Monday, 17 November 2014

News and views

Ever so long since I did anything to my poor blog  -  my excuse, I've been ever so busy!!

It really has been a very exciting year and I have taken part in more exhibitions over a short space of time than ever before. As well as the exhibitions, there was, of course, my graduation and not only mine but my son's, too. Just a couple of months after my ceremony, Ed graduated with a Masters in Music from Birmingham Conservatoire, with the ceremony held in the beautiful building of the city's Symphony Hall. As to be expected, there was some very good music at the ceremony and we all enjoyed the occasion very much, including the delicious meal in Carluccio's that evening.

Ed in his smart gown outside the Hall It was good that Ed suggested going outside to take our pictures, as this little bridge over the canal was very pretty with the flowers tumbling over it.

Ed with Arthur and myself.

Ed with Arthur and Juliette and those lovely flowers again.

In between my graduation and Ed's, I was taking part in more exhibitions, the Open Competition Exhibition in MOMA Wales, Machynlleth and as guest artist with ArtWorks, Aberdyfi. The theme in MOMA this year was 'Myself' and for this, I did a piece based around lines from the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, namely 'Each mortal thing . . . selves, goes itself - myself it speaks and spells'. These words had stayed in my head ever since I first discovered them in my teens, so it seemed only natural to interpret them in art and express something of how they related to me in my life as the years had come and gone. I see myself in relation to those around me and to what has happened in my life over the years, to the changes that have taken place, with these words echoing in my head all the while, so the piece I created travelled from myself in my father's arms to how I am here and now. The piece haunted my dreams as I worked on it, in paint and stitch, as I love to do, and I put a lot into it visually and as regards the work it entailed but, somehow, I felt compelled to do it. Below are a few images from the finished piece which I called 'Leitmotif'.

A detail from 'Leitmotif' showing myself as mother with Juliette as a baby and along with Ed as growing children. The sea and shore also stand as recurring leitmotifs in my life.

Myself as a baby held in my father's arms by the shores of Bangor, Co. Down becomes myself as the person I am now, looking at my grown children with the line of music beneath my image representing another path my life is taking at present. The spectral lines of beach umbrellas come from a drawing I made, alone, on a beach in N. Italy some years ago while Ed and Juliette are by the waves at Barmouth, N. Wales near to where my home is now.

A section of the work showing myself as an undergrad student in Aberystwyth in the 1970s, progressing to marriage and my family.

This exhibition was seen by many and my own piece was popular with the viewing public, young and old!

A little after the MOMA exhibition opened and going up while it was still on, I exhibited as guest artist with ArtWorks in Aberdyfi and was delighted to sell five original pieces here as well as a number of prints, cards and postcards. I was fortunate to be in the gallery when pieces sold and it was so enjoyable to meet those buying my work and talk with them. Below is an image of one of the pieces I said goodbye to!

This piece is called 'Swirl of Bright Water' and was inspired by watching how the sea flowed and swirled round the posts of the pier at Aberdyfi.
More recently, I have had my work, 'In the Garden, Secretly,' shown in Ireland, the first time my stitched pieces have been shown here. Arthur and I went over to steward a little at the exhibition which was 'Coded: Decoded Part 2', Prism's exhibition as guest artists at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Dublin and while there, I also met up with my sister, which was great!

Myself with my sister, Joyce and her husband, Alastair by Howth Head, Dublin  -  the sea draws us both like a magnet! Beautifully bright and such lovely colours but it was SO COLD!!

Work is now drawing together for my exhibition in MOMA and exciting developments are happening with my PhD, so life is full and I am so grateful to be living it!

Until the next time!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Of poems and graduations . . .

It has been a very exciting month of July for me this year! After an interlude of many years, in 2009, I was finally able to return to Aberystwyth University to study for my MA part-time and on Wednesday 16th I attended the degree ceremony to collect my certificate for the MA in Fine Art and Art History. Arthur, Juliette and Ed were with me and it was a fantastic day  -  I didn't realise just how happy it would make me feel and I will cherish the memory of it as long as I live!

Last September, I embarked on my part-time PhD in Fine Art and am now enjoying it enormously  -  it is such a wonderful opportunity to delve deep and explore both the micro and the macro of my subject and I will continue with it just as long as I can and hopefully bring it to fruition sometime around 2020  -  seems an unreal date!

Gowned up and at lunch!

With Arthur and Juliette

With Arthur and Ed

At the ceremony in the Great Hall

Getting ready for the group photo of all of us in the School of Art

Group photo by the steps  -  thankfully, it didn't rain!

Hats go in the air!
We enjoyed a lovely meal in the Cross Foxes afterwards!

Meanwhile, my creative investigations revolve around stitch, paint, word and sound and within this, I have been recording readings/performances of my poetry, four of which I now have here within SoundCloud. I really enjoyed doing these readings both as recordings in the sound studio at the university and before this, at the Chinwag evening on 18th June in the Arts Centre in Aber. My readings were very well received, which is great, and I will perform more work as time goes on, hopefully live at more Chinwag evenings and also as recordings which can be accessed via SoundCloud.

The recordings of the poems follow and the image is of me in the recording studio. I am pictured during recordings made of the stitching process and I recorded the poems at the end of the session.

This first poem is  Belfast Swan

Sedge and bulrush fall away in
succession, watery precursor
of city’s trickle;
wind-whipped lough and lilac-blue
hills a cloud-wisped backdrop.

Beyond streaked glass,
brackish stretches of pool-
splashed marshes hold a      
gleam of                                
grace-filled form.                 


                                              the swan,
                           I watch
         sinuous neck
  out from

regally gaze,
  piece of tangled
               weed clings to
                        orange beak, proud pulse of life

                              pulse of life,  proud,   proud       life         proud
                                                          on    the   ruffled   water,     ruffled     water

                on the ruffled water            ripple-sheen

                                             water- shiver                             wind-mirror

                              .retaw  delffur   eht,   retaw  delffur no efil

                                                    I hctaw
                               naws eht                                                        cream gleam on the ruffled water              

Train come, train gone,
but I still see
the bright swan.

 The following short poem entitled After,  tells about the atmosphere of an explosion just after the event. This is one incident among those I experienced in Belfast in the late 1970s and beginning of the eighties. It seems such a crime against humanity that not only adults but so many children in troubled countries today still find their lives blighted, scarred and tragically ended by the actions of those who seek to impose their will on others through violence, groups and individuals who seem blind to the suffering they cause and deaf to the pleas of the innocent victims.

The next poem Belfast: Lagan Revisited  speaks of the city at the height of The Troubles but it does not end there. This is a city and country which walked a painful path out of the violence and destruction and which, despite dark acts perpetrated by a few individuals, works to preserve a much-needed peace. Differences of thought and opinion still exist but the bond of shared humanity and compassion unites where the confines of sectarianism had bloodied and shattered.

The final poem Cormorant is a short song of the sea and shore where I spent all my growing years, a place of consolation and inspiration, a harbour for the body and the soul.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

'Silent Polyphonies' - live reading with music!

My 'Silent Polyphonies' installation has been exhibited several times now in various galleries, both with and without sound and in its two most recent outings, the Cloisters Gallery, St Davids Cathedral, St Davids, Pembrokeshire and the Minerva Arts Centre, Llanidloes, I have been fortunate in being able to show the piece with its soundtrack. I think that it works in both guises but, at the same time, feel that without its sound, the visitor is not able to experience the piece in its entirety. I am now correcting this situation on my blog where the work has also been totally silent!

On exhibition, the soundtrack is designed to loop with a short interval between repeats, the interval inserted because, unlike the soundtrack for 'The Invitation' where the music is in the nature of a short phrase repeated in the manner of a chant, the sound for 'Silent Polyphonies' features myself performing a reading of my poem 'Of Silence and Butterflies'. This poem forms the words in the 'falling book' which is part of the installation.

'Silent Polyphonies' in the Minerva Arts Centre, Llanidloes, showing both panel and 'falling book' with beside it 'In the Garden, Secretly' and 'Through a Glass Softly'.

Close-up of pages in the book.

In the exhibition in Llanidloes, which finished on 26th May, I was showing with artists' group CRYD (Art Between the Waters) and the particular gallery space where we were in the Centre is also used for various workshops, so the sound could not be present at all times.

The piano music heard with the poem is a simple cadence which I composed and play myself, soft notes from Ed's double bass sounding very quietly in the background. To enhance the atmosphere and create an environment calling to mind the natural world, the sound of softly plashing water also plays during the reading. These 'watery' sounds are recordings of gentle waves breaking to the shore at Llandudno. Various attempts were made to record the sound of waves, including by the harbour at Aberystwyth, but here the wind was blowing so strongly that even sizeable waves could scarcely be heard above the buffeting of the gusts! Arthur's able-bodied ability to get right to the shore's edge was invaluable and now the acquisition of a microphone designed to pick up atmospheric sounds should aid in future recordings!

I do hope very much that you enjoy listening to the recording as I enjoyed making it! Investigations into further use of sound, musical and otherwise, in relation to stitch and word continue within my PhD at Aber.

May has been a very busy month for me and. as well as the exhibition in the Minerva Centre, I have also been exhibiting in the Willow Gallery, Oswestry, in Maesmawr Gallery, Mid Wales Arts Centre, Caersws and with PRISM in the Mall Galleries, London. Work is still on exhibition in Oriel Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor and prints continue to be on sale in the Willow Gallery and in the Mid Wales Arts Centre with cards also on sale in the Willow Gallery and prints available from my Sales Page on my website.

A corner of the Minerva Arts Centre showing my work during hanging.
A view of my piece 'Carried on the East Wind'.
I also had two pieces selected for this year's exhibition 'Coded: Decoded' with PRISM at the Mall Galleries, London. The exhibition, which has just finished, ran during this past week. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be there in person this year but it was great to be showing with everybody. I do, however, hope to be with everyone at least some of the time when we exhibit in the Knitting and Stitching Shows in Alexandra Palace, London and also in Dublin and Harrogate. These shows always have stands of contemporary art stitch and are extremely popular with the public, so it's great that PRISM have been invited to show with them. Space at the Knitting and Stitching shows is limited, so we are all showing just one or two comparatively small pieces each and mine will be 'In the Garden, Secretly'.
This is 'De Profundis' which was in the Mall Galleries.
Showing a detail from 'De Profundis'.
This piece, 'Requiem: les fleurs du mal'  has also just come back from The Mall Galleries.
It is impossible to ignore the significance of date just now and this image shows my sadness at the terrible futility of war. The loss of life in the First World War has come to stand as a metaphor for the suffering mankind inflicts on one another, a suffering that flares up and goes on in various parts of the world, seemingly without end. After the further tragedy of the Second World War, I do hope that the 'war to end all wars' has, indeed, ended war on a global scale with the added hope that, one day, war between any nation will be a thing consigned to history.
Detail from 'Requiem: les fleurs du mal'

My son, Ed, was the model for this image and the frightening thing is that but for the accident of time and birth, if our time had been in the previous century, it could indeed have been Ed in just such a uniform going off to war  -  we are so very grateful to be alive in this century with, despite the ongoing threat of world terrorism, at least the majority of the world's nations at peace, old enmities fought over on the stage of the United Nations rather than the slaughter of the battlefield.

Off now to go on with the work  -  joy and peace to all!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

A Night at the Opera

Arthur, Juls and I had a fantastic time a couple of weeks ago when we went to see and hear Ed perform with the Birmingham Opera Company in their latest amazing production! The piece, directed by Graham Vick, was by Modest Mussorsky and was given the title 'Khovanskygate: A National Inquiry'.

It all took place in the 'Freedom Tent' in Cannonhill Park in Birmingham and was quite an experience! The audience were guided and moved around by opera members during the performance, making us feel that we, too, were part of the action and, very fortunately, we were almost always near Ed, partly out of sheer luck and partly by design!

Ed's first guise  -  as a revolutionary.

 I was especially pleased to be very close to Ed during his solo  -  he had told me roughly the pattern of where he would be placed for his solo part as 'Golitsyn's messenger' and then, asked by Juls, one of the company kindly told me exactly where Ed would be, so I was right by the platform Ed was on at this time! His voice rang out so well - he was ever so good!

As 'Golitsyn's messenger''.


A couple of shots of Ed in his policeman's role.

This is Ed in the final scene of the opera  -  a rather terrifying one in which lots of the characters  -  the 'believers' and this included Ed  -  committed mass suicide. To show this, the cast actually put plastic bags over their heads  -  a risky business, being an opera singer!

I'll look forward to seeing more of Ed in opera and  more of Birmingham Opera Company's fascinating productions!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Hospital exhibition and painting

My solo exhibition in Oriel Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor was set up at the beginning of this month and, as a former Art Therapist who believes in the therapeutic value of art, it is a great pleasure for me to have my work available for patients, visitors and staff alike.

The gallery is situated in the main entrance foyer of the hospital and, as with the Cloisters Gallery by the refectory in St Davids Cathedral, these spaces are open to members of the public, including while exhibitions are being hung.

A view across the foyer -  people coming to and fro had lessened considerably by the time this photo was taken approaching mid morning.

 Hanging an exhibition alongside members of the public changes the dynamic of the empty gallery space and of the relationship between exhibitor and spectator. Early morning in the hospital is a busy time and many people were coming and going as the exhibitor before us, jeweller Karen Williams, took down her work and we started to unpack mine. It was a pleasure to meet Karen and then, as we began to get my work in place, passers-by took a moment or two to look on with interest. In the cathedral, whole conversations had taken place while pieces were being hung but the nature of visitors to the hospital environment reduced these interactions to smiles and a few words.

Another difference between this and my cathedral exhibition was that, this time, Arthur and I were not alone in hanging the work but turned out to have the assistance of not one but two people!  I had put forward my proposal for the hospital exhibition through Gwynedd Arts Forum and we met up with Gwawr Wyn Roberts, Forum Community Arts Development Officer, when we arrived at the hospital. Shortly afterwards, we were joined by a member of the hospital's technical staff who had come to help hang the exhibition and, with Gwawr also lending a hand, everything was achieved surprisingly quickly despite the fact that the display area included five boards and two cabinets, so many thanks to both!

An early visitor  -  finishing touches were being put to the exhibition and it was already attracting attention! I have also now been contacted by visitors who have said how much they enjoyed the exhibition  -  this is much appreciated!


Self by another of the display boards with my piece, 'Light and Shadow on the Mountain, Moel Offrwm'.

Two views of the main cabinet.
This is a detail of the smaller of the cabinets. It was quite difficult to photograph this cabinet because of all the reflections on the glass doors but I thought that myself captured in the mirror tiles whilst taking the photo was rather amusing! The little concertina book was made particularly with this cabinet in mind and the mirror tiles placed under and behind the book worked really well in allowing all aspects to be seen by spectators.
Finally, I had a very enjoyable day yesterday in my studio painting in acrylics on a linen canvas. I love my stitching but I also love painting, writing music, writing poetry . . . in short, I enjoy many aspects of the creative process!
Now I need to go to do some admin  -  this needs to be done, too!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Cloisters Exhibition, St Davids Cathedral

Time has gone so quickly lately! It is a few weeks now since we returned from St Davids and my Cloisters Exhibition. It was really good to show there again -  also good in that I sold my 'Towards the Light' abstract as well as several prints and cards. We stayed in 'Ysgubor', a lovely disabled-friendly cottage at Tretio where we had stayed during my 2012 exhibition. It was a pleasure to talk to Rob and Honey again, who run the cottages on their farm and we had another greeting from the little hen who had also come to say ‘hello’ in 2012! Honey welcomed us with a delicious sponge cake - despite my intolerances, I couldn't resist having just a little bit! - and also six beautiful fresh eggs. We’ll hope to return for a third time!
Below is a link to their Facebook page where Rob and Honey have posted lots of pictures and many snippets of info about the cottages, the area etc. They have even included a couple of shots of my exhibition!

tretio cottages facebook page

A few pictures of the exhibition.

The following show images of my 'Silent Polyphonies' installation. I was able to exhibit it with the sound this time, in which I read my poem to a piano accompaniment which I also play, then finish with a short sung cadence. As with 'The Invitation', the sound loops round, with a short interval between tracks, to accompany the visual images of panel and 'falling' book. At one point, a spectator who had also been listening while she was in the refectory, came over to me to say how much she had enjoyed the music and how relaxed it had made her feel!

Arthur and panel during set-up, looking toward the refectory.

A closer view of panel with side 'a' and also some wall pieces.

Looking away from the refectory this time and also showing the beautiful 'shelf' the book had to rest on! I love the stones of the cathedral wall and I thought that the pattern formed by some of the exposed stonework was an ideal place for the pages of the 'falling book'.

A little visitor was on the stones and it seemed so appropriate to have it there  -  sadly, no longer alive but still very beautiful!

The other side of the exhibition with sunlight spilling in through the tall, clear windows and just catching a couple of the pieces. The sun arrived in the gallery in the afternoon but was not a problem as it only shone on the work for a short time and it was so lovely to have the warm, bright light come streaming in.

The picture in the upper left is 'Towards the Light' which sold during the exhibition.


Friday, 28 February 2014

'Vigil' - the recording!


Just wanted to say what a fantastic day I had at the recording for 'Vigil's' music in St Chad's Cathedral on Saturday 15th! I found it very moving to hear a piece of music which I had written, along with Ed, performed by professional musicians.

I have a lifelong love of music and have, on various occasions, started to study or perform it. Unfortunately, circumstances arose which meant that I had to turn again to other things and the music had to wait. When my illness hit and I had to give up the musical studies I was undertaking at the time and which I was so enjoying, Ed was just a small child and I had no idea that, one day, we would work together on the melodies which have haunted me for so long and I am so thrilled by the results!

Pictured below are Ed, Penelope and the Beorma Ensemble at the recording session in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham

Reading from left to right, the singers are:-


Penelope Appleyard 

soprano solo

Richard West


Richard Paterson


Alex Aldren

first tenor

Lewis Jones

basso profundo (oktavist)

David Wynne


Andrew Fellowes

basso profundo (oktavist)

Oliver Martin-Smith 

second tenor

Ed Harrisson

tenor solo and director

The Beorma is a flexible group and these particular singers were gathered together in view of the piece to be performed. I was interested in having the sound as of Russian Orthodox music, as I felt would this suit the style and ethos of the work, so the body of the choir are the seven male singers, with Penelope Appleyard taking on the part of solo soprano and Ed as solo tenor and also director.

 Within the piece, Ed and Penny sing a short duet, as I feel this reflects the situation whereby a man and woman together keep vigil for a lost or sick child, the age of any such child irrelevant to the process of grieving or loss involved. One verse is also given for the main body of the choir to sing and within this, they reach a powerful and swelling crescendo.

The singers in action

I am very grateful to St Chad's Cathedral for giving us permission to record in their beautiful building, which was chosen for its excellent acoustics and qualities of its reverberation. The location worked very well, the only drawback being traffic noise from the nearby road network which, now and again, became a little intrusive! However, with today's technology, audio producers Ben Bass and David Armstrong have worked the magic of removing the traffic hum from the track, to leave the sound of the singers' voices clearly heard
Ed with David (on left) and Ben (on right), Beorma members in background

I am really delighted with how the sound has worked out and have so enjoyed working with Ed, coming to the rehearsal and recording in the cathedral and then being present at the final editing session afterwards. All of this has been a new experience for me, including seeing how professional singers approach their work.

There are other pieces of music which I have in the pipeline and Ed and I are discussing how we might bring these to fruition. It has, therefore, been very useful for me to have been present while the singers worked so that I can bear this in mind when considering phrasing and harmony in another piece of music. As well as this, working with Ed is, of course, invaluable because of his knowledge and experience of writing music and of the character of melodies and what is required in a piece of choral music. I am very grateful to the Arts Council of Wales for giving me the award of funding and thereby the opportunity to develop this exciting new avenue within my work.

Below, a few more pictures taken on the day of the recording session.

Early in rehearsal
Lewis and Ed

 Ed singing and conducting

Self with Penelope, the Beorma and Ed
The music is an important part of 'Vigil' but, as the complete installation will not be realised for some time, I am at present looking into possibilities of releasing the sound ahead of the final work  -  watch this space!