The Living Valley

Peak/Copa at Abergavenny Food Festival


Photographer Jon Pountney, based near Cardiff, was selected for our Horsebox Studio Commission at this year’s Abergavenny Food Festival.

Using archive photography as a starting point Jon has been discovering more about the smallholdings and farms, past and present, of rural Monmouthshire.

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With a particular focus on the Llanthony Valley, Jon has created an exhibition of new photographic work alongside archive images from the personal collection of Edith James of Treveddw Farm and from the Llanthony History Society.

The exhibition can be seen in the Horsebox Studio, situated in the grounds of Abergavenny Castle during the festival weekend on Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th September, 9:30am-5pm. 

Come and share your food memories at the Horsebox with writer Emma Beynon and poet Jonathan Edwards, who will be delivering creative writing workshops for all ages.

 

About Jon Pountney:

‘I first picked up a ‘real’ camera in 1995, a present for my 17th birthday from my Nan. From this moment I began my creative journey as a photographer and artist, exploring photography, painting and drawing at college and university. Since leaving education, I have worked on a series of self-initiated and collaborative projects, which have ranged from a residency in a castle to a photography documentary commissioned and shown by the BBC.
 
My work is the result of years of seeing and thinking about photography and my place within it as an artist. My aesthetic as a photographer is very simple and straightforward: try to capture interesting places and moments in time and share with others. I make art to communicate my sense of wonder, and the themes in my work are influenced by my interest in people, place and history. Not merely a spectator, I am most often a member of the communities who form my practice. I am driven by storytelling through imagery, in still or moving image, and I believe my familiarity with my subjects helps to vitalise the work by lending credibility and an empathetic interpretation.’

www.jonpountney.co.uk

 

About Abergavenny Food Festival:

Over the last 18 years, Abergavenny Food Festival has grown to become the largest, longest running food festival in Wales. The event enjoys an exceptional reputation as a place for chefs, food businesses, journalists, farmers and food producers to come together. The Festival prides itself on transforming the way people think about food; challenging and promoting new ideas, pushing the boundaries of current thinking and encouraging people to look differently at where their food comes from. Abergavenny Food Festival was created in 1999 by two local farmers in response to the BSE crisis and the resulting lack of consumer confidence in British produce. With the outbreak of Foot and Mouth in 2001, the difficulties worsened for farmers and pushed the Festival forward in terms of showcasing the wonderful food on offer locally and the passion of the people who produce it. Each year the Festival attracts more than 30,000 visitors to Abergavenny, generating an estimated £4 million impact for the local economy. 

www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com

 

The Horsebox Studio is a creative mobile space which takes Peak projects on the road. Supported by the Brecon Beacons Trust.

      

TOTEMIC

Beasts of the Black Mountains
Pete Fowler


Green Man Festival

Glanusk, Crickhowell, Powys
17th – 20th August 2017

Situated on site at the Horsebox Studio, Einstein’s Garden.

Click here to complete our survey and be in with a chance of winning a signed, limited edition Totemic print. Deadline 3rd September. 

Originally from Cardiff, artist and designer Pete Fowler works in a variety of media, including drawing, painting, animation, printmaking and sculpture and is best known for his artwork for the Super Furry Animals.  For Peak/Copa’s artist commission for Green Man 2017, Pete was lured away from his studio on Brick Lane, London for a research visit to the rural Black Mountains of Wales.

Over an intense four days Pete visited a variety of locations, including waterways, mountains and woodlands and met local residents and eco volunteers. Pete was inspired to creatively respond to the region’s unique landscape to design a psychedelic mirrored realm of the environment.

Pete has created TOTEMIC – Beasts of the Black Mountains, a company of fantastical beasts that live and breath within the features of the terrain. Pete will unleash the Canal Hydrus, Table Mountain Shaman, Alder Wood Sprite and River Usk Nymph at Green Man festival. Audiences are invited into the unique portal of the Horsebox Studio, a creative mobile space that takes Peak projects on the road.

During the festival weekend this portal will grow and mutate as families and folk create their own interpretations of the beasts through creative drawing and writing workshops. Will the Green Man have the ingenuity to tame these strengthening beasts?

Totemic will be exhibited at The Old School in Crickhowell in the autumn and via www.peakart.org.uk Signed limited edition Pete Fowler prints will made available to purchase after the festival.

Totemic is supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Brecon Beacons Trust.

Peak/Copa creates opportunities for contemporary art in the Black Mountains.

www.peakart.org.uk
@peak_copa
#Totemic

www.greenman.net
@GreenManFest

Horsebox Studio Commission

ARTIST OPPORTUNITY:
Horsebox Studio Commission
Peak/Copa & Abergavenny Food Festival


August – September
Festival Weekend 16th & 17th September 2017

The Horsebox Studio Commission is a partnership project between Peak/Copa and the Abergavenny Food Festival. We are seeking a professional, Wales-based visual or applied artist of any discipline, to respond to the distinctive region of the Black Mountains and to the themes of the festival to produce new work in collaboration with the public, which will be created and presented in Peak’s Horsebox Studio on site during the festival weekend (16th and 17th September 2017).

Themes: growing, cooking, agriculture, sustainability, food culture, the politics and economics of food production, individual and collective memories of food, markets, small holdings

 

The artist must be available during the preparation and delivery of the festival weekend (16th and 17th September).

The artist is expected to spend a minimum of 8 days working on the research, preparation, delivery and evaluation of the commission (at least 4 days to be located in Abergavenny).

The Artist Commission is supported through Arts Council of Wales funding.

  • £2,500 artist fee inclusive of materials and production costs
  • Up to £150 travel expenses
  • Up to 4 x nights’ accommodation in Abergavenny (if required)
Click here for more information:
PeakCopa Horsebox Commission ENG Word doc
PeakCopa Horsebox Commission ENG  PDF

Or contact Rebecca Spooner, Creative Director rebecca@artsalivewales.org.uk / 01873 811579

The deadline for applications is 10am, Wednesday 19th July 2017.

 

Peak/Copa is an initiative devised and delivered by Arts Alive Wales, an arts education charity based in Crickhowell, Powys. Peak creates opportunities for contemporary art in the Black Mountains and Welsh Borders for the benefit of the region’s artists, communities and visitors.

 

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CYFLE I ARTISTIAID:
Comisiwn Stiwdio Fan Geffyl
Peak/Copa a Gŵyl Fwyd Y Fenni


Gorffennaf – Medi.
Penwythnos yr Ŵyl 16 ac 17 Medi 2017

Mae Comisiwn Stiwdio Fan Geffyl yn brosiect partneriaeth rhwng Peak/Copa a Gŵyl Fwyd y Fenni. Rydym yn chwilio am artist gweledol neu gymhwysol proffesiynol o unrhyw ddisgyblaeth sydd wedi ei leoli yng Nghymru, i ymateb i ardal nodedig y Mynydd Du ac i themâu’r ŵyl gan gynhyrchu gwaith newydd mewn cydweithrediad â’r cyhoedd, a fydd yn cael ei greu a’i gyflwyno yn Stiwdio Fan Geffyl Peak ar y safle yn ystod penwythnos yr ŵyl (16 ac 17 Medi 2017).

Themâu : tyfu, coginio, amaethyddiaeth, cynaliadwyedd, diwylliant bwyd, gwleidyddiaeth ac economeg cynhyrchu bwyd, atgofion unigol a chyfunol am fwyd, marchnadoedd, tyddynnod

 

Rhaid i’r artist fod ar gael yn ystod paratoi a gweinyddu penwythnos yr ŵyl (16 ac 17 Medi). Disgwylir i’r artist dreulio o leiaf 8 diwrnod gwaith yn gweithio ar yr ymchwil, paratoi, cyflenwi a gwerthuso’r comisiwn (o leiaf 4 dydd i’w leoli yn y Fenni).

Caiff Comisiwn yr Artist ei gefnogi drwy nawdd Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru.

Mae’r comisiwn yn cynnig y canlynol:

  • £2,500 ffi artist yn cynnwys deunyddiau, costau cynhyrchu ac unrhyw addasiadau i’r Stiwdio Fan Geffyl.
  • Hyd at £150 costau teithio
  • Hyd at 4x noson o lety yn y Fenni (os yw’n ofynnol) yn ystod y cyfnod ymchwil a phen wythnos yr ŵyl.
Cliciwch yma am ragor o wybodaeth:
PeakCopa Horsebox Commission CYM Word doc
PeakCopa Horsebox Commission CYM  PDF

 

Neu cysylltwch â Rebecca Spooner, Cyfarwyddwr Creadigol rebecca@artsalivewales.org.uk / 01873 811579

Y dyddiad cau am ymgeisio yw 10am, dydd Mercher 19 Gorffennaf 2017.

 

Menter yw Peak/Copa a ddyfeisiwyd ac a gyflenwir gan Arts Alive Wales, elusen addysgol gelfyddydol a leolir yng Nghrucywel, Powys. Mae Copa yn creu cyfleoedd am gelf gyfoes yn y Mynydd Du ac ar y ffin er budd artistiaid a chymunedau’r ardal a’r ymwelwyr â hi.

 

 

Noctule

Noctule credit Jon Poutney

A special commission from Peak for the Green Man Festival 2016

Farm Hand the solo project of Mark Daman Thomas (member of Islet and founder of Shape Records) collaborated with artist Stefhan Caddick who works in video, installation and performance. The pair created a new, site-specific live performance called Noctule, taking place underground in Eglwys Faen (Stone Church), a cave on the Llangattock Escarpment, three miles from the Green Man festival site. The piece responded to the unique acoustics, history and habitat of the cave system – one of the biggest in Europe and home to a colony of Lesser Horseshoe bats.

You can read an interview with Stefhan Caddick and Mark Daman Thomas, published online with The Wire www.thewire.co.uk about the collaborative process and logistical challenges of creating Noctule.

On Tuesday 16th August 2016 an audience of 10 people took part in a guided walk through the dramatic Craig Y Cilau National Nature Reserve to experience the performance in the cave and discover the unique ecology and history of the landscape along the way.

The recording of the performance was screened at Peak’s Horsebox Studio and experienced by 750 people throughout the Green Man festival weekend.

‘What a fantastic idea, I wish I had been there’ 

‘A truly immersive experience’

‘A very inventive concept and I love the horse box’ 

 

Musician and Designer, Emma Daman Thomas created a limited edition of 50 x A3 Risograph prints in celebration of Noctule.
Prints are £15 each + postage & packing. To purchase a print please contact: rebecca@artsalivewales.org.uk 

print
Emma Daman Thomas limited edition print

 

(photography: Jon Pountney)

Noctule was supported by:

Lowland tribe & Mountain tribe

Rebecca Spooner, Arts Development Manager, reports on a weekend visit from four studio artists based at Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire: Lisa WilkensLawrence EppsCaroline Wright and Rob Smith

Artists Stefhan CaddickPenny Hallas and Sarah Rhys welcomed the visitors with a weekend of conversation, walking and subterranean digital projection in the Black Mountains.

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Friday 8th May 2015

As the sky began to darken and the wind picked up Lisa, Lawrence, Caroline and Rob arrived at Net House, a red brick cottage poised on the banks of the river Wye, between Hay and Clyro, surrounded by luminous fields of oilseed rape.

Net House is an eccentric and wonderful place; it was disconcerting to see the river’s fast flowing water from every window. The house is a warren of vintage fabrics, family photos, paintings and mismatched china. The artists instantly relaxed in this charming setting and although it was the first time we had all met together everyone hit it off, helped along with plenty of red wine and beef chili.

Around the kitchen table conversation touched on the dramatic difference in the landscapes we inhabit, the lack of younger artists living and working in rural areas, the benefits of a studio on a shared site, the Expanded Studios Project (initiated by the studio artists at Wysing and Primary in Nottingham) and unexpected shared friends and connections.

After dinner we lolled about on the sofas in the cosy living room in front of a roaring fire. Penny had bought along her new digital projector (purchased with support from the Creative Network mini-fund) and we shifted a painting off the wall for presentations from each of the visiting artists.

Click on the artist names for more information about their work:

Lisa  / Rob / Caroline  / Lawrence

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Saturday 9th May 2015

We met the next morning at the Arts Alive Wales studio for coffee and flapjacks to fuel a trek to Llangattock Escarpment. We were joined by artist Richard Harris, artist photographer Toril BrancherGavin Johnson a freelance consultant who has assisted PEAK and Gavin’s partner Lisa Meredith. We downed another coffee while we waited for a heavy shower to pass then donned our anoraks and headed to the escarpment in convoy.

With Penny leading the way we walked along the footpath to the Craig y Cilau nature reserve. Crossing stepping-stones and squelching through wet vegetation we passed through the bog, Waun Ddu. There was some excitement as Stefhan pointed out the Common Sundew, a rare carnivorous plant at the edge of a shallow stream.

As we walked Rob created a live film of the day’s journey: Click here to see the film.

We ascended the old sheep tracks, surrounded by tiny violets and primroses and broke the cover of the trees for perfectly clear views from east to west, taking in the Sugar Loaf, Table Mountain, the Darren and Cat’s Back. We made our way along the tramway ridge to Eglwys Faen cave, one of the largest cave networks in Europe. We tested each other’s metal with gruesome tales of being buried alive and unearthly presences.

We reached the mouth of the cave and descended to the subterranean landscape. I first visited the cave in 2011 for Frederick J Fredericks, an event devised by local artists and poets which presented installations, performances, readings and improvised music in and around the cave as part of Powys Arts Month. At that time I had an uncharacteristically feeble reaction to entering the cave; I instinctively and emphatically did not want to venture into the dark, wet and cold. This time I was more prepared but I could not summon up the enthusiasm of our Wysing friends who bounced into the cave like puppies to venture as far as they could before being called back.

Stefhan shared his emergency packet of custard creams and Penny found a level spot to set up the digital projector. Each of the Black Mountains artists showed short film clips.

Sarah presented a film from an international artist project, Al Mutanabbi Street Inventory, in which hands slowly turned the pages of a burnt book. The film had a strange 3D effect against the uneven surface of the rocks. Rob mentioned Werner Herzog’s film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams; when illuminated by candlelight prehistoric drawings of wild horses would appear to gallop over the surface of the rock.

Stefhan showed archive footage of the Ebbw Vale steel works from the early 1900s; chimneys spewed steam and smoke and tiny figures battled against the filth and flames. In contrast he also showed a film created with 3D mapping data from NASA recording the surface of the moon. Stefhan made a connection with the archive footage of Ebbw Vale, which triggered his memory of Georges Méliès silent film A Trip to the Moon (1902) and the blurring of imagery between early science-fiction and documentary.

Penny screened footage taken from the window of a moving car driving past never ending road works, traffic cones and orange safety nets along the A465 Heads of the Valleys road. Eglwys Faen cave is part of the limestone quarry that served the industrial furnaces of Ebbw Vale and is one point within a network of historic tramways, railways, canals and pathways that link the Black Mountains with the Valleys. The film reminded us of those links which were perhaps more direct in the past than they are today.

After the films, boys and girls were allowed fifteen minutes to play in the cave.  I’d had enough and picked my way through the rocks to emerge blissfully into daylight and clean air.

We returned to the studio for lunch and presentations from Stefhan, Penny and Sarah. It was evident that the landscape and people of this region are integral to the artists’ work. What is sometimes mistaken as insularity was perceived as a strength by the visiting artists. Each artist had a genuine connection to place in which they travelled deeper rather than wider  – there is something universal in that approach to the local or regional.

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Sunday 10th May 2015

Sunday morning we were joined by artist Justine Cook and Project Assistant Emma Balch for coffee and cake at the home and studio of Richard Harris and Sally Matthews in Rhosgoch. We gathered in the self-built warehouse surrounded by Sally’s magnificent menagerie of animal sculpture.

As we eyed the wolves and stags we had conversations about the lack of studio space and visual arts community in Cambridge. It seems Wysing is the only organisation of its kind in the region. We also touched on the problems that affect the majority of artists (wherever they’re based), balancing artistic work with paid employment, caring responsibilities and the need to continually apply for opportunities.

The household’s three dogs were a welcome distraction from too much art talk. An informative conversation about the ear care of spaniels will always bring you back to earth. We said goodbye to Richard and Sally and sent four happy but tired artists on their five-hour journey back to Cambridgeshire.

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For me, the weekend highlighted our lack of access to artists outside of the Black Mountains, let alone outside of Wales. The visit demonstrated the importance of meeting in person to share experience, generate ideas and articulate practice.

The weekend reaffirmed the unique perspective of the artists we work with in this region. A genuine connection to place and people (past and present) is often central to their work. The visiting artists were responsive to the distinct qualities of our location and the attractive proposition it offers to artists outside Wales as a site for making new work.

We hope to arrange a reciprocal artist visit to Wysing Arts Centre later in the year. It’s so important for artists in Wales to build connections elsewhere. Sometimes you need validation outside your immediate circle to remind you that you’re on the right track.

– Rebecca Spooner

Photo credit: Toril Brancher

The visit was supported by  a ‘Go & See’ bursary from a-n, The Artists’ Information Company.

Rebecca Spooner and Artist Morag Colquhoun visited Wysing Arts Centre in July 2014 as part of a research project funded by Arts Council of Wales. Click here for a response to the visit.

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Diana Heeks – Black Mountains Project

Artist Diana Heeks, based in Llanrhystud, West Wales, is developing a project in the Black Mountains inspired by Raymond Williams’ un-finished novel People of the Black Mountains.

The project is funded by a ‘research and development’ grant from the Arts Council of Wales.

PEAK is a project partner, supporting Diana through mentoring and promotion. PEAK will announce an open studio day with Diana to conclude the project in the autumn.

Read the blog posts from Diana’s project:

1st visit:  16-23 March 2015

2nd visit: 15-22 May 2015

3rd visit: 4-11 September 2015

www.dianaheeks.com

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Curator Visit to the Black Mountains

Axisweb’s Alicia Miller, responds to a Curator Visit to the Black Mountains, meeting selected artists in studios and venues across the region.

24th September 2014 

PEAK practice in the Black Mountains

Arts Alive Wales’ new PEAK programme gives valuable support to artists working in the Black Mountains, helping to better network them with arts professionals and the wider artistic community at large. It also works to engender artistic exchange and explore opportunities to bring attention and support to the immensely talented community of artists working in this very rural setting.

I was really pleased to be a part of the first curator visit of the project. It was just my kind of day out – travelling through the countryside in beautiful sunshine, visiting a fascinating array of artists’ studios and houses, meeting a generous and friendly group of artists and seeing a lot of work I hadn’t encountered before. The company was good as well – including Kathryn Campbell Dodd, my west Wales compatriot who travelled back with me on an unending train journey plagued with mayhem and mishaps; the gentle and insightful Amanda Roderick from Mission Gallery; Bristol-based critic David Trigg whom I hadn’t seen in years; Ruth Cayford, who took time out to make the visit in the busy run-up to Cardiff Contemporary; and ACW‘s Louise Wright who somehow manages to be omnipresent across Wales at all times!

The day started with a visit to the house of artist Penny Hallas and poet Lyndon Davies, to see work by Philip Watkins and Catherine Baker, both unfamiliar to me. Watkins admitted to not being particularly proactive in raising the profile of his work, though he has in fact shown quite widely. His stark and unforgiving paintings of industrial sites, deserted streets and other banalities of landscape have an arid beauty. He admits to ‘trying to reconcile living in such a pretty place with my penchant for council estates and underpasses.’

Throughout the day, there is conversation between artists and curators about the context of the work – the impact of the rural locale on the artists’ practice and career is of varying relevance and there is some sense that the relationship to the place of their work is anything but direct. What rurality does afford is quietness and space – Morag Colquhoun‘s studio on the Penpont Estate may be small and compact but it breathes in the breadth of its surrounding countryside, making it impossible to feel cramped. With nature a constant companion, there is always room.

Talking with Pip Woolf at the Arts Alive Wales studio, we discuss the definition of contemporary art. She questions where her work ‘fits’, and I ask if it really matters? It seems to me that ‘contemporary art’ is a wide sphere of practice whose only definition might be a commitment to interrogate its past, present and future in some way. The studio space offers a place to crack this open – it is a test bed for the imagination where process meets practice. The studios we saw during the day were particular and idiosyncratic, most especially that of Susan Adams and Chris Nurse. Built in their garden, it houses both their diverse practices, which sit beside each other with a strange familiarity. Adams’ oversized automaton crouches in the corner making the space feel more than a little off kilter, and it crackles with creativity.

It’s quite important for curators to be gathered up and taken off to see work – it gives them license to walk away from the administration they are often trapped in and spend crucial ‘looking’ time that reminds them why they love what they do. Vital as this is, it can get squeezed out in the pressure to get the next show up or the next grant written. Making it easy is so valuable to these art professionals. Rebecca Spooner‘s careful coordination of the day, meant there was no rushing. The schedule gave ample time to see and talk and have a valuable exchange. Though some of the group knew the artists visited that day, most admitted there were a few they weren’t familiar with. Several curators commented that it had given them a better ‘mental map’ of artists working in the region and some overview of their practice. These kind of meetings may not have concrete outcomes for the artists involved but they are important in increasing a sphere of awareness of their work. Getting work seen is as important to artists as seeing work is to curators.

– Alicia Miller

Artists:
Catherine Baker
Philip Watkins
Stefhan Caddick
Pip Woolf
Morag Colquhoun
Tessa Waite
Susan Adams
Chris Nurse
Download details of the artists: PEAK Artists

Artist Photographer: Toril Brancher (photo credit)

Visitors:
Louise Wright, Portfolio Manager, Arts Council of Wales
Kasia Howard, Education Officer, The Landmark Trust
Kathryn Campbell Dodd, Gallery Assistant, Oriel Myrddin
David Trigg, freelance writer and critic
Gavin Johnson, Regeneration and Development Manager, Ffilm Cymru Wales
Alicia Miller, Axisweb Associate in Wales, Axisweb
Amanda Roderick, Director, Mission Gallery
Louisa Mayor, Assistant Curator, Meadow Arts
Ruth Cayford, Project Leader, Cardiff Contemporary
Download details of the visitors: PEAK Visitors

Rebecca Spooner, Arts Development Manager
Emma Balch, Project Assistant

During summer 2014, PEAK organised a curator visit to the Black Mountains as part of a research and development project funded by the Arts Council of Wales.

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