Processions

The Women’s Arts Association has collaborated with Oasis refugee centre, Women’s Aid, and other groups to produce 31 squares for a banner to be carried through the streets of Cardiff  on Sunday 10 June. PROCESSIONS celebrates the fight for suffrage and expresses what it means to be a woman today. I’m proud to be a part of this inter-generational project that celebrates women’s progression towards equality, strength and cultural representation.

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My square with cyanotype centre.

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Funky-Looking People

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“If all 10 of us could talk, we would be saying what have you done to us why have some of us got eyes, nose, eyebrows, and a mouth and legs, while the rest of us have to speak with our eyes.” – D.

These ‘funky-looking people’ were created by participants on the ‘Express Yourself’ art and writing course I am running at Hafan Y Coed Mental Health unit. We worked with air-drying clay to create small sculptures inspired by Anthony Gormley’s Field, 1991 (35,000 individual terracotta figures sculpted in Mexico by members of a Texca family of brickmakers, under the supervision of the artist). Our seven families of ten figurines are to be exhibited in the HeARTh Gallery as part of the celebrations to mark 70 years of the NHS.

The clay, sensitised by touch and made conscious by being given eyes, everyone agreed  developed individual personalities when shaped into the little people. Participants wrote a piece to accompany the sculptures, imagining what they might say if they could speak:

“I’m tall and slender, seeming alone, yet not for me, solitude. My frog-like eyes look up to the skies” – K

“No two of us are the same. All individuals.” – C

“One big family.” – G

The Dance

The premise was: work that explores dark desires, fears & ‘the
forbidden’. Work that investigates or references taboo subjects such as death,
phobias and socially excluded or marginalised groups and individuals is
particularly sought.

I find that using exhibition call-outs and deadlines is a good way to get work made and often leads to unexpected results in response to the subject matter. When I started with this topic, I had a very different idea to what emerged. Sometimes, the work decides to go its own way.

As it happens, I didn’t enter this one, as I wasn’t quite happy enough with my final piece. There wasn’t enough time to develop it. But that’s ok. I’m really happy that I tried. Because nothing created is ever wasted. It always leads me somewhere. Even if that is in a whole new direction.

At first I tried to adapt work I was already making. But that didn’t quite work. Then I thought about doing a piece of writing, and that somehow led me to looking at medieval woodcuts of witches dancing with the devil, and how that whole hysteria about people (mainly women) as witches when all they were doing is healing and using their intuition, came from fear.

The monotype I made is based on one of those woodcuts, but I have updated it. I’ve been thinking recently about how choosing to follow the creative calling takes a lot of courage and willingness to take risks. Without that, art has no edge and says nothing new. So my piece perhaps represents choosing to dance with the muse; embracing the wild animus within. I’ve called it The Dance. I think some influences were Angela Carter’s tales and Paula Rego’s prints, and the red dress is also something that stood out for me in Helen Sear’s video piece ‘Company of Trees’.

The Dance

 

 

 

 

 

Story Mapping

The after-school story-telling and art sessions have evolved into the children writing their own story in weekly installments that I type up and read back to them the following week. They still listen to folk or creation tales from different cultures each week, and these tend to inspire elements of their own story.

Week one, they decided on the characters and a general outline of the story with the  Working title of  ‘Miss Ira and her Army of Hyphrans’. All the children had different ideas, so it was a challenge refining them down into a workable plot.

To help with this, I encouraged them to draw the characters and to write their ideas on ‘scrolls’ that could be put on the wall and referred back to during the term.

 

 

Boy transforming into a hyphran monster after being injected with the serum.

 

 

 

Characters from the story: The evil Miss Ira, notes about a hyphran monster, a magic boomerang.  Lily, the magic stone, the twins Larry and Lara, and Jack.

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Magic Scroll

This week, two girls created a wonderful map of the places where the story is set, including the school where the evil headmistress plots to steal the children’s souls and turn them into hyphrans, the eco-village where the main characters live, adventure playground with portal to the other world. Some of the boys added characters, pets, a hyphran monster and the shed where the twins Larry and Lara carry out their experiments.

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Whatever the Weather

The sessions that I am running at the lovely new mental health unit Hafan Y Coed have evolved into a combination of writing and art. As this is a new venture for me, it has been interesting to see how the planning of the course translates into practice.

We have taken a generic theme for each session, and this week was ‘weather’. As mindfulness is really useful in cultivating creativity, I’ve tried to incorporate it into the sessions. Learners initially used pictorial prompts as a focus, imagining themselves into  various natural scenes, engaging all the senses through a short guided visualization. From this, they did some free-writing – jotting down anything that came to mind without worrying about punctuation or spelling or whether it seemed relevant – anything at all. This free-writing often leads to some unexpected story seeds and associations that can be developed later into a poem or short prose piece.

We read poems by some well known poets relating to the weather, and discussed how we felt about each piece. Then I presented a few examples of expressive art such as Frank Auerbach’s  series of drawings he made after walking on Primrose Hill, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolour, ‘Sunrise’.

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Working Drawings for ‘Primrose Hill’ 1968. Coloured chalks and black pencil on cartridge paper.

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Sunrise, 1916 – Georgia O’Keeffe

 

As we had access to the resources in the art therapy room, there was a good variety of mediums for learners to choose from to create their own weather-inspired art works. Within the work, they could incorporate their favourite words or phrases from those they had written earlier.

Two wonderful landscapes with text, using acrylic paint and coloured pencils.

 

 

Objects That Speak: BayArt Exhibition

‘In my studio I work surrounded by things: wire which reminds me of hair, real hair and synthetic; horse- hair, sheep’s wool. Muslin, felt, rope paper: all sorts really. These are works in their early stages, works halfway made, works abandoned and left for a while. Very occasionally, in a cleaned-up space there is a final, finished work attached to a wall, or attached to the floor, or attached to the ceiling.’ – Lois Williams

Exhibition at BayArt by Lois William and Mary Husted. Both artists share an interest in the land and landscape, and a feeling for fragility, tonal range and layering as process and meaning. Mary Husted’s work is strongly located within drawing, while Lois Williams’ incorporates installation, sculpture, as well as drawing.

I particularly liked Lois’ wall of objects of a wabi sabi nature, seemingly rooted in the Welsh landscape. Some of the objects the artist has shaped into hive or nest-like structures, some being of a found quality. They are intriguing and totemic, each with a story, often with echoes of myth, yet also seeming to ‘speak’ to each other across the installation.

 

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Lois William’s wall of objects of various media: From Afar

 

 

I was also drawn to Mary Husted’s boxes containing sometimes a single item such as a feather or collage, and mirrors that refracted them into different forms. The experience of having to peer into the enclosed space evoked a sense of the curiosity of childhood, contemplation of the nature of perception and reality/illusion in interior landscapes.

Below: Mary Husted’s triptych ‘But for a day’, with interior views.

 

 

 

 

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Mary Husted’s Off the Page: Askance

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Mary Husted’s Off the Page mixed media collection, and below: Winter book (Chinese folding book).

 

“My work on the Open Books project has brought me in touch with artists from very different traditions. From the Chinese I have learned a new understanding of positive and negative space and a reverence for the accidental mark. This has fed into my own work and helped me to develop what I call the calligraphy of the ‘found’ or ‘given’ mark. Many of these marks are rubbings from the natural environment. Fragments of these together with drawn ‘made’ marks are combined to roam across pages to hint at rather than to depict the world around me.” – Mary Husted

Lois William’s enigmatic collection of water colours on paper ‘The Dog, the rat’, brought to mind the chance markings of Rebecca Horn in her book ‘Tailleur du Coeur’, a body of etchings sometimes rendered in coffee and wine accompanied by sixteen short texts that seem to describe some sensual encounter between objects and/or body parts and the world beyond.