Friday 31 October 2014

Boxing the Chimera

I was surprised to find the chimera alive and well in Fort Collins, Colorado -  appearing in various guises in the work of Mary-Ann Kokoska and students.

On returning from the trip, it was time to finish a series of 7’ drawings, for the next phase of my own chimerical project.

The drawings will be on display in November and December at Swansea Museum Collections Centre (open every Wednesday). You can also meet me on site between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm on Friday 14th November.
Please ring for appointment to view at othe times: 01792 467282

Originally part of the Morfa Copper Works site, the Swansea Collection Centre is now a marvelously eclectic treasure trove of material relating to a huge variety of subject matters, both land-based and maritime, natural and man-made.

It was exciting to work with Katy Williams, Collections Technical Officer and Huw Davey, Collections Technician, in placing my drawings - making the most of all their knowledge and experience of what works best in the Collection Centre.

photo courtesy SMCC

It involved the moving of some of the collection, either to make space, or to bring objects relating to the drawings into new prominence.

In the Collection Centre, objects of vastly different form and function rub up against one another as if haphazardly, and I wanted to capture something of the way the strangeness of these juxtapositions seems at once to intensify the visual presence of the objects and to suggest shadowy new possibilities of meaning, use and derivation. 

Kate turned the lights out so that I could take these new possibilities further, by projecting films made about the collection onto objects.

The exhibition forms part of the Arts Council Wales funded Boxing the Chimera project, for the purposes of which I made drawings and a film from objects discovered in three museums: Newport Museum, Merthyr’s Cyfarthfa Castle and the Swansea Museum Collection Centre itself. By combining elements, the drawings attempt to create dynamic new configurations, suggestive of alternative orders of reality, whilst celebrating the individuality of the things themselves.
More info. at and at

Friday 5 September 2014

From Here and There

Just returned from Colorado as part of the Elysium Gallery / Clara Hatton Gallery cultural exchange From Here and There.

Flying over Iceland

I journeyed with artists Dalit Leon, Richard Monahan and Jason and Becky, and after flying across Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the States, we arrived 
 in Fort Collins. Next day we met up with Philip Cheater, Lucy DonaldAnn JordanJonathan Powell and Sarah Williams who had all tavelled earlier, via New York. 

Mary-Ann KokoskaMelissa Furness and Marius Lehene gave us an amazing welcome, and laid on a series of events and tours to give us a flavour of life and the arts in Fort Collins, Denver and the Rockies. After a quick trip down to old town Fort Collins...

...we went to the University campus for an afternoon and evening of artist talks and student critiques. 

We were amazed by the investment in and facilities for the fine arts, which included a range of gallery and exhibition spaces on campus. We learned that students can gain teaching experience whilst on their Batchelor of Fine Arts Courses, which equips them with a start in lecturing. They then seem to be encouraged to move on to apply for posts elsewhere, allowing freshness and diversity in the institutions.

Next day Marius drove us to Denver, where he and Melissa took us to a range of arts spaces: Plus Gallery, Denver Art MuseumMuseum Contemporary Art, Robischon Gallery, David B. Smith Gallery

  Marius and Ann featuring in works by Matt Barton at MCA

I specially loved the artist residency spaces at Redline Gallery 

Homare Ikeda studio space, Redline  
Before taking us out for a slap up meal, Melissa introduced us to her students at University of Colorado, Denver, for a group critique with all of us visiting artists: both hugely enjoyable expriences.

Next day there was time to explore Fort Collins and a trail to the Rocky foothills by bike before the private view of the drawing exchange.

Mary-Ann, centre, at PV  

still from A Short Film About Drawing.

The last day before going our separate ways was spent in the Rocky Mountains, thanks to our hosts giving up their Saturday to guide us. Becky and Jason and I were driven by Tracy Stuckey, who battled his way through the crowds of National Parks Day, to show us some wonders...

...before a final fantastic meal in Fort Collins, courtesy of our hosts.

Sunday brought a shift in focus for me, as I was staying on for a few days, thanks to friend Caroline Goodwin, poet laureate of San Mateo County, California. I had already heard something of the connections between art and poetry at Fort Collins through Marius who introduced us to poetry students, and gave me a copy of his recent collaboration with writer Matthew Cooperman (Imago for the fallen world). Working with poets has been a central part of my recent practice: now, Caroline and I could review past collaborations and plan new ones, as well as have loads of fun. 

Caroline's photo of us both

Camille T. Dungy has recently taken up a professorial role at Colorado State University Fort Collins, and kindly invited Caroline (and me) to breakfast on Monday. Their converstions gave me an insight into the challenges of teaching and academic life in San Francisco and Colorado, and chance to compare their experiences with those of professors here in UK, but also to learn more of their pre-occupations and perspectives as poets.

Caroline and I went on to have some amazing experiences - including a dramatic shift in the weather, with hail and snow before more sun - hearing elk bugling in the Rockies, and musicians Mag and Paul playing fine country music. Special thanks to Mag for the wonderful welcome she and Andy extended to me in their home.

Friday 4 April 2014


Paybox is an exhibition of drawing and film made in response to the collection at Newport Museum. 

The exhibition represents initial thoughts for Boxing the Chimera, an ongoing Arts Council Wales funded research and development project exploring the real and imagined contents of three museums in South Wales.

The title refers to payboxes on display - some of the hundreds once used at the Rogerstone nail-works.

I draw on other items in the collection, partly to fantasise wildly around what the pay could have meant to one nameless imaginary worker, but also to see what happens when such diverse objects are wrenched from their contexts or brought together in unexpected combinations.

Just one box had remaining contents - number 700 - 
 which comes with a payslip, poignantly dated October 24th 1914.

Followers of this blog will know that I started to describe themes underpinning the Boxing the Chimera project in the Systems and Boxes posts below. Boxing the Chimera has been running concurrently with an a-n review bursary.

The exhibition runs from Saturday 3rd to Saturday 31st May 
for details of opening times and how to get there.

On 16th May, 5pm - 6.30pm there will be a Paybox Workshop.
Participants will be asked to imagine the life of the worker and to consider what their paybox may have meant to him or her. By means of drawing and collage we will work together to create a visual exploration and celebration of a working life, its realities and its dreams. 

Following the workshop there will be a private view, 7pm - 8pm.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Poets at Pantechnicon

The final afternoon of Pantechnicon at ArcadeCardiff featured a group of seven poets: nearly all of us had worked together before in some way, or had shared experiences of the Black Mountains. Lyndon Davies gave a general introduction to my work. David Greenslade, mixing Welsh and English, talked about objects and their thresholds, and recounted personal memories stirred up by some of the items on display.

Allen Fisher found echoes in the archeology of the Welsh borderland and the Marches. He said: Pantechnicon involves happenstance and memory and a contemplation of their gathering, all of which are involved in engagements of attention to a deliberately limited range of particulars. Collecting materials for use in the studio from the hills involves a complex of histories, a complex of different patterns of connectedness, natural forms and family memorabilia reach across objects found, industrial and historical or objects factured by the artist. Pantechnicon is about the development of imagination.

Anthony Mellors read from his poetry sequence, Bent out of Shape (Shearsman 2013), some parts of which featured in a sound recording made in the cave referred to in the exhibited film. Chris Paul read from his new opus, Robocoperatics, the idea for which sprang from a dream conversation with Quentin TarantinoGraham Hartill read from some poems set in the Black Mountains and talked about his and my interest in the human head.

Then Hartill and Davies read together from the compensatory laws of the 10th century Welsh king, Hywel Dda. That question of value again - what are things worth, what even are the things of the body worth? They seek to assign to all the different elements and objects of society a clear place on a scale of values, and beyond that a particular price for purposes of compensation in case of loss or injury. Davies said, "In relation to this exhibition there is a nice chime here, it seems to me, with Penny's revaluation of values, which includes in its embrace the outmoded, the broken, the discarded and the veiled. It relates also to the context of the shopping centre, which is all about the manipulation of value."  

A few of Hywel Dda's laws.
The value of one of the toes, is a cow and twenty silver pennies; and the price of the great toe is two cows and sixty silver pennies. The value of a little finger is a cow and twenty silver pennies; that of its nail, thirty pence. The value of the upper knuckle of the finger, is thirty-six pence one half-penny and a third; the value of the middle knuckle, is thirty-three pence and two parts of a half-penny; the lowest knuckle, is eighty pence; and this is the price of the finger. The value of every one of the teeth, is a cow and twenty pence; that of every one of the grinders, two cows and forty silver pennies; for these are the shepherds of the teeth. 


As well as the voices of the poets, one of the things I most enjoyed was the contributions of visitors. During the course of the exhibition I worked on drawings, using the objects on display as motifs, combining them in new ways. People would ask me about or comment on the drawings and I invited them to add their words or make their own marks, and incorporated these into the images.

Many conversations with people of all ages and different interests. Some told me about found objects that had always been a mystery to me: others had rather fantastical ideas, which I liked just as much.

The exhibition featured a line of small paintings representing poets' heads, taken from the Po√®te Assassin√© series. This series refers to the fable of Guillaume Apollinaire, in which a worldwide massacre of poets is inaugurated in the name of progress, by the German agro-chemist, Horace Tograth.