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Over & Over, Again & Again. Contemporary art scene from Wales
Curator: Hannah Firth, Chapter (The Centre for Contemporary Arts, Cardiff)
I.21 - III.13
Artists:
Gordon Dalton
Tim Davies
Peter Finnemore
Meriel Herbert
Bethan Huws
Anthony Shapland
Bedwyr Williams

Curator: Hannah Firth
'Over & Over, Again & Again' brings together seven artists from Wales to explore the rituals and traditions that make up and influence our lives. This may be something as seemingly everyday as that great British pastime of gardening, or as complex and overwhelming as the historical rituals associated with going to war. The artists isolate their chosen subjects; elevating the status of their activity to dramatic effect, underlining the significance that each ritual or pastime takes on for the individual.

This focus highlights subjects that are not always at the centre of our attention, and mirrors the ongoing collaboration between Wales and Lithuania, two countries often perceived to be on the periphery of recognised centres, yet using this position to very positive effect. This exhibition is the second part of an exchange between Chapter, Cardiff and CAC, Vilnius. The first, ‘Remains of Innocence', saw artists from Lithuania exhibit at Chapter in 2004.

The artists in this exhibition represent a cross section of practice in Wales, and include some of the UK’s most established practitioners alongside younger emerging talent.

Gordon Dalton: Auka Seniems Dievams (Offering to the Ancient Gods), 2005

Despite mainstream success, Heavy Metal is generally perceived to be ‘outsider’ music. It is often associated with satanic ritual, hedonism and longhaired boys. Auka Seniems Dievams explores these links and creates a potentially culturally embarrassing exchange between Wales and Lithuania. The work acts as a portal, using fans from both countries as supposed cringe worthy goods to import/export, while highlighting the individuals, myths and rituals involved with Heavy Metal fans.
Auka Seniems Dievams is an installation based around a DVD projection showing fans of the band SLIPKNOT entering a gig on a stormy night in Cardiff, Wales. As the fans queue to get in, they play up to their reputation, making the ‘Sign of the Devil’ – a common salute at Heavy Metal gigs.
The title of the piece is displayed over the door and is lit in red. This represents an entrance or portal. An adjacent wall drawing/collage is displayed in the style of a double album gatefold sleeve. This provides passwords for the portal to other countries in the form of Heavy Metal band names and the places in which they originated. It also includes hundreds of photos of Lithuanian / Welsh Metal fans culled from the internet, along with posters and Metal paraphernalia, celebrating the Metal fraternity.
Various related objects are dotted around the space, alluding to a distance between two points, being stuck between aspiration and circumstance, the everyday and the mythic, the perceived and the real, and between good and evil.

Bethan Huws: Singing For The Sea, 1993

Bethan Huws’ 16mm projected film, Singing For The Sea features The Bistritsa Babi (Grandmothers), one of Bulgaria’s finest groups of traditional singers. They sing at the edge of the sea; their voices pitched in to the wind; the haunting melodies, combine with the rumbling of the sea, to create a unique polyphony of sound and voice.
The Bistritsa Babi carry their homes, their traditions and the lives of their villages in their voices. Their songs are the living embodiment of a tradition which stretches back unbroken over a thousand years, a pure folkloric expression. In the villages of the Plana region in Bulgaria, the songs are traditionally performed in the open air – at the end of a working day, or at festivities and celebrations.

Tim Davies: Drumming, 2003

This two-screen, large-scale projection entitled Drumming, sets up a clichéd vision of valour and bravery, the spur to war, enveloped in a never-ending roar of drums.
Drumming pulls apart the glorification of war, a questioning made more effective by visual simplicity. The presentation of Davies’ work is minimal, the narrative more complex and evocative. The balance between form and meaning permits an access point, the one underpinning the other. The work begins to tug, not at sentimentality, but at rational consciousness, and the need to ask why. The sound and visual effect of the snare drum is numbing as well as beguiling. It is tinged with abject fear, considered fury and dread.

Tim Davies: Rosmarinus Officinalis, 2003

Rosmarinus Officinalis shows as a projection, a florist constructing, in real time, a funeral wreath. Elaborate still lives of flowers were a mainstay of European painting from the seventeenth century onwards, both as a vehicle to show off the artist’s technical skill and as a symbol of mortality. Here, Davies films the wreath-making with a deliberate heightening of the colour contrast to echo its painterly chiaroscuro effects. The factual presentation of the wreath-making reminds us that this is a constructive and degenerative activity. A monitor situated close to the projected image, scrolls through a list of plants known for their healing or symbolic properties. It is set out like a list of remembrance, like the names found on memorials to the dead in past wars.

Anthony Shapland: Rise, 2003

There is often so little action within Shapland’s work that the imagination becomes overactive. It is as if we are obliged to counter the stillness, and so even the smallest activity momentarily relieves us of this responsibility. It is this transformation of something mundane into something epic that he tries to make apparent.
Rise charts a street lamp at dusk. The lamp warms up from an initial spark, moving through grey light into an orange glow, mimicking the light of a sunrise. Combined with a soundtrack of the dawn chorus, this juxtaposition holds the viewer in a position between the onset of night and the beginning of day.
Film and television have saturated the viewing public with notions of expectation and reward. This is how fiction exists; it is not reality. Often, in reality there is no reward, expectation is sometimes followed by more expectation. But here our expectations are rewarded. We understand what may happen when we are asked to spend time looking at an unlit streetlamp. It exists to be lit. So we wait for that to happen, and sure as night follows day, it does, and we are comforted by the knowledge that it will continue.

Anthony Shapland: Nocturne, 2004-05

Nocturne explores the urban transition from night to day, and the point at which a night out blends into the start of a working day. This new piece of work looks at how behaviour and the rules of engagement differ in the city at night. Doorways become private spaces and night after night different groups of people use the same area to play out a range of behaviour patterns. This piece is a catalogue of repeated events and collective habits with drinking at its centre.
Each scenario is accompanied with its own script, detailing the actions and dialogue of the people involved, emphasising the repetitive actions of disparate people. Here, as in previous works, Shapland is involved in the production, but not the direction of these works, these observations of activities become more engaging as, night-after-night, similar scenarios are re-enacted with a different cast.

Peter Finnemore: various films including Birdwatcher, My Head is in the Shed, Runner Bean Harwest, 2004

Peter Finnemore’s poetic and multi-layered work draws upon his close attachment to his home place in rural west Wales, and tests the boundaries of the ordinary. Finnemore locates practice within and around visual explorations on the themes of Welsh identity; it’s history, culture, landscape and it’s psychological and spiritual nuances.
The site of his films is his family garden and home space. Although these are ordinary spaces they are infused with theatrical and transformative possibilities and a number of different ideas are explored including ritualised and existential movement, the creation of visual koans, cultural enquiry, cosmology, humour and pathos.

Meriel Herbert: Waiting, Scratching, Gasping, Twitching, Wringing, Pacing, and Screaming 2004-2005

Occupying some of the incidental and sometimes forgotten spaces of the centre, Waiting, Scratching, Gasping, Twitching, Wringing, Pacing, and Screaming by Meriel Herbert, are a series of video and audio pieces concerned with her identity as an artist, and the difficulties encountered by many artists in making work.
Alone in the studio, the artist has been left to create work with what she has to hand ­ recording equipment and her body. Here she waits and wills for ‘the work’ to happen. What the audience experience in the centre is about this condition; the overwhelming tension, stress and frustration is palpable and manifests itself in these subliminal ‘ticks‘ exposed by the artist through these new works.

Bedwyr Williams: Stori a Chwedl (Story and Fable), 2005

Bedwyr Williams‘ practice incorporates stand-up comedy and performance, video, installation, writing, photography and drawing. Humour plays a great part in all his works, and is used to contribute to a cutting critique or satire on his chosen subject.
Bedwyr‘s work, particularly in his use of stand-up comedy, often relies heavily on language and the ability to tap into the shared experience. His performance here, entitled Stori a Chwedl (Story and Fable) takes as its starting point the traditional Lithuanian children‘s story 'Pasaka apie strazdą giesmininką'. Acting ‘blind‘ Williams is forced to expose his lack of knowledge of the language, and to communicate through his own understanding of the intonation and nuances of the spoken word. Stripped of the ability to access this notion of collective memory, the resulting performance is as funny as it is tragic, using humour to make accessible some of the more serious issues that collectively affect us.
In the centre, Williams new series of digitally manipulated prints engage with Lithuania‘s home grown music and story-telling talent as he literally positions himself in the images found on the covers of the CDs.
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