Friday, 13 March 2015

'Painting with Words' Exhibition, Willow Gallery, Oswestry

Some of my 'Sense of Longing' work in MOMA has now gone on to the Willow Gallery, Oswestry for their 'Painting with Words' Exhibition to coincide with Oswestry's Lit Fest. The exhibition is very varied with work by a number of artists and, as words are important here, there is a close connection with poetry, books and story-telling. I am fortunate in having the opportunity to read some of my poetry alongside Jan Wallis, who will be doing story-telling sessions in connection with her work in the exhibition and we'll be doing this on Saturday 14th and again on Saturday 28th. I am due to read at 1.30 p.m. and Jan to do her stories from 2 - 4 p.m. Some of the poetry that I'll read will be in connection with what I'm exhibiting but not everything.

'Cloth for Night and the Half-Light' in its new space with the falling book 'In the Pages of Dreams'. Also pictured is 'Requiem: les fleurs du mal' and, just seen, the long poem picture 'Between the Sand and the Whipping Wind'.

The falling book really does look as if it is floating this time, as it is spreading round from one wall to the other  -  a nice space for it.

This is Jan, who will be doing her story-telling  -  I was talking to her about my use of stitch. She has made textile 'trees' for the exhibition, as forests often play such an important role in stories.

This time, my sound is accessed via wired headphones and this has given some more problems to sort out. It seems that having a sound element in an exhibition gives different issues to solve every time!

This image perhaps shows the gallery space a little better than the other photos  -  a couple of my earlier posts also show more of the interior. I really like how the large area of what used to be a car showroom was divided imaginatively into the light and airy gallery it is now and it is still easy to negotiate in my wheelchair!

Now I'm looking forward to reading my poetry in the Willow tomorrow. I performed my own version  -  spoken and sung  -  of the John Keats poem, 'La Belle Dame sans Merci', at Chinwag in Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Wednesday and read a couple of my own poems and what I did was very well received, which delighted me. I will put these readings in another post as soon as I am able. Ed can't make it tomorrow but Arthur and Juliette will be there, so I'll have an audience of two anyway!


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Short video of 'A Sense of Longing'

I have given images for my MOMA exhibition and talked about them in my last post but I thought I'd publish this little video of the exhibition, which I took with my digital camera, just for fun!

I in no way claim to be a film-maker  -  I had to hold the camera in my left hand while steering my chair with my right  -  so  I am limited by the functioning of my chair which you will also hear the sound of in operation! Added to this, I wanted to show the main cloth in its length in the video but have just succeeded in having it on its side! Far from perfect but I hope you might enjoy going on this tiny tour of the exhibition!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Exhibition 'A Sense of Longing' (Hiraeth)

Things have been very busy for a while now, as I was getting ready for my solo exhibition in MOMA Wales, Machynlleth and going forward with my PhD work.

I also gave a talk to the N. Wales Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild in December and shared a Christmas lunch with them and I enjoyed both of these things very much. The lunch was very convivial and Arthur and I were made very welcome. I gave my talk after lunch and was really touched by how closely everyone listened and by comments made by those who came up to me afterwards. I appreciate very much all those who said how much my words resonated with them  -  when I have the difficult days, it is always a great consolation and encouragement to recall that my work does speak to at least some people! It was also my duty and pleasure to judge the Christmas competition. This wasn't easy, as there was a high standard in the works entered. These ranged from the small to the really quite large and they embraced a variety of styles and techniques but, as I said to the winner, it was the sense of mystery she instilled which drew me to choose her delicate piece.

'A Sense of Longing'  (Hiraeth)

My exhibition for MOMA, 'Hiraeth' in Welsh, was inspired initially by 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' by W B Yeats. I came across this beautiful poem in my teens and loved it from the very first reading! The longing here has two aspects to it, the first the yearning to give everything and beyond to a loved one, expressed in the beauty of the heavens, celestial and theological and the second, the longing to have peace and compassion in today's world where violence so often rips lives apart. I also extended the longing of the poem to embrace a yearning for people themselves, for loved ones whose mortal lives have ended. Guided by the 'blue and the dim and the dark cloths', I centred my main piece on the night skies and gave it a fall to the gallery floor.

Section of the top of  'Cloth for Night and the Half-Night'

Full view of the cloth on the gallery wall.

The rhythms of the poetic word, allied to their meaning, often inspire me to music as did this beautiful work and the exhibition is accompanied by a sound track of the music I wrote for the poem. My son, Ed, took the melody I had written and composed lovely harmonies for strings so that the sound track has myself on voice and guitar with Ed on cello and double bass and his friend and colleague, Daniel Galbreath, on viola.

The gallery required the sound to be heard via headphones this time, so this would be the best way to listen to it.

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This link works to hear the sound for this exhibition but it does not appear in the same way as links to SoundCloud in my other posts, nor does it link to my other pieces on SoundCloud, as have other entries  -  am looking into how to correct this!

The exhibition was hung on 5th January and it was exciting seeing the pieces I had planned and worked on for a number of months going up on the walls! Arthur and I put up 'Cloth for Night and the Half-Light' and the 'falling book' ourselves, as we usually do, with help from gallery worker Robert.

Falling book 'In the Pages of Dreams' during hanging in the gallery.

Self  beside falling book at the exhibition Preview with 'Eurydice Dreams of Heaven' in the foreground and behind me 'Cloth for Night and the Half-Light'.
The framed pieces were hung by Peter, who is in charge of hanging works in the gallery, one of which is the tall piece visible here beyond the main hanging and it is called 'Sleep Softly because You Live in my Dreams'. This is where I side-step a little from where the poet says 'Tread softly because you tread on my dreams' to think about those who come alive again in dreams. There is a longing to see again those we have lost, to hear their voice, and when you dream, they can come vividly alive in the inner world, so I made a piece stitched with figures of those I love and miss so much, painted with the light into which, I believe, they have been welcomed. My hope now is, one day, to see them and be with them again.

This image shows 'Sleep Softly because You Live in my Dreams' on the right with three smaller pieces, from the top, 'Midnight Wave' then 'Crossing the Void' and A Depth of Water'. The blues in the poem led me to think not just about the blues of a night sky but also those of the sea washing the shore, images of which come to me in my thoughts and in times of meditation and prayer.

Details from the lower part of 'Sleep Softly . .'
I stitched this image from a grainy photograph of my Mum and Dad on their honeymoon in 1950 and I have homed in on it particularly because, when I was a baby, Mum rode pillion to my Dad on the bike while I was held in my grandmother's arms in the sidecar. Sounds fun, just a shame that I was  too young to remember it! The motorbike was a BSA Golden Flash, my Dad's pride and joy and it came to him as the second such model in N.Ireland  -  he told me how he was actually supposed to have had the first one but that bike was sent to the wrong address!

On the initial hanging, it had seemed that three of the pieces were not needed but then Peter asked if I could bring them back again as he wanted to hang them after all! My piece 'Embrace of Light and Land, Moel Offrwm' was already placed in the window to one side of the gallery entrance and Peter now wanted to place 'Dance Softly into the Night' in the window to the other side of the front door.

'Embrace of Light and Land, Moel Offrwm' seen in the window.

Close-up of the picture

'Dance Softly . .' in the other window.

The work 'For They Shall be Comforted', was hung behind the front desk and the third piece to be recalled, a one-off digital framed print, was placed beside 'Carried on the East Wind'.


Section of wall showing 'Carried on the East Wind' with one-off framed print 'Field of Conflict, Garden of Healing' and below these a selection of cards and mounted prints.

Carried on the East Wind.
 I made cards from some of the pieces in the exhibition and this image was one of them. The hills are around my home in beautiful Snowdonia.
The end wall in the gallery was given to pieces which reflect on the violence which so often erupts in our world. With these pieces, I wanted to express a longing for mercy and compassion and in the central piece, 'Continuum', as well as including images which reflect the world wars, I also visualise experiences of The Troubles in N. Ireland and explosions on the streets of Belfast when I worked there in the late 1970s and beginning of the 1980s.
Two images from the large work 'Continuum'
The first world war had come to my mind particularly because my exhibition was going up almost 100 years to the day since the death of my grandmother's brother in that conflict. My maternal grandmother had lost her brother, Thomas Alexander Keith, when, on Thursday 22nd March 1915, he was one of the first Allied soldiers to be gassed during the second battle of Ypres. He was actually fighting with the Canadian Expeditionary Force because, along with his older brother William, who survived the war, he had emigrated to Canada a few months before war broke out. My grandmother was only a small child when Tommy was killed but he had meant a lot to her and, as with so many other families, she had a lovely sepia photograph of him in uniform. I was not able to include Tommy himself in the piece but I stitched the image of a World War 1 soldier from a photograph of a member of Arthur's family.
Soldier and poppies 
 I also used an image of my dad in his RAF uniform along with members of his squadron. He was stationed at Penrhos near Pwllheli on the Lleyn Peninsula during his last posting when he was invalided out of the air force with the illness which he suffered from for the rest of his life. He had wanted very much to stay with the RAF and always missed the companionship he had found there and which he never found again in civilian life. The title of the piece, 'Continuum', refers to the tragic persistence of violence in the world and the figure of the crying child calls out for mercy and compassion; so often, it is the innocent and helpless who suffer so cruelly at the hands of others.

The image below shows the piece, 'Requiem: les fleurs du mal', a detail from which was used by the gallery in a publicity poster and for the gallery exhibitions leaflet. The piece itself was hung beside 'Continuum' and the two connect in the reflections engendered by the suffering that the first world war came so tragically to stand for and in their silent pleas for compassion. The model for the figure here is my son, Ed.

'Requiem: les fleurs du mal'