Peak has been supporting artist Sarah Rhys, based in Mamilhad, Monmouthshire, with her current project Coal Tree Salt Sea. Sarah is preparing for a solo exhibition at Abergavenny Museum from 18th Jan – 1st March 2017.
Coal Tree 2015 Sarah Rhys
Allah Chemia 2016 Sarah Rhys
Ritual Archaeology 2015 Sarah Rhys
Miniature Landscape 2016 Sarah Rhys
Violinist at Coal Tree 2015 Photocredit Frank Menger
Palleg Unearthed 2015 Sarah Rhys
‘Coal Tree Salt Sea began in Ystradgynlais when I met the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru. I was interested in archiving work for the Mining Josef Herman Project. Through this initial meeting the Foundation became interested in the way that I working and in particular my approach to ‘place’. This led to an invitation to develop an artist residency in partnership with them for which I was awarded a research and development grant from the Arts Council of Wales.
The early phase of the work was based around Ystradgynlais, but since the project was also influenced by the people I came into contact with, ensuing conversations caused a rhizome of connections and meanings. This led to a research trip to Poland, Josef Herman’s country of origin. There I explored a salt mine as a counterpart to the coalmines in Wales, I subsequently accepted an invitation to meet a group of poets and artists in Prague, known in medieval times as the City of Alchemy.’
The following extract is from a conversation with Dr Iain Biggs, Co- Director of PLaCE International.
Iain Biggs: How did the Coal Tree come about?
Sarah Rhys: ‘I had spent a few days in Budapest in Autumn preceding my residency. In the Jewish Quarter, I was particularly moved by a sculpture in the garden of the Synagogue: a huge silver tree that bore the names of Jews murdered by the Nazis, engraved on its leaves. At the base of the tree were branches representing whole families that had been systematically destroyed It was a very striking image. In the Judaic, Christian and Hermetic tradition of the Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is the central mystical symbol.
Later on, after I had started my residency, a strong and compelling image came to mind: of coal pouring from a cattle horn and then later from a hollow tree. A sort of inverse geology and cornucopia.
I wanted to make something outside in the landscape and wanted to find a hollow oak tree. Oak felt appropriate, significant: both oak and animal horns feature widely in Celtic culture.
In Welsh, oak is derwen, and druid is derwyddon, which means oak knowledge.
I met Arwel Michael from the Ystradgynlais Heritage and Language Society through the Josef Herman Art Foundation. He took me to a tree on a hill in nearby Cwmgiedd, where he lives. This ancient hollow oak had served as a den for him and his friends in childhood. This oak had all the right qualities.
Arwel had acted in the Humphrey Jennings documentary film The Silent Village (1943) in which he appeared, aged two, sitting on his father’s knee. Humphrey Jennings chose Cwmgiedd as a parallel village to Lidice in the Czech Republic.
Interestingly, Arwel has been active in preserving the Lidice / Cwmgiedd link over the years and plans to import a pear tree graft taken from the sole surviving tree of the Lidice atrocities in WW2. The tree will be planted in Cwmgiedd.’
Copyright – Sarah Rhys. Mamhilad, Monmouthshire, September 2016.
Castle Arcade, Cardiff 22 October – 19th November Tuesday – Saturday 11am-6pm / Sunday 11am-5pm
Limelight is a project developed by collaborative artists Rob Smith and Charles Danby, based in Newcastle. Supported by Peak/Copa and the Canal & River Trust, the project researches and responds to the working landscape of canals, quarries, tramways and kilns that serviced the lime industry of the rural Black Mountains which in turn fed the nation’s heavy industries that roared through South Wales.
For their Cardiff Contemporary commission, the artists have used digital means to bring reflections on this history to urban audiences by streaming live illuminations at nightfall from Llangattock Limekilns in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park to the Welsh capital and online. The live stream event (on 22nd October) presented multiple perspectives of landscape, combining live with recorded footage, audio and performance in an immersive experience. The illuminations were created with limelight itself, an intense, pure white light generated through heating quicklime at high temperature, used in the 19th century for land survey work and stage lighting. Each live broadcast will lasted as long as it took for the chemical reaction to be exhausted.
Peak/Copa pitched up its Horsebox Studio outside Cardiff Castle during the opening weekend of Cardiff Contemporary (Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd October) which acted as a resource space for members of the public with an intriguing collection of artist films, vintage books, maps and lime materials related to the Limelight project.
Rob and Charles organised a replica limekiln burning at Llangattock during their research week in the Black Mountains in September 2016. The public event introduced the project and facilitated discussion about the lime industry and canal network.
In 2014 Smith and Danby organised Revisiting the Quarry, a symposium in conjunction with the Hayward exhibition Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-79 at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In 2014 the artists were commissioned as part of Shelter, a project on Lindisfarne, Northumberland. Taking limestone from a quarry on the island they made a small scale lime kiln and produced quicklime that was subsequently used to create new sculptures called Repaired Rocks. These works repaired limestone rocks from the quarry, extending themes of industrial process within the landscape and the nature of post-industrial reparation to a site. www.danbysmith.com
Peak/Copa creates opportunities for contemporary art in the Black Mountains for the benefit of the region’s artists, communities and visitors. The inspiration for Peak lies in an enthusiasm for the exceptional artists working in the Black Mountains and the distinctive, natural landscape of the region as a unique resource. Peak works in partnership with environmental and heritage organisations such as Canal & River Trust, The Landmark Trust and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. These organisations share Peak’s vision for bringing artists, sites and audiences together. Peak/Copa is an Arts Alive Wales initiative. www.peakart.org.uk
Cardiff Contemporary is a citywide festival of contemporary arts, showcasing a programme of exhibitions, events and activities over five weeks. 20 October – 19 November. www.cardiffcontemporary.co.uk
Limelight is part of the Canal & River Trust 2016 Arts on the Waterways programme. The programme offers time and space to artists, producers and curators to make new work and engage new audiences for both the waterways and the arts. www.canalrivertrust.org.uk
Peak is one of five projects currently supported by the Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales, a strategic partnership between Arts Council of Wales and Nesta. The partnership is helping arts organisations in Wales to experiment with digital technology as a tool to reach new audiences. Peak is working in collaboration with BBC Cymru Wales to research the use of live-streaming digital technology in site-specific locations in the Brecon Beacons National Park. www.innovation.arts.wales
Established in 1995, Ty-Mawr Lime Ltd has made an enormous contribution to resurrecting the use of traditional building materials. Ty-Mawr has gone on to become a market leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of environmentally-friendly building materials and systems, providing a ‘one-stop’ shop for its customers and clients across the UK. www.lime.org.uk
On The Edge, Peak’s fringe programme of cultural talks from border land, celebrated the National Eisteddfod of Wales in the county of Monmouthshire and involved over 150 people across 7 days (30 July – 5th August) of events that considered the artists and writers of the Black Mountains. The talks took place in the intimate surroundings of The Cabin of Curiosities, an antiques and collectables shop in the heart of Abergavenny, a short walk from the Eisteddfod Maes.
From the comments book:
‘Fascinating and very lively!’ ‘Very interesting – especially the cross discipline aspect.’ ‘Thank you so much for organising this cornucopia of events. Diolch.’ ‘Inspired me to pick up my camera.’ ‘Borders are a state of mind rather than a physical reality. Very thought-provoking.’ ‘Highlights the valuable cultural life of the region.’
David Moore amongst an attentive audience
David Hurn & Penny Hallas
David Hurn, Peter Wakelin, Paul Cabuts, Justine Wheatley
David Hurn & Peter Wakelin
(Images from Paul Cabut’s talk about photography in Newport.
Photo credit: Toril Brancher)
05 / 08 y ffotograffydd Paul Cabuts yn trafod dylanwad ffotograffiaeth ar Goleg Celf Casnewydd
05 / 08 photographer Paul Cabuts discusses the influence of photography at Newport College of Art
Pe meddwn dalent plentyn i weld llais a chlywed llun …
so wrote Gerallt Lloyd Owen in 1974 about the way a child can see a voice and hear a picture. And as Paul Cabuts took us through some of the ways he has used and developed the craft of ffotograffydd – photographer, I too began to wander back and forth along that tingling border between the visual and the verbal, rhwng y gair a’r darlun.
Ac wrth iddo ddweud ei stori, a sôn am ffotograffau’n adrodd stori, mi welais innau stori. And as he shared his own story and spoke of photographs telling their story, I saw a story.
Saethiad lleoli – establishing shot
Dau ddyn ar stryd y Fenni yn rhannu sgwrs funud
Two men in an Abergavenny street
sharing a minute’s chat Gadael y camera i mewn i fywydau pobl Letting the camera into people’s lives
A minnau’n aros yn ddig’wilydd wylio a gwrando fel petawn yn anweledig saff
And I stopped, unashamed to watch and listen
as if safely invisible
Saethiad portread – portrait shot
And they were all coming out down there
and they were all saying shw mae
Yea? What’s that?
Hello. Something like that. And me, I started saying shw mae back
Ok, were they?
Oh, yea. That’s how they talk all the time, I s’ppose
S’ppose so. Yea
Nice though, in a way
Saethiad anffurfiol – Informal shot
Wynebau, bywydau’n rhyw betrus groesawu’r tresmaswyr iaith, o Gymru arall
Two faces, two lives, welcoming, somehow, these linguistic trespassers, from another Wales
A throais, wedi lladrata rhyw foment fach o fywyd dau, a gwasgu’n fwyfwy Eisteddfotaidd tua’r Maes heb wybod pa Gymru sa i mi’n well cynefin
And I turned, after thieving a moment from two lives,
to join the faithful funnelling towards the Maes
a little confused about where, which Wales I want to be
Paul talked of his tutor tearing two of his early photos in half and putting them together – “That’s what you want.” Maybe that’s the photo I feel I have to make as well, of y Fenni and Abergavenny, the Maes and the gossiping street, Cymru and Wales.
Siôn Aled Owen
04 / 08 yr awdur, cynhyrchydd a chyflwynydd, Jon Gower yn trafod gwaith Raymond Williams 04 / 08 writer, producer and presenter Jon Gower discusses the work of Raymond Williams
By Measuring the Distance
‘The only landscape I see in dreams is the Black Mountain village in which I was born.’ – Raymond Williams
If anything has the spiritual uplift of Sufi singing , it is Jon Gower’s offering; his words swell and swarm and settle in the cabin where curious minds have come to learn of path-treading, love of land, and how extraordinary things happen when idea-sharing. I think of my inner landscape, the women who gather behind me, an endless thread—and my father who walks and understands what is meant by measuring distance and coming home.
You are Sarah of Annie with the 18 inch waist
who once threw a stale bread at the vicar,
raven-haired Sarah with the malachite eyes
who does not yet know how histories of hangings
and beatings line up with their collective nudge
to be heard in the DNA of you;
not Sarah of Welsh spoken
and Eisteddfod winning uncles, or political picnic speakers,
or of dry stone wallers, or the county’s best sheepdog breeder,
but Sarah of, Sarah of, Sarah of
with no idea why your neck hurts
and your temper burns and why you always break into song at night.
The only landscape you’ll see in dreams is the undulating black heaps
which seep their way in and cover you, smother you.
In the dayroom by the window, a town away, a time away,
The prettiest meadow I ever saw was on an old coal tip,
she keeps repeating
the meadow I saw, the pretty of it, the old coal I saw,
how pretty I was, the old cold sore tip, the coal
all over the meadow spoiling pretty. In her dreams
there are no oxeyes, yarrow, campion, no grasses
sending patterns of shivers at her feet. In her dreams
she hears her father speak over the spitting liver, she
fears the belt coming off and her back braces for its slap.
A dyna chi, fy nhad i, yn hapus gyda’ch milltir sgwâr,
yn fodlon teithio’n ddwfn yn lle yn llydan.
Dim angen i chi freuddwydio am eich tirwedd,
chi sy’n symud ar hyd ei chromliniau,
yn grwydro’r hen lwybrau claddu,
bob cam yn dod â chi’n agos at eich mam chi.
A’r bwys y giât mochyn, er ebychynod,
tra mae’r barcud coch yn gleidio dros eich tafod.
Yn eich cerdded ac ystyried, mae’r gorffenol
yn cwrdd â’r presennol, ac yr ydych chi
wedi mesur pob cam dwyfol
gyda chyffwrdd uniongyrchol.
Here you are, my dear father, content
with your square mile, content
to travel deep, not wide.
No need to dream your landscape:
in daylight you move along its curves
wandering the old burial path, each step
brings you closer to your mother.
By the kissing gate, the gasp
as the red kite revisits the sky.
Through your walking and pausing, the past
meets the present, and you have measured
each divine step, with a true touch.
clare e. potter
(‘Travel deeper rather than wider’ in reference to an interview with artist Frank Auerbach on Front Row, Radio 4)
03 / 08 yr awduron Christopher Meredith a Tom Bullough yn archwilio ffiniau a chyrion mewn llenyddiaeth 03 / 08 writers Christopher Meredith & Tom Bullough examine borders and peripheries in literature
The First Duty of the Artist is to be Free
– Raymond Williams
This has been a difficult task, responding creatively to a reading of works that were poignant enough. Chris Meredith and Tom Bullough shared their process of writing poems, and a novel, addressing, thematically, how each was inspired by, influenced by, conscious of knowing the land, heartland, headland, addland, Y Gororau, yr ymylon, y ffiniau, it’s people, it’s language; the process by which over time those slip away, unless . . .
I’ve not been able to articulate anything. I suspected this would happen the moment the audience in the Cabin of Trugareddau, clapped, bought books, hesitated to leave.
Trugareddau: ‘mercies,’ ‘odds and ends’, not quite curiosities: ‘chwilfrydeddau’, the things we are looking for. When seeking an exact word, sometimes an unexpected, unknown word arrives as a gift . . . .
In the garden, afterwards, a juvenile song thrush with scrawny feathers beat its wings less than a foot away from my table ( ). I watched it hover. Felt the rhythmical wafts of air, heard the inexpressible sound of its pause-in-flight. That took energy, bravery. This little one wanted crumbs, briwsion (fragments) from my plate. Or did it? I have never before encountered a non-captive bird so . . . intimately. Was I breathing? Our eyes conversed and immediately, there was no bird-self, or me(?)-self, no teagarden, teacup, no pressure to respond; it was the infinite moment between moments.
At home, tongue-tied, bound to distraction, I read The Hill of Dreams:
I had a horrible todo with my sentences . . . [They were] a mass of erasures,
corrections, interlineations . . . I was to start afresh, then, to get a style of my own . . .
I saw my task clearly; not to capture what was said by two fine writers firmly established in the literary canon. My words, their words, no match. I knew I must be true, in my plain clothes, to my own tongue, to where my mind went as they spoke. It’s no insult to them, there is time enough to re-read their pages and re-immerse in their meanings yn y gogoniant o’u eiriau.
We’ve slow-trekked the edge, seeking
the rocking stone where you played. He’s warned us
of fissures, heather-hidden, some 30 foot deep,
which run through this hill’s heart.
He says it’s the natural movement and splitting
of rock, the land still going through its process,
that maybe it has enough of what it is and breaks
away from itself
(and all its definitions).
Did you fear them?
At the spot where we overlook your valley, I open the box
hurl you at last to the vast grey. But you swirl
with the wind’s gust which sends each grain of you
02 / 08 yr artist a churadur Anthony Shapland yn sgwrsio ag enillydd Medal Aur Celfyddyd Gain yr Eisteddfod 02 / 08 artist and curator Anthony Shapland in conversation with Eisteddfod Gold Medal Winner for Fine Art
Anthony Shapland is an artist who works with moving image, while Richard Bevan, the winner of this year’s Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Fine Art, is more sharply defined as an artist film–maker, working specifically with 16mm film, which has often been made in direct response to a particular location.
Bevan, from Maesteg, completed a BA in Fine Art at Cardiff School of Art & Design, where he was based in the Printmaking department, where he had the freedom to begin his investigations into filmmaking. This continued during his MA at The Slade and he now lives in London. One of his first exhibitions was at g39, the artist-led gallery in Cardiff, of which Shapland is a founding co-director.
For that show, Richard Bevan (the artist doesn’t like titles), in the gallery’s original home in Mill Lane, he filmed the window frames and surrounding woodwork in the original baby blue. They were then painted black. The film was projected, upside down, onto the wall inside the gallery, a topsy-turvy echo of the view through the gallery window. He also filmed a hidden Victorian spiral staircase within the g39 building, having first painted the steps in the colours of the rainbow, and this was projected upstairs in the gallery.
Bevan doesn’t like interpretive texts or press releases, wanting his audience to work at what they are looking at. For the g39 show he produced a series of publications, each in a rainbow colour containing texts and responses by other artists to his work.
Understanding the framework that Bevan creates for the ways in which his work is seen is crucial. He won’t submit films for show reels and he rarely shows his work in a screening environment. His work is intended to be seen in a particular way and his four films at Y Lle Celf underline the dynamic between the projector, the projected image (“light and shadows” as Bevan describes it) and the viewer. This is the first time he has shown so many works together – three in one space, one in its own room. Bevan is clear that although 16mm film is expensive and time-consuming there is a physical quality to it that can’t be replicated digitally.
Knowing what the subject matter is isn’t important – Bevan doesn’t talk about his intentions. The films are loops, sometimes very short but with each loop something new emerges. There is little action, tiny shifts or small gestures, which intensify with meaning after each loop.
Shuntaro Tanikawa’s poem, A Personal Opinion About Grey, is a touchstone for Bevan, talking as it does about white and black and how one becomes the other. He says, “ I’ve had criticism for relying on the beauty of the image. The beauty comes from the aesthetic beauty of film and light”. Shapland adds, “There’s a seduction, like stained glass is seductive [because] it’s light”.
01 / 08 artistiaid preswyl Llwyn Celyn, Jamie Lake a Toril Brancher yn cyflwyno’u hymatebion creadigol 01 / 08 artists in residence at Llwyn Celyn, Jamie Lake & Toril Brancher present their creative responses
Rain pattered on the corrugated roof, birdsong suddenly erupting from the garden surrounding the Cabin of Curiosities, the antiques standing as silent sentinels to the human crowd gathered safe from the Welsh weather. Tyner were the speakers and listeners that day, as Llwyn Celyn’s memories, inspirations and dreams swelled in that small space.
Light and darkness. Lake took his audience on a walk through his images of Llwyn Celyn. He placed golau in the fractures of the buildings’ walls, and shone light through time, the disintegration of man’s creation. The still buildings, we saw, were no longer llonyddwch, but walls were yawning away from each other, moving outwards to llithro down the gradient of the valley. The eiliad llonydd was a myriad of movement, caught in the periphery.
Gall y glaswellt cofio? Could the grass remember when the farm was hustle and bustle, the medieval hall filled with roaring people? Brancher brought our focus to the plants of the area and what they had known and seen of people’s histories at Llwyn Celyn: we saw the sloes in the hedges, the elderflower that people of the past had perhaps mixed with honey, the llwyni that housed a plethora of plants. She took us inside the farmhouse and we saw the floral wallpaper blistering in the awel from the fractured walls, yn hel atgofion of families fighting against the tide of time and elements. We saw the medieval sedd where many had rested, a bridge between the generations of people who had lived there. The windows and their curtains gave us views over the valley, the Welsh mountains with their woodland, the defaid in their caeau. All those who had woken each morning and peered at the tywydd – was it the day to cut the hay?
Then we were returned to the Cabin of Curiosities, the promise of the Landmark Trust to conserve this history, this Welsh landmark. We saw the photographs of high fences, diggers and trenches healing the tired walls, patching the fractured surfaces, teasing the nant that loves to run through the house to play away once again.
31 / 07 y cyd-artistiaid Penny Hallas a Caroline Wright yn arwain taith gerdded amgen drwy’r Fenni 31 / 07 collaborative artists Penny Hallas & Caroline Wright lead an alternative walk through Abergavenny
The feminine psychogeography is suggested by Rebecca, more lineated, shared, discursive, focused, attuned
show flatlands testbed constrained in approval
glas venturing talisman blubaby barrier
mynydd flipside dwyfol ego
We all bring our own wounds and pieces, they sit in space as stanza’s are rooms and poems are
afar urine resilience yellow separation
walking placed foetal attributed
bias in truism remit scrotum used in bind
Collaborative voices wing the narrative to edge the parking space in chalk and later Skirrid soil ritual
plastic hand on our landscape cycle beam feminine name
alley for trash girders automobile gaps
who composed herself conglomerate rivers
I point out that “human hand on our landscape” is cynghanedd lusg as I look at a little plastic hand
superheating dead verbiage eruption jenever quotidian
number nerves ego flesh secret moaning
stutters feminine with teardrops adroit of
A brass band strikes up and is carried up on thermals to were we stand near to a sheep’s scrotum
infork line binary flock of emission dreams
interregnum riffing on cell death into untitled
his cant audeation
Later I am stuck on Abergavenny train station for two hours, I get into an adventure – they make a special announcement for me on the train “will the owner of the bicycle be advised it is blocking the signal-gate and will be removed”
indigenous artery whittling grazing rites
basal spectra infrastasis navi(gagors
convoluting breath blues.
30 /07 yr artist preswyl Rebecca Chesney a’r daearegwr Alan Bowring yn trafod celf a’r amgylchedd 30 / artist in residence Rebecca Chesney & geologist Alan Bowring discuss art and environment
Rebecca Chesney was the first Peak artist in residence for the Black Mountains in partnership with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, where Chesney had met Alan Bowring, one of the National Park’s geologists. Bowring provided rich material for her research into the area, which in turn informed Snapshot, the colour chart that she produced at the end of her residency.
While Chesney responded to the colours and visual stimuli above ground, Bowring’s insights produced an alternative understanding of how the local topography had formed. Their conversation covered an enormous amount of ground in two hours.
Bowring talked of his love affair with red sandstone rocks and the stories they reveal. He described the formation of the South Wales coalfields, created by a fold in the rocks which forced coal into seams, transforming the South Wales landscape forever. Had this geological event not occurred the Brecon Beacons National Park would have covered a much greater area, there would have been no dense settlement of the Valleys and the history and culture of Wales would have been dramatically different.
Chesney’s residency was an antidote to the over romanticising of landscape. Snapshot offers a realistic palette of land use, from Bale Wrap Green to Cagoule, – referencing all the walkers on the mountains, She – a bright pink that is one of the limited colour choices for women walkers’ weather wear, and to Shot Fox and Dog’s Breath. In Early January Celandine, Chesney also notes the effects of climate change on local flora.
The language we use to talk about our environment is often revealing and as a fringe event for the biggest celebration of Welsh language culture of the year, it’s worth introducing some Welsh words to encapsulate the two-hour conversation.
Y Byd – the world. Bowring described the journey of the current British landmass as it broke away from Pangaea and the reconnection with Scotland as over millennia rock pressed against rock to force up a mountain range.
Y Ddaear – the Earth, the product of heat and shifts far beneath our feet while we live on the surface.
Creigiau – rocks. Moving repositories of minerals and the earth’s history.
Cerrig – stones. As big as monuments or palm-sized episodes.
Hanes – history but also story.
Llên gwerin – Folklore. The stories to explain what is not understood.
Y Tir – the land. A more prosaic description of location, often subjective.
Y Milltir Sgwâr – the square mile. Our personal terrain.
Yr Amgylchedd – the environment. Reaching beyond territory and connecting/affecting everyone.
Y Bobl – the people. Our time is being called ‘The Anthropocene’, it is now humans that are shaping the world far more radically than geological events.
Plastig – plastic. The audience asked how we would be remembered. Would our geological layer be defined by plastic? Would future civilisations create explanatory myths around our fetishisation of the dog excrement sealed in plastic bags?
Amlddisgyblaethol – multidisciplinary. Fossilised excrement is called ‘coprolite’ and brings together two ‘-ologies’, geology and anthropology. As the talk wound to a close it was clear that different specialists are more collaborative than we might think.
04/ yr awdur, cynhyrchydd a chyflwynydd, Jon Gower yn trafod gwaith Raymond Williams
05/ y ffotograffydd Paul Cabuts yn trafod dylanwad ffotograffiaeth ar Goleg Celf Casnewydd
+ Gwener 29 Gorffennaf 6:30-9pm Jeff Nuttall: Yn sydyn iawn Mae dy Wên yn Bensaernïaeth
Achlysur agoriad yr arddangosfa yn cynnwys barddoniaeth a chyhoeddiadau Jeff Nuttall Broadleaf Books, 16 Monk Street, Y Fenni, NP7 5NP
Arddangosfa’n parhau tan Sadwrn 30 Gorffennaf- Sadwrn 6 Awst, 10am-5pm
Cynhyrchwyd gan Melissa Appleton a Joanna Chambers
Ymddiheurwn nad oes mynediad llawn i’r anabl yng nghaban y Cabin of Curiosities. Cysylltwch â: firstname.lastname@example.org / 01873 811579 i drafod gofynion mynediad.
ON THE EDGE a fringe programme of cultural talks from border land
04 / writer, producer and presenter Jon Gower discusses the work of Raymond Williams
05 / photographer Paul Cabuts discusses the influence of photography at Newport College of Art
+ Friday 29th July 6:30-9pm Jeff Nuttall: Quite Suddenly Your Smile Is An Architecture
Exhibition opening event featuring the poetry and publishings of Jeff Nuttall Broadleaf Books, 16 Monk Street, Abergavenny, NP7 5NP
Exhibition continues Sat 30th July- Sat 6th Aug, 10am-5pm
Produced by Melissa Appleton and Joanna Chambers
We regret that the Cabin of Curiosities does not have full disability access. Please contact: email@example.com / 01873 811579 to discuss access requirements.
I’m not sure where I was expecting Rebecca Chesney’s Snapshot: Colours of the Brecon Beacons exhibit to be held, but it wasn’t in a room painted with canal water!
Of course, it wasn’t literally canal water. It was a colour from Rebecca Chesney’s colour chart – number 21, Mon & Brec, “a cold colour from Monmouthshire and Brecon canal water.” Though I didn’t immediately realise it, that was the first colour I saw of Chesney’s amazing selection of 96 colours inspired by the Brecon Beacons.
To collect the colours she stayed for six weeks in the National Park, split into a week in November 2015 and two and a half weeks in January and March 2016. During this time, she went walking almost every day over the picturesque mountains, into abandoned quarries and through rolling, soft, green fields. Taking endless photographs and collecting samples, she slowly built up an enormous palette of colours she associated with her time in the Beacons.
Back to the celebration. In the centre of the room were displayed an array of photos Rebecca had taken of everything, from clear streams gleaming over dark, smooth stones, to the head of a shot fox with its tongue lolling out from between its teeth, and a sheep’s ribcage surrounded by coarse white wool. Some of the photographs were of things you wouldn’t usually think to take pictures of – things you would normally try and avoid – like rusted farm machinery, half buried in the green-cloaked ground, or a bloated sheep’s corpse caught on branches in a river, along with rubbish and plastic.
She had samples too – feathers, red-brown like rust; soft, grey fur; pressed flowers, moss, lichen, even pieces of plastic and silage wrap. All of these she had collected in the National Park, and all had contributed in some way to her final colours.
And at the end of the room, there it was. In a white frame, behind perfectly clear glass, a beautiful selection of 96 colours, culled from her experiences, ranging from the vivid “Intrepid” to “Bale twine blue” or the bright, eye-catching “Gorse flush”. Not every colour was quite so blinding – we mustn’t forget the soft grey of “Newborn lamb” or the delicate shade “Blossom of blackthorn”.
They weren’t just colours – every shade had a definition explaining where the colour came from and what it meant to Rebecca, sometimes accompanied by a fact about the Brecon Beacons. Rebecca told us that she hoped the definitions would give people a hint of the story behind each hue and that in using some of the colours, they might build up their own “snapshot”.
Rebecca Chesney made a speech once everybody was present and explained all about her residency. She thanked us all for coming and then thanked specific people for their efforts in relation to the project; we heard how a local artist guide supported her to take her to interesting places in the National Park, from farms to mine shafts.
Personally I found Rebecca’s approach fascinating and unusual. It was like she had taken a place, with all its features, wildlife, population and landscapes and boiled it down to its essence. I usually think of a place in terms of whole images, but this colour palette was something just as unique and in fact it was unique not only to the place, but to the person and time of year as well. It is a way of representing a location that I had never considered before but was just as effective and open to personal interpretation.
Rebecca Chesney’s project made me think about places and colours in an entirely new way, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Thank you Rebecca, Peak and Arts Alive Wales!
By Roxy Age 13 Gwernyfed High School
When I went to Arts Alive Wales to attend the Peak launch of Rebecca Chesney’s “Snapshot”, I was expecting paintings of the views or maybe abstract takes on them. Perhaps photos of the landscape and scenery, hence the name “Snapshot”?
I walked in and there was not a painting in sight. Granted there were photos, but not the ones I’d been expecting. The first image that caught my eye was a decaying sheep carcass entangled in low tree branches in a small stream, quite contrasting my expectations. Another image which I wasn’t prepared for was a tree, in a field with black plastic snared around it. When I first thought about it, I was confused about why someone would want to capture such grim sides of the Brecon Beacons, as usually sights like that would be purposely avoided in photography.
Everyone was still setting up when I arrived at the Arts Alive Wales studio. My friend Roxy was with me the whole time, examining the exhibition too. I was introduced to the artist Rebecca Chesney and to the Creative Director, Rebecca Spooner. The similar names made it rather confusing, but I managed to gain a grasp. I also gained a grasp of a large quantity of really delicious welsh cakes, but I don’t think that they were a part of the exhibition!
I picked up a grey card leaflet entitled;
Snapshot Colours of the Brecon Beacons By Rebecca Chesney
The card was quite thick and had a bumpy texture, which made a satisfying whooshing sound when I ran my thumb across the front of it. The typeface on the front was plain and black. It had a simple and rather uniform look to it.
I opened it up to see an entire spectrum of coloured squares, each with a fascinating title underneath it. Some were quite normal sounding, like white being named “Fallen Snow”. Others however were really very strange and some, rather funny. A good example of this, and one of my personal favourite titles went with a brownish red and was called “Faint Echo.” Other entertaining names were “Jelly Ear”, “Shot Fox”, “Dog’s Breath” and “King Alfred’s Cakes”.
There were 96 colours on the leaflet in total each with an interesting description. Rebecca explained during her talk that colours were not just chosen to represent appearance, but to represent all of the things that she’d found out about the Beacons in her six weeks here. Using the views of all the people she’d met and everything she’d seen, she compiled a collection of hundreds of colours and narrowed it down to 150. Finally, she picked the 96 colours which featured in “Snapshot”.
Rebecca Chesney wanted a dynamic palette of different interests, so she tried to meet as many people as possible connected to the Park. Another aspect of the exhibition was the Light Box. It was, as the name suggests a box full of light. It had a translucent top where the light glowed through. On the top were little pieces of paper with little scraps of countryside on them. There was a snip of pony hair, a clump of lichen and a yellow, pressed flower. There were also, little bits of black plastic and green litter.
It was when looking at this that I realised why such ugly parts of the country-side were being presented in “Snapshot”. It was because everything, the rusting agricultural equipment, the plastic litter and even the rotting corpses were all now part of the landscape and as revealed in the colour chart, Rebecca wanted to show everything.
The exhibition, I think gave me a new perspective on the countryside. I think that it is very original to portray the landscape in such an unusual way and it works beautifully. The final result of Rebecca Chesney’s work, I think really sums up the Beacons terrifically well and the name “Snapshot” fits perfectly.
12. Selenium Lick A cheerful blue from the bucket containing this livestock supplement
Rebecca Chesney is the first Artist-in-Residence for the Black Mountains, in partnership with Peak and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. Rebecca completed a six-week residency during winter 2015/16.
18. JoyrideObligatory burned out car at the bottom of a disused quarry.
Rebecca, based in Preston, Lancashire, was selected from over 120 applications received from artists across the UK and Europe following an open call. Rebecca’s projects are specific to the locations she works in and take the form of installations, interventions, drawings, maps and walks and are underpinned by research into the protection of the environment. Her work is ‘concerned with how we perceive the land: how we romanticise, translate and define urban and rural spaces.’ In relation to the residency Rebecca was particularly interested in ‘the economic value of attracting visitors to the National Park and how that is balanced with the protection of its ecology.’ Rebecca has worked extensively across the UK, including residencies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth and the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, as well as projects in India, South Africa and the Netherlands. www.rebeccachesney.com
29. Shot FoxA luscious and mesmerising red from a freshly killed fox.
During the residency Rebecca met with the Black Mountains Land Use Partnership, Bradley Welch, Senior Ecologist BBNPA, Alan Bowring, Geopark Development Officer BBNPA (who both contributed greatly to development of the final artwork), Helen Roderick and Ceri Bevan Sustainable Development Officers BBNPA, and many local artists, farmers and wardens. Rebecca walked and photographed the landscape extensively, building a collection of hundreds of images.
Rebecca’s residency resulted in SNAPSHOT Colours of the Brecon Beacons, a unique colour chart that visualises the many layers of the Brecon Beacons environment during winter. The chart represents the complex and unique relationships between agriculture, tourism, industry, ecology, culture and economy; some of the colours complement each other whilst others clash. A different season and location would result in a radically different palette. Snapshot is an attempt to reflect the realities of living and working in the Brecon Beacons; the stuff that goes on behind the observed veneer of landscape.
The SNAPSHOT paint chart was professionally designed and printed in a limited edition of 400. The charts were given away during a celebratory event on Saturday 11th June 2016 at the Arts Alive Wales studio in Crickhowell. 100 of the charts were posted to arts and educational colleagues across Wales and the UK. The celebratory event was followed by an informative guided walk by geologist Alan Bowring on the Llangattock Escarpement.
The remaining charts were sold at £10 each and income supported Arts Alive Wales charitable projects in the local community. The paint charts are now sold out.
53. Bale Wrap GreenA contemporary synthetic shade developed to blend with natural green tones
Arts Alive Wales supported Rebecca to deliver a programme of artist talks and cyanotype workshops for 68 local young people in response to the residency.
Ty Mawr, an ecological building products company situated on the banks of Langorse Lake developed paint shade no ‘21. Mon & Brec’ (A cold colour from Monmouthshire and Brecon canal water. Opened in 1799 it was used to transport coal, lime, iron ore and agricultural products) which was used to redecorate the Arts Alive Wales studio.
22. Passing ShowerReminiscent of the lightweight waterproofs available to the rural day-tripper.
With thanks to: Brecon Beacons National Park Authority staff especially Helen Roderick, Ceri Bevan, Bradley Welch, Alan Bowring Practitioners: Pip Woolf, Kirsty Claxton, Jane Bennett, Penny Hallas, Lyndon Davies, Melissa Hinkin, Emma Geliot
Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone, Merthyr Tydfil College, Gwernyfed High School. & the many local individuals, organisations and businesses who contributed to the residency.
Photo credits: Toril Brancher / Film & Photo credits: Nic Finch
Curator and Producer, Melissa Hinkin, responds to Rebecca Chesney’s PEAK residency in the Black Mountains.
‘Let the scent of fresh mountain dew and white floral blossoms transport you to the striking hills of the Brecon Beacons’ – Air Wick
How will Rebecca Chesney PEAK’s first Artist-in-Residence respond to the red sandstone landscape which dominates the Black Mountains? Her approach she explains, is like any of her other commissions: to grab a collection of maps and a pair of well-worn hiking boots. Over the 6-week residency (split in intervals between November 2015 and January & March 2016) walking became her central research tool, from traversing the topography of the well-trodden mountain trails to the routine journeys taken to meet with local residents.
Chesney fondly recounts speaking to writer and lecturer Rosemary Shirley (who’s research focuses on visual culture and rural contexts) about The National Park collection, Air Wick’s range of specially blended fragrances inspired by ‘the spirit’ of a collection of National Parks including the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Peak District and the Brecon Beacons. The collection was especially designed to ‘capture, celebrate and promote Britain’s breathing spaces’, its Brecon Beacon scent encouraging consumers to ‘Let the scent of fresh mountain dew and white floral blossoms transport you to the striking hills’. Our sense of smell is strongly linked to memory yet it is questionable whether this scent alone could truly evoke the spirit of the soft slopes of South Wales’ dramatic mountain range. As the writer Lucy Lippard notes ‘All places exist somewhere between the inside and outside views of them’  (Lippard 1997: 33).
The act of surveying and mapping is central to Chesney’s practice; for one of her earlier residencies at Grizedale Arts, Cumbria in 2005/06 Chesney created ‘map. volume 1, coniston’, a series of abstract linear maps where she painstakingly researched, plotted and mapped the ownership and classification boundaries of 45 organisations, associations and authorities, each revealing the invisible boundaries delineating areas around Coniston in the Lake District. Whereas the static contours on topographical maps remain fixed Chesney’s maps provide a snapshot of various complications that exist beneath the façade of the landscape – revealing social deprivation, habitat loss and land ownership. In a later work ‘I’m blue, you’re yellow’, Chesney together with a team of volunteers, sewed two acres of meadows on Everton Park in Liverpool: one entirely made of blue flowering species and the other yellow. Each summer the meadows erupted in striking primary hues, the perennials attracting an assortment of wildlife including local bumble and honey bee species. Chesney’s practice is underlined by the journeys and collaborations she develops with experts, professionals and members of the public. In this respect her ‘systems-orientated aesthetic’ aligns itself with the environmental lineage of Agnes Denes – best known for Wheatfield – A Confrontation, 1982 – and the artist duo Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison with their Survival Pieces series of 1970-2, including Portable Fish Farm and Portable Orchard.
During her residency Chesney systematically documented her immediate environment: taking photographs of lichen, silage bags, craggy peaks, elements of the sky, rotting sheep carcasses, half buried and partly rusted farm machinery; and also includes images of the rare Ley’s Whitebeam tree (which can only be found in the wild on one hillside in the Brecon Beacons) and the lesser horseshoe bat. After some time it became clear that these recorded observations were also samples: a collection of abstract and distinct images developed under precise environmental and historical conditions, creating a colour pallet which in its entirety can only be matched to the Brecon Beacons. Over the next few weeks Chesney will carefully select one hundred colours to feature on a printed colour chart. Adventurous homeowners can choose from the warm hues of ‘Hedgerow Bunting’, cool shades of ‘Frosty Bracken’ and ‘Packamac’ and the stark tones of ‘Shot Fox’ and ‘Joyride’. Lucy Lippard comments that ‘A sense of place is a virtual immersion that depends on lived experience and a topographical intimacy ’. Whilst Air Wick’s aim is to preserve the ‘spirit’ of the Brecon Beacons by transporting people from their homes to picturesque and untouched landscapes, Chesney subtly confronts and challenges the complexities of the social, cultural, and environmental perceptions of this rural environment by bringing these realities into the home.
– Melissa Hinkin, curator and producer.
Exhibitions Officer, Artes Mundi.
1. Lippard, L R. (1997) The Lure of The Local: Senses of place in a multicentered Society. New York: The New Press, 33.