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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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’
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.
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
I wake to the first snow on the mountains this morning. The sun illuminates the varying colours and tones of the mountainside as purple-black clouds gather behind the summit. A pale rainbow cascades to the surface of the loch. The threatening clouds advance. Everything vanishes in mist.
I take an early train heading to the east coast to visit Hospitalfield, Arbroath, a former hospital, which was remodeled in 1843 by artist Patrick Allan and his wife Elizabeth Fraser to create an early Arts & Crafts building. The Allan-Frasers’ left their estates and collections in trust to support artists and arts education. In the 1900s Hospitalfield opened as a residential art school and became a place of study for Scotland’s modernist painters including James Cowie, Robert Colquhoun, Robert MacBryde and Joan Eardley.
Hospitalfield now curates a contemporary programme of events and artist residencies supporting practitioners to develop new work. The site includes a dark room and etching workshop and purpose built studios. The building feels very alive, the resident artists are coming and going, working in the Victorian library and drawing room as well as the studios. The gallery’s current exhibition Continuum is a selection of twentieth century and contemporary work from artists who have lived and studied at Hospitalfield.
I meet some of the resident artists in their studios, who all express an appreciation of the time and space available to them to reflect on their practice and in some cases to improvise and rely on their own resources beyond their usual surroundings. The current self-funded residency programme is ‘interdisciplinary’ so practitioners with various backgrounds and interests are working at Hospitalfield together. Although the residencies are self-funded they’re selected so it feels like a real opportunity for the artists to be here. There is a communal feeling to the place with meals eaten together in the dining room.
There seems to be a healthy connection to local art students and colleges and links to Dundee’s lively arts scene, a thirty minute drive away (apparently a ‘hidden gem’ that will have to be included in a future jaunt to Scotland).
Arbroath to Edinburgh
I make the hour’s journey to Edinburgh and attend the preview of Another Minimalism: Art After California Light and Space at the Fruitmarket Gallery. It is a cold, wet night. Everyone is drinking the free gin on offer and we gather together, instinctively attracted to the luminescent pastel and candy colours of the light installations.
I meet senior curators, Lucy Askew and Julie-Ann Delaney from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The chat ranges in topics from northern soul all-nighters to the pros and cons of co-habitation, as well as some art stuff.
Julie-Ann coincidently introduces me to artist Bobby Niven, co-instigator of The Bothy Project, a brilliant initiative which I’ve been researching over the last month.
TBP is a network of small-scale, off-grid artist residency spaces in distinct locations around Scotland, including the Cairngorms National Park and the Isle of Eigg. The bothies are purpose built structures made in collaboration with artists, designers and architects to create a network of unique dwellings. TBP uses sustainable materials and building techniques to create designs that are purpose built for their locations. TBP was initiated by Bobby and architect Iain MacLeod, introducing the first residency bothy in 2011 with support from the Royal Scottish Academy. TBP now offers residencies through a supported and a self-funded programme.
I was unable to get to Sweeney’s Bothy on the Isle of Eigg because of the rough weather but Julie-Ann and Bobby suggest I visit the Pig Rock Bothy, situated in the grounds of Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh. The gallery is supporting the project as a way of extending their activity beyond the formal exhibition spaces to develop more experimental and participatory work with artists and students.
After a sociable evening I cue up in the rain for a taxi to my hotel and make a call home.
Saturday 14th November
Edinburgh to Garelochhead
I wake to the news of the Paris terrorist attacks and swop breakfast for fresh air. I become contentedly lost among the lanes and crescents of the west end.
Visit the Pig Rock Bothy and the Modern Scottish Women exhibition at National Gallery.
Cannons blasting from Edinburgh’s castle walls.
The return journey west to Cove Park is fraught. Three of the most dreaded words in the English language have to be ‘Replacement Bus Service’. My connecting train is late. A kind driver takes pity on me and holds the bus. I do the ‘run of shame’ up the street and scramble aboard; either that or a three-hour wait in Dumbarton. I reflect on the practical difficulties of living/working rurally and again put myself in the place of any future artist-in-residence with PEAK.
Monday 16th November
My colleague, artist Morag Colquhoun visits CP while she is staying in Glasgow for the Engage conference. It’s such a pleasure to share notes (over a bottle of red wine) with a friend and peer about the residency experience. Morag has recently been involved in a residency in the Elan Valley, Powys, facilitated by a partnership between Arts Council of Wales and Dŵr Cyrmu Welsh Water. Working in a rural and/or isolated location can at times feel slightly threatening, physically draining and lonesome. Basic comforts need to be met but not necessarily the expected conveniences of modern life (wi-fi, tv, mobile) as these can be as much of a distraction as cold and damp. The requirements of a visiting artist working in a rural place may differ from an urban setting but that balance between a desire for connection with the need for solitude to make new work remains the same wherever an artist is located.
Tuesday 16th November
Garelochhead to Abergavenny
The chap that’s been watching me out the corner of his eye since Garelochhead helps me with my suitcase at Glasgow Queen St and confidently escorts me to my connecting train at Central, dragging the weighty load of laundry and muddy boots behind him. George is a writer, previously for a left-wing political website, now children’s books. Most often he describes himself as unemployed, ‘you get asked fewer questions that way’.
Travelling again through the Scottish borders. Lake District covered in thick mist. A heron. A rabbit. Flooded fields beyond Carlisle.
I won’t miss the dark or the wind or the rain but I’ll miss waking up to that view across Loch Long and (unexpectedly) I will miss the deep silence.
The ticket inspector said there was a bull on the railway line, the biggest he’d ever seen (naturally). It took four network rail engineers and a farmer with a stick to shift the beast for the train to pass, resulting in a half hour delay to all services on the Hereford line.
6am train. Very dark. Rain streaming across the windows. Milton Keynes, Stafford, Warrington, Wigan, Preston, Lancaster, Penrith, Carlisle. Glasgow still another hour away from the border.
I haven’t been to Glasgow for over ten years. There’s an energy and confidence to the city. So different from London, which never satisfies – a promise that doesn’t deliver. I wait for my connecting train. Smart, stylish people, skilled in dressing appropriately for the weather. Tartan scarves, corduroy, tweed caps, tailored wool coats.
Glasgow to Garelochhead
Sheep, cattle, wading birds. Dark green fir trees. Tower blocks. Tenements of brown stone. Ferns. Water everywhere.
My taxi driver, on the 10 minute journey from Garelochhead to Cove Park is a Bristolian who’s lived on the peninsula for 30 years. This is where the Trident submarines are stationed. If I keep a look out I may see one in the loch, a hump backed whale shape flanked by military RIBs. There is a peace camp on the peninsula, people from all over the world join it to protest against Trident. My driver doesn’t think much of the camp, the protesters cause a lot of problems for the residents, his children missed exams because of a road block and once, a fire engine was unable to get through to a house fire. The protesters maintain their position but weren’t so gracious when the residents held a protest against the protesters.
Sound Artist, Cathy Lane welcomes me to Cove Park, she’s heading home tomorrow after a period working in the Highlands and a few days at Cove. I’ll be on my own until Monday when the staff arrive.
I unlock the door to my ‘cube’, an adapted metal shipping container, which blends perfectly into the site.
Heavy rain clouds at night rolling in from the west, dim light reflected in the pond and the loch.
Sunday 8th November
Sleep for 12 hours, 8pm – 8am. Get electric heaters on. Cup of tea in bed looking out across Loch Long. Grey still mist on the tops of the mountains. Occasional headlamp in the village across the water; a red break light.
Any reservations I may have had quickly fade and I start to enjoy the cube. My eye continually returns to the views beyond. There is a merging of inside and outside.
I try to relax into the silence. I’m reading Raymond Williams’ The Country and The City and reading becomes more intense, as if Williams is there with me, a trusted voice, ‘the signalman’.
The calm weather of the morning shifts dramatically and I’m confronted by energetic sound and movement all afternoon. Heavy rain clouds sweep through. Wind in the bare trees, waves on the loch, the sound of water dripping all around and the background roar of the streams tumbling downhill, new rivulets of mountain water birthed over the grasses, the wind knocking wood against metal and metal against metal, a horse neighing long and loud and a donkey braying in response.
The cube becomes a personal study space. I use this solitude for research, writing funding applications, reading guidelines, writing project proposals, rough drafts, timelines.
The days are short. Dark creeps in by 4pm and Sunday has dissolved.
Monday 9th November
After a rough night of heavy rain and gales I wander over to the main ‘Oak Pod’ and office to meet Assistant Director, Catrin Kemp for coffee.
The staff team is busily fundraising to secure Cove Park’s new building development on the hill above us. A scaffolding structure grows steadily each day and the new site is due to be completed in Spring 2016. Catrin shows me the architectural plans, which include a large communal space with wood burning stove, floor to ceiling windows, substantial kitchen and dinning areas, studios, office and residency accommodation. The new site will provide a flexible space, particularly for theatre and production companies. The team is developing a new public-facing programme of regular events and is consulting with local people about replanting woodland in the grounds. This week the staff are making a research visit to a community poly-tunnel scheme at Kilfinan Community Forest.
The main CP site is 13 years old and was built in phases as funding allowed. The Oak Pod featured in the BBC Castaway 2000 series and was relocated from the Scottish island of Taransay. It takes considerable finance and staff time to keep on top of maintaining the site, in places the cubes are showing their age, they’re basic but warm and comfortable. This seems appropriate, CP is a place of work and it’s situated in a practical landscape of mainly agricultural and military uses.
From May-Sept CP hosts a well-established programme of funded residencies for practitioners of any discipline. The organisation receives 700 applications from across the world. The summer months provide long days, more predictable weather and ferry services. The residencies bring together practitioners with diverse backgrounds, interests and nationalities. Catrin feels people come to CP for the tranquility (there is only intermittent mobile reception) and the concentrated focus and reflection that this offers. Catrin makes an important point that nothing is imposed on practitioners at CP. The organisation has no curatorial ideology and individuals direct the content of their residencies. In autumn and winter CP opens out the programme to allow self-funded residencies.
I’m interested to know if there are any artists in the area? Ross Sinclair, Christine Borland, Ross Burell (who teach at Glasgow School of Art) and photographer Ruth Clark live nearby. One thing I hadn’t anticipated is my personal need for contact with other practitioners. I’m on my own the majority of the time and while this is extremely productive, I realise that I may need the company of my peers more than I first thought.
Patches of blue sky when I wake this morning. After three days sheltering indoors I take my chance for a walk to Kilcreggan on the south of the peninsula. A three hour walk in all. I step out on to the Barbour Road.
Mud and water, metal and rotten wood, broken fences, dumped transit van, fungus. There’s no point photographing this stuff, it needs to be drawn by hand to pull the energy through – raw, muscular, physical, sensual. Something that pixels don’t understand.
I consider the differences of PEAK’s location in a national park, in which the landscape is heavily managed, protected and promoted. The land here is less regulated, the farms and houses are sensible and economical. Derelict buildings, tin shacks, workshops, make shift garages, containers. At times I’m reminded of the windswept commons on the heads of the South Wales Valleys.
Two military planes fly low overhead. Bungalows, lodges, neat wood stores in gardens, septic tanks.
The sheet rain arrives earlier than forecast as I hit the tarmac on my return journey.
More project and funding research this afternoon.
Gnat. Leech. Wren. Singing in the gorse bush beyond the round window.