Although Matthew Richardson has, since 1993, lived at Penpont near Brecon this is his first exhibition in the region. Using a variety of media - printmaking, found imagery, photography, drawing and computers - “what draws the work together,” he explains, “is an endeavour to create instinctive balance resting between organic and mechanic, urban and rural, order and chaos.”
Matthew Richardson sees himself as working at “the creaky hinge between experience and information - how we decipher meaning and messages. Process is always important to the work - the technological aspects as much as human evidence.” The origins of each piece vary greatly. He may be inspired by a form in the landscape, the phrase in a book or even a stain on a table. His influences are broad and diverse and include folk art, children’s art, Surrealism, Pop Art, music, cinema, science and nature.
Born in Walthamstow, London, in 1962 Matthew Richardson studied at Middlesex Polytechnic and St. Martin’s School of Art. Other training has included stage design, lost-wax bronze casting as well as printmaking techniques. He has been a visiting lecturer at art colleges throughout Britain and, in 1992, received an EC Bursary to study the application of computers in art at Middlesex University. Recently, at Hereford College of Art and Design, he was artist-in-residence in the printmaking department. He explored digital media and manipulation in combination with traditional etching processes. He is currently working towards a one person show at the Phoenix Gallery, Brighton, in July 2002.
He has exhibited widely, particularly in printmaking shows. His work has been widely used to illustrate newspapers, magazines, books and book sleeves as well as concert programmes and CD and record covers. His work has even been animated by Channel 4. Locally, he has designed Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery’s guidebook as well as Brecon Film Society programmes and posters.
Textile artist Sue Hiley Harris’s latest exhibition includes some of her largest, most sensuous and responsive three-dimensional structures to date. In 1998 she began exploring ideas for these woven structures combining a life-long interest in science and geometry with her skills in weaving. The Arts Council of Wales, through a craft bursary, was able to provide her with support for this change in direction and, already, the results have achieved international recognition. She is also exhibiting in 2002 at the Biennale D’Art Tessile, Chieri, Italy.
“These sculptural weavings,” explains Sue Hiley Harris, “retain the visual simplicity of my earlier functional weaving; pared down to the essentials and evocative of the bare upland landscape that nourishes my work. They retain the same weave simplicity - plain weave, with areas of tapestry design detail; and satisfy my desire to work with both sides of a textile and my interest in the effect of light and movement on textiles.” Her chosen materials are natural hemp, silk and linen.
“An idea - something glimpsed, a mountain shape, a ploughed field - evolves over many months as a ‘mind’ weaving. The piece takes shape, each intersection envisaged, each thread accounted for, while holding the three-dimensional image in my mind. Finally sketches, paper models, mathematical calculations and templates; then the warping, weaving and construction. Always the materials and construction reflect the image.”
Now a resident of Brecknockshire, Sue Hiley Harris was born in Australia and studied Fine Art at the Queensland College of Art before moving to Britain. She became interested in hand-spinning and weaving and studied for the Bradford Diploma in Hand-loom Weaving. In 1981 she moved to Wales where she set up her weaving studio, began to research silk fibres and established a mail-order business supplying silk fibres to textile makers. Since the mid-eighties she has lectured on silk and taught silk spinning and, more recently, silk inlay weaving, natural dyeing and silk ‘paper’ making in Britain, Ireland, Australia and the USA.
As well as exhibiting in Britain she has exhibited recently in Italy, Austria, France and Brunei. She has exhibited regularly with The Hay Makers, The Makers’ Guild in Wales, Fibre Art Wales and The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and has received many private commissions internationally and in the United Kingdom. She has recently been awarded another Arts Council of Wales bursary to develop her work further.
Edgar Holloway is best known for his prints and etchings. From his early boyhood, however, he has always painted water-colours. These owe as much to his innate skill as a draftsman as the prints while, with maturity, he has become increasingly skilled in going to the essence of his subject, exploring and responding to the spirit of each place.
This exhibition, assembled and toured by Jennifer and Edgar Holloway, reflects the artist’s personal and professional journey from Capel-y-ffin in the Black Mountains of Brecknockshire to Ditchling in Sussex where, in 1951, he joined the Guild of St Dominic and has lived and worked for over fifty years. Following on from the 1999-2000 touring exhibition of pre-war prints it takes the theme of Holloway’s meeting with Daisy Monica Hawkins whom he married in 1943. She had been Eric Gill’s favourite model and grew up in Ditchling where her mother was housekeeper to the brother of Edward Johnston the calligrapher. When Holloway met her she was working at the Monastery Guesthouse, Capel-y-ffin which, from 1924-28, had been Gill’s home after he left Ditchling. When the Holloways moved to Ditchling in 1950 it was for Daisy a return to her childhood home. Daisy died in 1979 and this exhibition is a celebration of her life. For twenty years Holloway gave up fine art to work for publishers, especially as a letterer, inspired by Gill and Edward Johnston. A selection of his work during the Guild years is shown. In 1984 Holloway married Jennifer Boxall and returned with her to live in the first Guild house Woodbarton designed by Gill. At 86 he is still working there, printmaking and painting in the studios which they share.
The exhibition shows around seventy water-colours and drawings with a few related prints. These help to redress the balance between the known prints and virtually unknown water-colours. The drawings include the artist’s family and a series of portraits of Daisy. The Water-colours capture the evocative Welsh hills and monastery buildings around Capel-y-ffin, scenes that Holloway has revisited, as well as the familiar landscape around his Ditchling home.
A colour-illustrated catalogue, with a biographical essay and an introduction by John Russell Taylor of the Times, accompanies the exhibition.
Edgar and Jennifer Holloway will present a slide-illustrated talk at Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery at 7.30pm on Wednesday 10th April.
The central tower of Tretower Court, Brecknockshire, is a familiar symbol in the work of artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Placed high and serenely apart from his often disturbing foreground scenes, this fortress, which has withstood much over the centuries, seems to represent a point of connection, of centredness in his life. Recently, the artist has produced what Robert Macdonald describes in Planet as “One of the most powerful series of paintings and drawings produced in Wales in recent times.” Excitingly, this exhibition focuses upon new work which has never been publicly displayed before.
Tretower Court is a place of special significance to Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Disillusioned with the unsettled world of a successful dancer, choreographer, stage designer and theatre director - a world deeply affected by the AIDS epidemic - he sought refuge in anonymity and, from the late 1980s, spent seven years at Tretower as assistant custodian. It was to be a major period of transition in his life during which he decided to become an artist.
“There are not many artists in Wales, or in Britain as a whole for that matter, whose art deals in a serious way with big issues,” writes Robert Macdonald. “I believe that Clive’s painting does just that, and it was at Tretower that he began to acquire the symbolic language with which to deal with these issues.” He began to portray worlds of his own creation, placing objects with strong emotional associations in the foreground of his pictures.
He became fascinated by the Welsh folk custom of the Mari Lwyd. In mid-winter a sheeted man carrying a horse’s skull on a pole was taken from house to house whilst revellers demanded money from householders. Clive’s pictures, explains Macdonald, “tackle the subjects of death and loss with courage and frankness. Death is the demon at the gate who menaced Clive’s last years in the theatre…They represent, too, an elegy for Clive’s father, Trevor Jenkins, who died soon after the artist began to work on the Mari Lwyd theme.” His father had, late in life, recounted his childhood terror of the sheeted horror which had once come at him out of the night. “With his passing,” explains Clive, “the Mari Lwyd became central to my work, but quickly slipped the tether of its folk custom origins, metamorphosing into something less corporeal.” He began a series of paintings far larger than any he had attempted before. Macdonald identifies “terrifyingly destructive forces straining to be unleashed on the world but we see too, in the distance, the tower which stands apart from this tumult and seems to face in another direction altogether.”
Clive Hicks-Jenkins was winner of the Gulbenkian Welsh Art Prize in 1999 and runner up as Welsh Artist of the Year in 2000. Born in 1951 in Newport he studied dance at Rambert and drama at a leading stage school. Examples of his powerful stage designs are in the Theatre Museum, Covent Garden. Living in Cardiff, he now works full time as an artist. His first solo show of paintings was held at the Kilvert Gallery in 1996. He has now exhibited extensively and, since 1997, has been a member of the Welsh Group. A major exhibition - The Mare’s Tale - was held in 2001 at Newport Museum & Art Gallery. The Contemporary Art Society for Wales and Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery have purchased his work. One of twelve Welsh artists selected for the Contemporary Art Society for Wales Print project in 2000, he has created several artist’s books in collaboration with The Old Stile Press. He has recently begun occasional teaching for the postgraduate course at the Royal College of Art.
Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery’s art collection focuses upon artists who have lived or worked in Brecknock and its surrounding areas. The region’s outstanding natural environment and rich cultural heritage have attracted and inspired artists over the centuries. Particularly over the past decade, works of considerable artistic value have been added to the collection as well as works acquired primarily for their topographical and local historical interest. Many of these artworks are normally displayed around the Museum but this exhibition is the first opportunity to appreciate the range and quality of recently acquired artworks together. Ultimately, it is intended to create an appropriate and dramatic new gallery to make this collection more publicly accessible.
Brecknock Museum Art Trust - a registered charity - has recently been established to assist Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery to purchase artworks and to explore effective ways of displaying and promoting interest in the art collection. Over fifteen works in this exhibition were obtained with the Trust’s assistance and, in significant cases, with external grants as well. Fine examples are Graham Sutherland’s 1940 water-colour Fallen Tree against Sunset, Crickhowell and three water-colours by David Jones painted between 1924 and 1928 whilst staying at Capel-y-ffin, including one of Eric Gill’s daughter Petra. The Resource/V&A Purchase Grant Fund has assisted in the purchase of all these whilst the National Art Collections Fund has also assisted with Jones’s works. In addition, two works have been transferred to the collection from the Contemporary Art Society for Wales. It has just been announced that the Arts Council of Wales is also soon to transfer thirty works to the Museum’s care.
Works by 18th century artists include A View of the Wye by Thomas Jones; Crickhowell by Sir Richard Colt-Hoare; and Brecon Bridge by Michael ‘Angelo’ Rooker. There is an early 19th century painting of cave explorers at Porth yr Ogof by Thomas Hornor and an 1880 painting - Madam Patti watching Nicholini landing a Salmon at Pont Pantysgallog - by I.E.Breun. There are 1940s wood engravings by Edgar Holloway, 1950s studies of coal miners at Ystradgynlais by Josef Herman and a series of 1980s aquatints for her book Scop Hwilum Sang by Shirley Jones. Contemporary work features strongly and includes paintings by Sarah Bradford, Michael Edmonds, Ken Elias, Veronica Gibson, Kwong Kuen-Shan, Bert Isaac, Megan Jones, Robert Macdonald, Sally Matthews, Anthony Millard, Bill Mills, Glyn Morgan, Sarah Snazell, Roy Powell and Tessa Waite. There is sculpture by Geoffrey Bradford, Sue Hiley Harris, Panico Theodosiou and Islwyn Watkins. Speciality areas of collecting are love-spoon studies, represented by Peter Bailey, Iwan Bala and William Brown and jazz-inspired paintings - reflecting Brecon’s international jazz festival - by John Uzzell Edwards, Valerie Ganz, Lucilla Jones and Karel Lek. There are also many drawings by artists such as Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Cyril Ifold, Bill Mills, Susan Milne, Antonia Spowers and Pip Woolf. There is even a doodle - Cubist Fisherman, Surrealist Fish - by former local resident George Melly.
By investing in the art collection it is intended to consolidate Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery’s roles as a significant community resource and as a key player in cultural tourism at a time of rapidly growing interest in the rich visual heritage of Wales.
The Welsh Group, which includes leading artists from all over Wales, is having its annual show in the Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery this year. Formed originally as the South Wales Group in 1948, the membership widened to become simply the Welsh Group in the 1970s. When the Group celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998, its historian, Dr. Peter Wakelin, wrote that it was needed “to provide a voice in which the rich and strengthening visual art of Wales could speak for itself”.
The Group has taken the theme ‘Little and Large’ for this exhibition and most of the artists are showing two related works responding to that theme, though not necessarily in the most obvious way. Unpredictability is a hallmark of Welsh Group exhibitions. The membership includes artists who normally work on a large scale - Ivor Davies for example. In the last Group exhibition he attached his grandfather’s sawn-up shotgun and a family Bible to one of his huge canvases. The sculptor Islwyn Watkins has been working on a giant wooden construction. Like many of their colleagues, however, they are both equally at home working with small paintings, and the tiniest of these can have an intensity rivalling its biggest neighbours.
There are members like Clive Hicks-Jenkins whose work has gained enormously in scale, and power, in recent times with his series of Mari Lwyd works. Other leading artists have grown so firmly attached to one particular size in their work that a theme such as this is a challenge to break away and produce something completely different.
The Welsh Group began as an outpost of Modernism in Wales but what marks it now is the enormous variety of its artists. Bert Isaac of Abergavenny is the grand old man of landscape painting in South Wales. In his later years he has developed as a remarkable colourist, painting still with a joyful spirit. There’s a sense of funky surrealism to Peter Bailey’s sculpture. Like Ivor Davies he too makes use of newsprint and artefacts from Welsh history. William Brown, a Canadian-born artist living in Wales, injects an exotic note with his emphatically North American mythic creatures. There are many others of note for the Group has about 40 members, all elected by their fellows.
This year the Brecon Jazz Festival Exhibition features the challenging and compelling work of German artist - and recent Welsh resident - Ursula Bayer. The show is called ‘Fragment’ simply because it comprises part of her life’s work. ‘Fragment 1’ was shown at Kommunale Galerie, Gelsenkirchen, Germany in 2000
She traces her roots to the Bauhaus and especially to Kandinsky, who taught there. She feels more allied to Kandinsky’s group ‘Blaue Reiter’ than to other Expressionists. “Within the ‘Blue Rider’ I favour Franz Marc’s ‘Spritual Animals’ and Alexej von Jawlensky’s late ‘Meditative Heads’ ”. For Bayer “Art is a way of life, not a way of making a living. Underneath all the concepts”, she explains, “the work runs like a stream of consciousness, showing Surrealist dream imagery with German Expressionist roots breaking through. It is very personal work showing glimpses of another world which is at odds with the one most people call reality.”
When she shows the Statue of Liberty as pregnant and blind she denies the world known allegory its traditional setting of independence and demands another view of the icon. The series ‘Animal Ancestry’ - with the subtitle ‘My mother was a fox, my grandmother was a tiger, one taught me cunning, the other taught me strength.’ - shows the power of female genealogy. The painter overcomes the usual patriarchal concentration on the son and offers a potent female image in a version which does not exclude the masculine.
Since 1988 Buddhist practice and the discipline of meditation have changed her work. Bayer’s works have since become quieter and less aggressive. “They have not lost strength”, she feels. “On the contrary, in my opinion, they have gained more power.”
Born in Steinbach, Germany, Ursula Bayer studied at the Berlin Academy of Art and at Goldsmith’s College, University of London. She has lived and worked in London and Oxford before moving to Knighton, Wales. She has exhibited widely, particularly in Germany, Britain and the United States.
There will be a feast of embroidery on display at Brecon’s Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery this Autumn. Mary Jenkins of Cardiff is to mount a unique exhibition in Gallery One of Welsh Samplers. It will consist of historic samplers from the 18th and 19th centuries together with some from the 20th century leading up to the present day.
It is the very first time that samplers from Welsh Museum collections have been brought together and displayed with those in private ownership, giving the public a rare opportunity to view a wide ranging selection of samplers which may never be repeated. All the major sampler collections in Wales will be represented including those from the Museum of Welsh Life, Carmarthen Museum, Pontypridd Historical Centre and Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery and each exhibit will have a history and explanation attached.
18th and 19th century samplers were worked as proof of proficiency in needlework. They are textile certificates of education, but all have stories to tell. One by Ann Killin of Llanbadarn Fawr near Aberystwyth has crossed the Atlantic twice and was traced through the internet and brought back to Wales. 20th and 21st century samplers are worked by adults to celebrate national events such as coronations, royal weddings and jubilees as well as personal celebrations such as birthdays and new homes. There are also friendship samplers. All will be represented in the exhibition.
The samplers have been selected by Mary Jenkins who collects antique textiles, particularly those from Wales, and who has researched Welsh samplers for many years. She writes and designs for needlework publications, teaches embroidery in adult education and holds courses in modern sampler making for Embroiderers’ Guild branches. She contributed to the Embroiderers’ Guild book Making Samplers and her own book, House and Garden Samplers, is published by David and Charles.
In Gallery Two (until the 9th November) will be the exhibition Welsh Threads: Recent Embroideries by Marcelle Davies. This combines experimental work - produced with an Arts Council for Wales bursary - as well as the artist’s well-known embroidered pictures.
For further information contact: David Moore, Curator, Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery (Tel. 01874 624121) or, about the samplers, Mary Jenkins, Cardiff (Tel. 02920 626344).
At Brecon this Autumn there will be a feast of embroidery. Complementing ‘The Welsh Sampler Show’ at Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery, will be another exhibition - ‘Welsh Threads: Recent Embroideries by Marcelle Davies’. This will be an opportunity to see her remarkable recent work.
Marcelle, who lives in Brecon, is well-known for her astonishing ‘Blanket of Memories’, a personal diary in thread representing seven year’s sustained work. Now complete and hanging at Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery, preliminary work was declared ‘the Peoples’ Choice’ several year’s running at the National Eisteddfod. She was awarded the National Eisteddfod’s Gold Medal for Craft in 1997.
Alongside her familiar densely embroidered pictures are looser recent experimental works, largely made possible through a grant received from the Arts Council of Wales for ‘time-out’ to concentrate upon new work. In the March of 2001 she visited Pine Tree Elementary School in Michigan for some talks and workshops.
“Through experimentation”, she explains, “I discovered that stitching and overlaying lengths of bridal net created some wonderful effects. ‘Enmeshed’ was done on my return, a six-foot square panel of three layers of net, each with a different design. The image changes as the viewer walks across in front of it, the three panels fuse to form a misty, diffused effect.”
A visit to Provence last summer inspired another technique. Friends at a naturist site modelled for her. “I hung panels of scoured muslin three by eight feet and drew directly from life onto them. These lines were then stitched.” These panels move in breezes creating elusive lines of stitches.
Kwong Kuen-Shan is a Chinese painter who has lived and worked in Wales for over eight years. She paints, exhibits her work and teaches Chinese brush painting locally.
This exhibition, her fourth in Wales, consists of over 50 original paintings, all painted in Chinese styles using Chinese painting techniques and tools. Most are inspired by the landscape of Wales. They are studies of real objects and scenes which she has visited, observed and then painted. A special feature of this collection is six commissioned works: Portmeirion, Cardiff Castle and Keep, and Beaumaris, Caernarvon and Conway Castles.
Also on show is the “Somewhere is China Series”, a collection of miniature paintings of Chinese scenes depicting a range of familiar Chinese landscapes, from misty mountains to cormorant fishing.
While the dragon is a symbol of Wales, it was the sign adopted by ancient Chinese Emperors as the ultimate representation of their power and supreme position in heaven and earth. The Chinese worship, admire and fear this imperial creature! The Welsh and the Chinese scenes in this exhibition are meant to complement each other, telling the story of two very different countries which share a fascination for dragons.
To coincide with the launch of her first book, “The Cat and The Tao”, in Britain and the United States this autumn, a selection of original cat paintings from the book are also exhibited. This book is being published in 6 countries and 5 continents. It is a collection of cat paintings accompanied by Chinese quotes ranging from Confucius teaching to proverbs and poems.