How could I fail to be inspired?
This has been a very busy week. I have been shortlisted for a commission at Conwy Castle in North Wales and went there for a site visit. It took me 3 days to complete the visit and associated research in the area and because of a tight schedule, I have only 10 days to complete my proposal – not much time to blog then!
But it was such a fantastic trip in the gorgeous heatwave we are having, Wales is an insanely beautiful country and the journey north through the mountains and slate quarries is spectacular. The castle itself was built by Edward 1st in 1283-9 to assert English domination over the Welsh Princes.
Originally the walls would have been limed white and it must have made a stunning impression. The opportunity to submit a proposal to make some work for this World Heritage Site is very exciting and I have started making some small cast glass samples to submit.
In the course of my research I discovered that there is some mediaeval glass surviving in the area and I made an appointment with Richard Hughes, the Curator of the museum in nearby Llandudno, who kindly showed me some pieces from their archive. I was totally amazed at the glass that came out of those boxes! There is so little early glass surviving from this period that I had expected it to be much more fragmentary and in worse condition. Richard also told me about the church at Llanrychwyn where there is glass surviving in situ, and in the fading light I made my way up into the hills of the Conwy valley on a road that seemed to be melting into the hillside and becoming ever more indistinct and rocky. I was sure the church must be locked but was delighted to find a very human sort of door fastening and let myself in.
To enter a church which was actually used by Llewellyn Fawr, the great prince of Wales, took my breath away.
Whilst in Llandudno I called in to Oriel Mostyn gallery and discovered an amazing exhibition by David Nash. David is a sculptor who has also been to Northlands Glass and whose work I last saw on the stairs in Lani MacGregors wonderful house at Latheron. The show is truly stunning, wonderful to see his work in such a sympathetic space, this is the most moving exhibition I have seen in a long while.
I can never resist stopping off in Aberystwyth, this time I was rewarded with photo of an ageing biker – “Ride it Like You Stole It” his t-shirt said as he sipped tea on the prom with his cronies – good on you!
I spent a day in Aberystwyth last weekend researching some new work and collecting material to take to Northlands. Part of my day was spent in charity shops and part in the National Library of Wales, and it occurred to me that both places are repositories of old (Welsh) stuff, one discarded and the other valued and archived.
I realised that my studio more closely resembled the junk shop than the library, and that maybe that is why I am finding it so hard to settle and focus on work there. It feels like I have too many ideas and they were spread out over every surface, making it physically and emotionally difficult to concentrate on one thing while all the others were vying for my attention.
The library offered a solution – I could archive my ideas! This was so obvious that I couldn`t believe I hadn`t thought of it before! I ordered some archive boxes and set about cleaning my studio and tackling the chaos,it took me all week and was time well spent..
Now my studio is once again my sanctuary, and I smile when I go in there. Finally I am ready to get on with some work. This Northlands course is teaching me things before I even leave home!
Having loaded the kiln with a deep firing of glass, I set off north for my old stomping ground of Aberystwyth to meet with writer, Damian Walford Davies. We are planning a collaborative project next year to do with our mutual interest in mapping the landscape. I am delighted that Damian will be using one of my paintings on the cover of his new book, ‘Cultural Cartographies – Welsh writing in English’.
This painting is inspired by exploring a microcosmic view of landscape (lichen on Bardsey, to be precise). It is part of a body of work which I had put aside to make way for other interests so I am encouraged that he wants to use it.
Aberystwyth has a special place in my heart, it is where I came to study art aged 18 in 1978. Today it is stunning with the Prom bathed in sunshine and people milling around taking the air.
I called in on old friends, Mary and John Lloyd Jones to catch up on their adventures and developments in Mary’s work.
Mary is an amazing woman, a painter with more energy at 76 than most of is have at half her age. Recently she has been revisiting work on cloth which I remember her doing in the 70’s. She has always been interested in the human shaping of the landscape and in incorporating text and Welsh language in her work, things which I am exploring myself right now. She has always been something of a role model for me as a woman who makes her living from her art and who is constantly pushing her ideas forward. It is great to catch up with her again.
I stayed the night with a friend in Borth. I was at college with Jenny and she now works as an art therapist and community artist. She is also pushing her own work forward, exploring non-toxic methods of printmaking.
Borth was incredible, the beach with its ancient submerged forest cloaked in seaweed radiant in the evening light, with dramatic showers over Bardsey 50 miles away, it is like the gateway to the north and set my mind wondering about my friends up there. Sadly I don’t have time to continue my journey north, I desperately need to get back to my studio and paint. It feels like I have been away too much recently and I need a period of time free from distraction to work.
Just before leaving Aberystwyth I went to the National Library of Wales to see Clive Hicks-Jenkin’s retrospective exhibition there. It is a very impressive show, I especially liked his small landscapes and black and white puppet maquettes.
This afternoon I went to The opening of Roger Cecil’s new exhibition at Oriel Myrddin in Carmarthen. Roger is one of Wales’s finest painters and this exhibition, exploring landscape and the female form, is a joy to visit. It was a pleasure to meet Roger and to see his new work the exhibition runs until August 27th and is well worth seeing.