Open Doors, Closing Doors – Cardiff Open Studios

David FitzJohn TactileBOSCH Citizen

This weekend (27 & 28 October 2012), as part of Cardiff Contemporary, around 100 artists will fling open their doors and welcome people in to see what they get up in their creative work spaces for Cardiff Open Studios.

This is the first time that there’s been this concerted effort by so many artists and is an indicator of the collaborative spirit that pervades the first outing of the two month visual & applied arts & design festival that is Cardiff Contemporary (01 October – 30 November).

There’ll be a bittersweet tang in the air because this weekend marks the end of tactileBOSCH‘s existence in the old Victorian laundry that this throbbingly vibrant group of artists has occupied for 12 years.

I first wrote about tactileBOSCH here when I was still just dipping a toe in the blogosphere’s murky waters. Buried in that blog is an interview with co-founder of tB, Kim Fielding so here it is again so you don’t have to rummage around looking for it. Though, as a still very green trainee journalist I hadn’t factored in my interview subject scoffing chocolate biscuits (provided by me as a bribe to get my interview), nor the very necessary hum of a fan heater – tB could be arctic in the winter.

The importance of places like tB can’t be overstated: incubators for new talent; studio spaces for economically challenged artists (most of the artists I know); platforms for work that doesn’t fit into other gallery spaces; a meeting of minds; a buzz. So much. I’ve already written about why affordable artists’ studios are important here so I won’t bang on, but the loss of tB from the Cardiff art scene will be keenly felt and it will be mourned by all the artists from across the UK and the globe who have had a chance to make and show work there.

So tonight (27 Oct), from 6pm there’ll be the party of a lifetime and, as always, everyone is welcome.

Blowback tactileBOSCH 2012

But before that party, there are plenty of other studios for you to visit and there’s bound to be tea, cake, chat, great work, friendly artists just waiting to say hello. The Cardiff Open Studios website has lots of helpful advice for planning your trip, including this map to guide you around the city.

Here are the venues and artists – take a deep breath, it’s comprehensive:

André Stitt’s Studio Artist: André Stitt Anthony Shapland’s Studio Artist: Anthony Shapland Butetown Artists Studios Artists: Philip Nicol, David Gould, Richard Cox, Mary Husted, Maggie James, Carwyn Evans, Carol Hiles, Annie Giles Hobbs, Dilys Jackson, Jan Beeney, Will Roberts Cardiff Print Workshop Artists: Anne Williams, Lauren Burgess, Catherine Ade, Becci Holmes, Jane Taylor, Dave Pettersen, Claire Carter, Georgina Brownlow, Sue Paton, Sue Edwards, Mana Pon, Sally Williams, Jane Marchesi, Eirian Lloyd, Bill Chambers, Lilith Gough, Jackie Shackson, Jan Arwyn Jones, Steve Griffiths Fireworks Clay Studios Artists: Becky Adams, Dan Allen, John Blackwell, Lowri Davies, Natalia Dias, Virginia Graham, Diane Horne, Lisa Krigel, Frankie Locke, Nicola Moorhouse, Sara Moorhouse, Zoe Preece, Matthew Thompson, Caroline Taylor, Paul Wearingm Gemma Wilde, Joseph Hopkinson, Jin Eui Kim, Louise Hall, Carol Freehan, Ann Jones.Fox Studio Artists: Phil Lambert, Catherine Lewis, Sam Aldridge, Elbow Room, Cathryn Lowri Griffiths, Jude Noon, Sara Annwyl Geraint Evans’ Studio Artist: Geraint Evans Inkspot Studios Artist: Candice Black Jacqueline Alkema’s Studio Artists: Jacqueline Alkema Kings Road Studios Artists: Jan Williams, Jo Berry, Gordon Dalton, Lee Campbell, James Charlton, Alun Rosser, Andy Fung, Amber Mottram, Rabab Ghazoul, Brian Watkins, Sam Pickthall, Chris Moore, Margaret Sian Williams, Chloe Barry, Barrie J Davies. Molly Curley’s Studio Artist: Molly Curly Morgan Arcade Studios Daniel Hamilton, Nicole Miles, Heloise Godfrey, Lynton Black, Liam O’ Connor,Christopher Holloway, Julien Decaudin, Godmachine, Emma Levey, Lucy Daniels, Cath Jones, Cath Wetherhead, Nic Jones, Robert Lo Bue (Applingua), Sarah HIll (Applingua), Yoke Creative Morgen Hall’s Studio Artist:Morgen Hall Oriel Canfas Gallery Artists: Alun Hemming, Anthony Evans, Chris Griffin, Pete Sainty, Adrian Metcalfe Printhaus Artists: Printhaus Print Workshops, Shaun James, Alys Wall, Jan Bennett, Sophie Barras, Sue Roberts, Liz Picton, Jenny Cashmore, Goat Major Projects, Nathalie Hooper, Cinzia Mutigli Print Market Project Artists: Pete Williams and Print workshops facilities. Studio b Artists: Anna Rafferty, Emily Lander, Kelly Best, Lauren Foulkes, Louise Shenstone, Molly Firth, Rhiannon Boswell, Elena Andruhiv tactileBOSCH Gallery and Workshops Artists Kim Fielding and a host of others presenting at final show after 6pm 27th October. Third Floor Gallery Studios Artist: Ian Smith Warwick Hall Studios Artists: Matt Cook, Freya Dooley, Matthew Evans, Gabrielle Frazer, Rebecca Wyn Kelly, Beth Lewis, Ellie Young

There are links to all of the artists and studios on the Cardiff Open Studios site. All of this has been pulled together by Richard Higlett in an astonishingly short space of time.

It’s going to be a great weekend. Hope to see you there.


Modern Times at the National Museum

Unlliw - Carwyn Evans

As one door closes and Cardiff’s g39 pack up their Mill Lane store to move to pastures new, after a day-long party on 02 July, so another one  opens a week later. The new  National Museum of Art opened for visitors on Saturday 09 July and Cardiff now has something very special in its midst.

AADW member Paul Davies with his Carved Welsh Love Spoon protests at the 1977 National Eisteddfod in WrecsamSpool back to the mid 1980s, to the Welsh Office building a stone’s throw from the Museum. A motley bunch of angry artists, members of the Association of Artists and Designers in Wales (AADW), wearing assorted outfits and costumes, is attempting to storm the political outpost of the Westminster empire. They are angry because they have just learned that the Government is about to introduce admission charges to the National Museum and they will be cut off from a resource that they need, albeit one that doesn’t reflect their own practice that much.

I was there, as Max Boyce would say, as we managed to get ourselves trapped between the outer and inner doors, to the amusement of the security guards, who weren’t quite sure what to make of a crowd of  frankly scruffy looking types, some dressed as skeletons. Of course the outcome is history and it wasn’t until  2001 that the Welsh Government, as one of their earlier acts, decreed that all Assembly sponsored Museums should be free for everyone.

That same year (2001) David Pratley & Associates conducted a Review of Galleries in Wales, which caused a lot of excitement amongst the visual arts community in Wales, and some conflicting ideas of what was needed. The findings were used to inform the next study, The Display of Art in Wales, by DCA. This scoping study pulled together the ambitions of the National Museum to increase its capacity to show its collection of modern and contemporary art and the Arts Council of Wales strategic objective to create a non-collections based National Centre for Contemporary Art in Wales. That report, in 2006, laid the foundations for the new galleries created in the West Wing of the National Museum, Cardiff.

So much for the history lesson, but it’s important to recognise that within a decade of David Pratley’s review, a new, beautiful space for modern and contemporary art was built and opened. In the scheme of things that’s pretty speedy.

National Museum, Cardiff - Contemporary Art Gallery

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to get a sneaky peek at the newly finished, empty galleries. Without the art it was possible to see the fine attention to detail (as you’d expect when working within a listed building) and, most significantly, the space afforded to a chunk of art history (some still in the making), which gives it an importance and status that has been severely lacking in the past.

Filled with an extraordinary and really well curated selection of works, spanning the breadth of  visual art practice from the 20th and 21st centuries, the galleries really hum with ideas in the first exhibition I Cannot Escape This Place. You can see Pete Telfer’s images, which include Wales’ tallest and smallest contemporary artists here (though you’ll need to register/log in to Culture Colony first, but it’s free and worth doing). Outside the new galleries, John Cale’s 2009 Venice offering, Dyddiau Du/ Dark days and Carwyn Evans‘ installation Unlliw in the Landscape Gallery (see top picture) add another contemporary dimension to the museum’s offer.

NMW new galleries opening

Here’s the low down:

  • Wales’s National Museum of Art cost £6.5 million, most of it raised from private sources and the Welsh Assembly Government.
  • The National Museum of Art covers 4,000 square metres of space at National Museum Cardiff.
  • The National Museum of Art will be one of the largest art venues outside London.
  • The contemporary art galleries – the West Wing – are nearly 800 square metres, making the largest space for contemporary art in Wales.
  • The redeveloped galleries offer 40% more space for the national contemporary collection.
  • The first display in the West Wing – I cannot escape this place –  includes works by 44 artists including Josef Herman, Bedwyr Williams, Francis Bacon and Richard Long.

The general consensus has been very positive – artists and curators gave it the thumbs up. There will be a few voices of dissent. Some still feel that there should be a gallery dedicated solely to Welsh Art. But we’re not a hermetically sealed nation and it’s really important for artists and the wider public to see Welsh art in a national and international context, as well as within an historical one. School parties visiting the Museum will have the chance to relate modern and contemporary works to the historical collection and respond to them, Artes Mundi aside, these opportunities have been few and far between.

Postcards 2 - Tim DaviesAnd while this is a milestone for the Museum and the arts in Wales, let’s not forget that it’s one of two. With the best will in the world the Museum’s new galleries will not be the hotbed for ideas and the push/pull of production and presentation that a non-collections based contemporary art centre could be.

Back when Cardiff was bidding to be Capital of Culture in 2008, there were plans afoot to convert an old bus depot into just that kind  of space, but the plans died with Cardiff’s failed bid and the Welsh Government probably feels it’s off the hook in terms of the visual arts for the time being. The Arts Council of Wales seems to accept that investment into contemporary art will probably continue to be focused on the existing gallery network. However all of those key galleries would benefit from a national status centre because it would help to develop new audiences for them, offer professional development opportunities and add to the vibrant but often under-valued art community in Wales.

Let’s just hold that thought shall we?