Friday 8 October 2021

Materials from the Garden (2)


The previous post describes how Materials from the Garden came about so this post will show more of the installation and related events. Other images and info can be seen @pennyhallas

Myriorama: series of 13 drawings 218x152 cms and 218x126cms. 
Crayon, charcoal and black chalk on paper.

FORCE video: projection onto water tank & myriorama 

FloodBox video: projection onto water tank & myriorama
dahlia addition (extract)

Usk flood pumping video projected onto myriorama with 
FORCE video projected onto water tank (extract)

Lyndon Davies Saxophone performance, amongst video 
projection & decayed buckets from Black Mountains
 waste tips (extract). 
For full performance see

Me - experimenting with buckets and video projection

The following are stills of performance, with Lyn Davies and Allen Fisher. 

To see Allen Fisher's artworks and performance: - 

Materials from the Garden (1)


During lockdown two locations became a strong focus for me: my studio and my allotment. Their functions became intermingled, art-work and work-on-the-land becoming part of the same creative process. I started to experiment with video and projection in both locations. 

The work gradually came to channel for me something of the emotional complexity of my feelings about the pandemic and the threat of environmental catastrophe. Alongside the emotional uplift of natural surroundings, the satisfaction of growing vegetables and feeling connected to a community despite isolation, I experienced a growing awareness of the tension between the powerful, sometimes destructive energies of nature - their violence exacerbated by human action over the centuries - and our growing awareness of the need to engage with those forces in cooperative and restorative ways before it's too late.

At the centre of it all is water. The allotments are close to the river Usk which now floods on a regular basis, but nevertheless, constant labour is needed to ensure the plot is watered enough to produce food. Drought and flood, part of the ancient rhythm, wrestled with through the ages by the water-carriers and the dyke builders, a rhythm now accelerating and intensifying everywhere around the globe. Such problems can only be tackled on a communal scale, and the allotment ideal is a deeply communal one. The water container is part of our local allotment's solar-powered water supply - an ecologically balanced system of containment and distribution which requires a cooperative approach to function effectively. Amongst the live sounds heard in the projected videos are chanted words in different languages for 'water', 'flood' and 'to water'. Thanks to poet Lyndon Davies for the addition of this spoken element. 

The full versions of these videos can be seen at 

An exciting opportunity to develop this work came with an invitation from tactileBOSCH to take over their Cardiff city centre gallery during September. Collaborative approaches are integral to my work, and Arts Council Wales and National Lottery's programme Create allowed me to develop a new myriorama series, drawing on natural and constructed elements on the allotments (seen here being developed and installed in tactileBOSCH). 

Funding also allowed me to invite multiple voices/participants to go with the multiple narratives offered by the myriorama. I was delighted that artist/poet/performer Allen Fisher agreed to join me in parallel explorations with installation and performance: poet Lyndon Davies contributed poetry and soundscapes: Beth Greenhalgh for tactileBOSCH brought curatorial perspectives and expertise: workshop participants shared experiences of how the natural world helped emotional well being during lockdown and created a powerful temporary addition to my own installation. 
                          photo courtesy Beth Greenhalgh

photo courtesy Beth Greenhalgh
    photo courtesy Beth Greenhalgh

The members of Llangattock Allotments (LACAS) provided the inspiration for my work and generous support throughout, most particularly the loan of one of our water tanks.

Together we look to the garden, the allotment and the wider landscape for ways of thinking about our own place and the place of others in a world leaning towards disaster. Discomfort and anxiety are a part of it, but so are glimpses of paradise. See the next post for more about Materials in the Garden.


Whilst the four Aftermath drawings made it out of the country to be shown in Finland (see previous post), Covid 19 and lockdown prevented planned artist visits and exchanges taking place. Thanks to Arts Council Wales Stabilisation Funds, I was able to extend the opportunity by making companion pieces to the Aftermath series and connecting with Marja Bonada, (artist and co-curator of the exhibition). Creative digital collaboration, exploration of the exhibition themes and sharing of mutual responses informed our respective artworks and practices. All the works seen here are my own. For Marja’s work see @marjabonada and see the a-n blog for an account of our exchanges. 

I started by developing a new series of 12 drawings, keeping the 7'x2'6" format of Aftermath and the free flowing exchange between concrete and imagined forms. As a child, I was given an 1824 Clark's Myriorama: 16 interchangeable paintings of picturesque landscape that can be rearranged to create a near-endless variety of cohesive scenes. 

Myrioramas became a popular entertainment and means of learning, just as tourism was developing and as ideas of picturesque and sublime were being challenged by profound changes due to industrial and agricultural revolution. The Myriorama still felt relevant to me as a way of re-interpreting landscape and its social context, bringing sites and objects into new relationship and offering new perspectives. The interchangeability of panels disrupts linear expectations and allows varying narratives of sense of place, extending conversations about beauty, value, risk, damage and loss, unexpected impacts of human activity, resilience and reparation. 

Working in partnership brings a difference in energy, creating cross-currents and disturbance: digital exchanges with Marja opened up new ideas and explorations. I found myself experimenting with decayed buckets and a boiler found on spoil tips in the Black Mountains, which seemed to fit well with the Finland exhibition themes of of moderation, co-operation and equality, especially given that water - access and quality - is another looming global crisis. It also links in to some of my previous work about flood - and the hope that sustainable water management, like community based micro-hydro schemes, could be one of the answers to the challenge of what happens after capitalism. 

During a gap in their exhibitions programme Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, Wales, let us use their gallery spaces for 3 days in October 2020, to experiment and develop work together. It was an amazing opportunity to be playful as well as ambitious, and to find out how we - and our works - would relate in a shared space. The principles of co-operation, moderation and equality were tested in practice, and were embodied in the generous welcome and support given by Oriel Davies. Only two panels of the Myriorama could be seen at any one time in my studio, so at last I was able to hang my 12 Connectives and to rework them in relation to each other, then experiment with the sculptural elements of the found objects in relation to the drawings. Lastly I played with adding projection of roiling water from the locality of the historic Clydach ironworks contrasted with sequences of produce grown on our local allotments.

Marja and I found we'd both been strongly influenced through our lives by mythology and that it seeps through our work like a refrain - constant but constantly changing. We saw resonances and differences between our works: earth/air, light/dark, cacophony/harmony, memory/forgetting, risk/playfulness: maybe even beauty and terror. Although not explicitly about Covid 19, our project could not help being heavily influenced and affected by it. Along with most other people, we were never sure whether our plans could go ahead, and needed to be extra flexible and responsive to changing situations. We have felt more vulnerable in so many ways and find the principles of co-operation, moderation and equality more important and relevant than ever for us, the art world, society and the environment.