Breathing Space

I’m really looking forward to facilitating a new Creativity and Wellbeing course with Katja Stiller from Valley and Vale Arts. We will be delivering person-centred creative sessions that will combine mindfulness exercises for relaxation with a range of art forms. For people who are in the process of recovery from mental health challenges such as anxiety or depression, these sessions can help to build confidence, make friends and facilitate self-expression in a supportive space.

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Intuitive Collages

In this week’s Creative Wellbeing session, I asked participants to look though piles of old magazines, choosing and cutting out images that appealed to them, while trying not to think too much about why. The collection of images and/or words, could then be arranged and stuck down in a way that is pleasing to each individual.

One participant kindly brought in a pile of wallpaper samplers she got free from a home store. Being of light plywood, these were ideal for creating the collages on, and provided a bold background that may or may not have influenced the choice of images.

 

Samples of participants’ collages

The cutting and gluing and arranging of images was conducive to relaxation and general discussion, whereas going straight into a writing exercise can be inhibiting. Time seemed to pass remarkably fast, or rather, was forgotten about; a good sign of absorption and enjoyment.

Towards the end of the session, participants reflected on how they felt about the images chosen when they were assembled, and how themes had emerged, sometimes quite surprising, and sometimes providing fresh ways of looking at the self. It was suggested that the collages could be added to, and reformatted over time, and agreed that they would make a great stimulus for free writing if there had been time.

 

Artists Apart

Two exhibitions in Swansea this weekend: Sarah Poland who has a residency in GS Gallery, and Frances Richards at the Glynn Vivian.

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Sarah Poland’s mark making using inks made from oak galls has a zen-like quality. I love how she combines this with photographic images she calls ‘moon-drawings’, made by using a long exposure on full-moon nights in the woods.

Oak Gall Ink – nick-named Ink of poets and Kings – is a very expensive, beautiful, indelible black ink. But for me, the process from start to finish, from gathering the oak galls in an ancient woodland in west Wales, to making the ink, to using it in my work is an important process in the work. At the very least because I can control and play with the viscosity and texture of the material. The work is about exploring drawing through making and using oak gall ink as much as it is about the place and the experience of where they were found. I am working it on paper, canvas and gesso panel.

-Sarah Poland

Moon drawings and oak gall ink.

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Sarah Poland with work made during the residency

Frances Richards: An Artist Apart at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery – 15 June – 1 September 2019, concentrates on this visionary artist’s  embroidery collages, drawings and monotypes, executed during the war and previously unseen until now, as well as the figurative and flower paintings of her later years.

Richards studied at the Royal College of Art from 1924 to 1927, specialising in tempera and fresco painting. She admired the early Italian renaissance painters Giotto, Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico; the British artists Samuel Palmer, William Blake and David Jones; and the poetry of the Psalms, the Song of Solomon, George Herbert and Arthur Rimbaud. On display at the GV gallery is the collection of her Les Illuminations – illustrations to prose poems by Arthur Rimbaud lithographs.

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Dawn
1973–5

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Bottom
1973–5

Bottom 1973-5 by Frances Richards 1903-1985

Bottom
1973–5

An Artist Apart highlights the perspective of a hugely gifted female artist and how she responded to the dark mood of wartime Britain.

 

 

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Frances Richards, On Being Alone, 1963, Watercolour on board

 

Alchemy and Healing

Catherine Lewis has taken over the gallery 1a Inverness Place,  an empty shop, as part of her wellspace residency.

Cat works with materials that she gathers from her local environment  –  natural, local plant materials, and uses sustainable print processes and recycled cloths.

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Catherine had collected water and wood from a nearby healing well site, and was using it as part of the residency, encouraging visitors to draw and write using her wonderful inks made from walnuts, beetroot, hibiscous, turmeric.

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The spring, which still exists at The Oval and which was the principal reason for the arrival of St. Isan in the area in 535AD, is known as Ffynnon Llandennis. Ffynnon Llandennis is one of a number of healing springs in Cardiff which were considered to be holy and endowed with powers of healing…

‘It rises out of the soil with great force, and immediately forms a pool of considerable size, which is overhung with trees, and teems with aquatic growths of various kinds. The scene is one of wild and romantic beauty…’ (John Hobson Mathews, 19C city archivist).

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The well-tree dressing has echoes of the clootie well tradition, which are places of pilgrimage in Celtic areas. Strips of white cloth or rags are tied to the branches of the tree as part of a healing ritual.

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Catherine has created a well-ness space for slow making and recovery; a space that houses her urban ink making lab, using the well water and materials found whilst walking between the well sites and the gallery. She invites visitors to bring ink ingredients to her and also donations of old bottles to store ingredients and finished inks.

 

 

 

New Work

Once again using set parameters of reclaimed tile 50x50cm, and circular form, I am continuing to experiment with elements of relief using plaster and glue to create texture (inspired by Ernst’s experiments). The composition, apart from these self-defined limits, is automatic.

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“The joy in every successful metamorphosis conforms . . . with the intellect’s age-old energetic need to liberate itself from the deceptive and boring paradise of fixed memories and to investigate a new, incomparably expansive areas of experience, in which the boundaries between the so-called inner world and the outer world become increasingly blurred and will probably one day disappear entirely.”

“What is Surrealism?” (1934), Max Ernst

New Studio Space

For a few years, when the Kings Road Artists have had open studio days, I have visited, and always come away thinking how wonderful it would be to have a permanent space in a building dedicated to working artists. I was warned that spaces were much in demand and hardly ever became available, so I was more than ecstatic last week when I found out that a space had been allocated to me.

The studios were established in 1986, and the courtyard in which they are located has developed into an exciting space to hang out, with coffee,  fresh bread, martial arts, and not forgetting Pipes Artisan Beer. There is also a farmer’s market every Saturday and regular craft and vintage markets, so I will have to be disciplined!

I think this is an important stage in my journey as an artist, as I can at last begin to properly develop my work. It feels like being able to breathe now that I have enough space to store my materials and to experiment without the inhibition of having to clean up after each session.

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My new studio.

For  now, I’m continuing with my textured pieces on reappropriated materials that have already ‘lived’ in a different form, building layers and scraping back to create a constant tension between destruction and creation.

 

Creative Journeys

In the creative wellbeing sessions this week, I asked participants to create collages and sculptures to represent aspects of themselves. Searching through old magazines for words that resonated seemed to be conducive to both reflection and supportive conversations about elements of participants’ lives. I don’t initiate these conversations, as I am not an art therapist; they arise naturally, just as elements of participant’s journeys towards wellness often manifest in the artworks. I work with individuals who may be coping with conditions such as OCD, paraplegia, anorexia, anxiety and depression, but the emphasis in these sessions is always on the creative process. The classes are a safe, confidential space to share, join in with creative activities, or just take time out from other concerns.

When the sculptures were placed together, there was great potential for narratives about the characters and objects that had emerged from the clay. Participants wrote wonderful short pieces, linking  sculptures together in often stream-of-consciousness poetry and prose which was afterwards shared.

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The Other Side

The bat told them of a flower

beginning to unfurl

so the tree walked along the ridge

with a basket to collect the petals and the tears.

When it came to the river’s edge, the tree

stood there for ten years.

One day a terrapin cracked the water’s mirror,

bearing a golden seed in its beak.

This is you, it said.

I will take you to the other side.