to ever truly replace a traditional bricks and mortar gallery?

I think artists and curators have been discussing a question like this since the 1930s. There have been various trajectories and new mediums created to explore the experience and reception of artwork, the requirement of physical presence by work and role of audience. I’m always inclined to be a little distrustful of a total denial of our physical being and the particular sensation that comes from being present with an object or in a place. The idea that it can be completely replaced somehow saddens me and feels a little tied up with a techtopian attitude. I think that experience/ reception should be defended where it can.

That said, I have to be careful working in a medium with such conservative connotations not to seem bias against new media. It is great seeing work that you’d otherwise never see or hear through these platfolms and to have your own work seen in the same way.

Is there a recent exhibition that you have loved so much and encouraged everyone to go see?

Unfortunately this show was ages ago but it really stayed with me – Rose Wylie’s exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries was really insightful. I’d love to see Eddie Martinez’s bronzes again too.

What does the future hold for you and your work? Do you have any exciting plans for 2020?

I’m intending to return and exhibit the works I began in Austrailia earlier this year. Myself and my casting /foundry partner, artist Freddy Morris, are hoping to run a participatory bronze casting project with a school out there too. I’m also looking forward to developing relationships with new gardens for Pomarius,

Oriel Myrddin teamed up with NAWR to organise the very first Criw Celf for teachers and what a week it was!

We had 13 incredible individuals join us from various schools and backgrounds who took time out of their summer to join us for 5 intensive days of art workshops hosted by some fantastic local artists.

On Monday we kicked off the week with Mary Sikkel, who worked with our teachers on 3D construction methods, drawing and collage. They created small sculptures from toothpicks and midget gems then larger, geometric cardboard pieces in the afternoon. Our teachers also completed a series of drawing activities to record their work using pen and collage. These techniques and materials link to cross curricular themes in maths, design and technology and recycling.

Tuesday we had a visit to Coleg Sir Gar where lecturers Nia Lewis and Llio James worked with us to explore low tech knit and weave methods. We learnt how to reimagine images into colour blocks with thread and how to use the heat press to fuse plastic materials to form a base for sewn or woven embellishments.

We were treated to a printmaking session with the lovely Alan Williams on Wednesday, who walked us through methods for printing without a press. This included lino, collagraph and mono printing. The results were beautiful and the techniques could be applied to a range of subjects and themes.

Artist Seren Stacey joined us on Thursday to explore drawing in its many forms. Using NAWR’s free resource of ‘see, sense, draw’ as a basis for the activities, our participants worked with different materials to practice a more free and expressive way of using drawing to develop a ‘drawing vocabulary’ and build confidence in 2D media.

To complete our week we hosted an animation session with Bill Taylor Beales from Hushland Creative. To help our teachers meet their digital competency frameworks we used the apps ‘chatterpix’ and ‘stopmotion’ along with iMovie to create fun animated sequences from the seemingly mundane. Much laughter ensued and it was a lovely way to end the week!

We had some incredible feedback from our participants:

‘Everything was fantastic – really high quality training with really lovely people’

‘Animation will be integrated into current projects and used to peer and self-assess – gives pupils a voice and an animated face.’

‘This has been an amazing week – motivating and inspiring. I will use aspects of all workshops in my classroom practice.’

‘Lots of ideas for the classroom and techniques which are simple to do and apply and also cheap!’

‘I will use many of the ideas in my future practice. Very exciting!’

‘Being taught by an expert in a small group away from school demands has been invaluable.’

A huge thank you to all the teachers who participated in this event, I hope you found it useful and are full of ideas for the new term.

Another big thank you to NAWR who have made this possible through their funding and support with technical equipment.

Lastly, a thank you to the artists who led such brilliant sessions and shared their expertise.

I very much hope we will be able to repeat this next year!

 

On 28th June 2019 Sixth Form students from Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn came to Oriel Myrddin to ‘takeover’ my role as Education and Research Officer for the day. Takeover Day is a national event planned by ‘Kids in Museums’ who aim to give young people vital work experience in the cultural sector. They planned and delivered a workshop to students from Years 7 and 8 around the theme of ‘Flying the Flag for Human Rights’ to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Each pair of students was given a ‘right’ to use as a theme for the creation of a flag. They were encouraged to think about ways of making and make choices about materials so that each one was unique. The rights included ‘the right to shelter’, ‘the right to privacy’ and ‘the right to safety.’

The Sixth Formers did a wonderful job at researching the theme, deciding upon materials to offer and delivering the lesson. The final flags will be stitched and displayed by their Art teacher Ms Essex who was also instrumental in helping this project go ahead.

We can’t wait for next year!

A huge thank you to the students from Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn, Ms Essex, the Fly the Flag campaign and Kids in Museums making it happen.

 

Neil Ansell: Deep Country

Thursday 19 September 2019 6 – 7:30pm

Alongside our exhibition Land Acts at Oriel Myrddin Gallery, we will be reading Deep Country: Five years in the Welsh hills by journalist Neil Ansell. The tale of five years spent living alone in a cottage on a remote Welsh hillside.

‘I lived alone in this cottage for five years, summer and winter, with no transport, no phone. This is the story of those five years, where I lived and how I lived. It is the story of what it means to live in a place so remote that you may not see another soul for weeks on end. And it is the story of the hidden places that I came to call my own, and the wild creatures that became my society.’

‘Touching. Through Ansell’s charming and thoroughly detailed stories of run-ins with red kites, curlews, sparrowhawks, jays and ravens, we see him lose himself . . . in the rhythms and rituals of life in the British wilderness’ Financial Times

Extraordinary, magical, so powerful’ Independent

Join us for a friendly and informal discussion led by Kirsten Hinks-Knight.

Free, tea and cake provided, everyone is welcome

As part of Age Cymru’s Gwanwyn Festival Oriel Myrddin Gallery held an outdoor art session exploring nature engagement and connection. Five tenants from extra care scheme Cartref Cynnes in Johnstown joined Emily Laurens Oriel Myrddin Gallery’s Community Art Coordinator, one of Oriel Myrddin Gallery’s volunteers Pam and photographer Heather Birnie for a meditative session on a patch of wild land.

The project has been funded by Gwanwyn and has been inspired by Oriel Myrddin Gallery’s exhibition Forest + Found: Walking the Line  which is showing at the gallery until Saturday 6 July. Artist duo Forest + Found are influenced by their relationship to the land, treading the line between art and craft.

Gwanwyn provides ways for older people to become involved in the arts and creative activities during the month of May. It celebrates the opportunities that older age can bring about, and promotes the benefits of exploring creativity, developing a critical voice and participating fully in the artistic and cultural life of local communities across Wales.

Emily:

“The area of wild land between Cartref Cynnes and Queen Elizabeth High School has a pond with a path around it and some beautiful mature trees. Docks, nettles and buttercups abound and the hedges are laden with May blossom and new leaves. The pond doesn’t hold much water but spikes of bulrush push through the mud. The weather was perfect, sunny but not too hot with a little breeze. We placed ourselves on the edge of the path so that the participants could reach down and pick grasses and flowers.

Slowly participants appeared in the space, unsure of what would be asked of them, but open and willing to try something new and unfamiliar. There were some complaints – one participant grumbled about being outside “This would be much better in the craft room” and there was also the familiar chorus of “I can’t draw” “I can’t do art”.

After a brief round of introductions we dove straight into the first activity. With groups that are feeling unsure and slightly anxious I find it best to get into something active as soon as possible. The whole session was based around exploring nature through the senses and to begin I wanted to bring sound into focus. This was especially valuable to one participant who was partially sighted. When I said we were going to draw with our eyes closed he laughed and said “I think I can do that!”

So with closed eyes and in silence we drew the sounds surrounding us. The warbling trails of blackbird song, the shushing of the wind through the trees, the distant whoops and cries from the school playground. Participants used clipboards and graphite sticks which can be used any way up and are capable of making marks on all their sides and edges. The results were abstract and interesting and a conversation began around sound: the difference between man-made and non-human sounds – stories and laughter shared about the nearby bin lorries beeping at 4am alongside the dawn chorus; and the way the sounds around us seemed to surge and have lulls, even moments of absolute silence, once you tuned into it.

From sound we moved onto visual senses, all the time with an awareness of participants differing abilities. It is easy to get sensory overload in nature, there is so much to look at, so much detail. To counter this we looked through viewfinders, framing images and taking photos with our minds eye – distant vistas, close-ups, and areas of pattern. Despite the simplicity of this exercise participants really enjoyed it, relishing the chance to really look and realising the power of framing an image. We then celebrating the greenery around us making colour swatches by tearing up different leaves and sticking them onto double sided tape, finding gradients amongst the green from dark to light. Again this was an exercise in looking deeply and paying close attention to things our eyes normally skim over.

As we moved onto senses that we engage with less often on a conscious level – smell and touch – the atmosphere changed. Participants relaxed, personal stories of their relationship with nature emerged, and the feel and smell of objects promoted memories. There was a sense of deep, relaxed engagement and concentration and participants seemed less aware of Heather and her camera.

In another eyes closed activity Pam and I handed out natural objects – a rose from my garden, beach pebbles, shells – and participants held and felt the objects saying words that came to them. Gwynedd held a feather and said “Direction, this object is all about direction”. Margaret meditating on a mussel shell said “ferryboat, not perfect, oddity”. Audrey, who had been the most reluctant of our participants at the start of the session pressed a rose to her face, feeling the petals against her cheeks, and said “Baby’s skin, new born baby’s skin”. Then, still cradling the rose, she told us of her long career as a midlife and how much she had loved holding the new babies.

The smell and taste of wild garlic had Audrey telling us of her grandmother who loved nature and took her for walks in meadows teaching her wild flower names and ways to forage for and cook wild foods. Holding a smooth pebble Charlie told us about his childhood in Ferryside, the woods and beaches, and how he had a pet adder for a while which frightened his mother who found it unexpectedly in his bedroom!

We closed the session by taking advantage of the breeze watching petals and seeds blowing away in the wind. Gwynedd shook May blossom petals which settled in her hair like confetti, and Audrey threw her rose petals aloft in a moment of joyful release.”

The exhibition of selected photographs from the session by Heather Birnie will be at The Warren, Mansel Street, Carmarthen until 23 June.

 

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