The Culture Colonists

Now I’m guessing that Anna Wintour didn’t start her career by flogging copies of American Vogue from a cardboard box but, as deputy Editor of blown magazine, I set off for Aberystwyth with said cardboard box,  some pretty pictures and assorted stationary and passengers. The rain lashed down as I did various pick-ups from Splott, Riverside and Carmarthen, looping around Wales before finally reaching my bed for the night.

In the run-up to pulling together an issue for production it takes something pretty special to drag me away from my obsessive war against missing or misplaced apostrophes, but then I was heading for an event that I couldn’t miss: the launch of Culture Colony.

Now if you’ve had your head in a bucket or don’t live in Wales you may not know about this creative community, the love child of the remarkable Pete Telfer or, to be more technical, an on-line community for creative people and organisations in Wales.

Telfer, a former cameraman for the BBC, notching up an impressive portfolio of films for such programmes as The Slate, before the Beeb dumbed down their arts content, felt it was high time to circumvent the Welsh media, who had so poorly served the arts in Wales and go, as Culture Colony’s  slogan has it: “Beyond TV”. And he has.

The site offers a non-hierarchical forum for creatives in Wales. There’s no advertising (but please subscribe to keep it going), no agendas, but high production values and a lot of film content from Telfer, who can often be found, camera clamped to his editorially incisive eye, documenting cultural activity around Wales. What’s not to love?

For the launch (it’s been going a while but the site’s just had a major re-vamp) there were no press/media, no politicians or arts administrators, just a bunch of people who believe in the power of the collective platform and of the third (fourth? fifth?) way.

I was torn between (wo)manning my stall and attending the really engaging discussions. So, in the morning I sneaked into the session to hear a really thought-provoking conversation about archiving the arts, chaired (but in an informal “let’s just have a nice chat” kind of way) by  artist Stephen West.  Dr Heike Roms talked us through her work to date on What’s Welsh for Performance, followed by Eluned Haf from Wales Arts International, talking  in Welsh at breakneck speed (props to the fantastic translator who was just a heartbeat behind her) about the need for critical debate in Wales and bigging up Culture Colony.  Richard Huw Morgan, a last minute sub, who talked about some of his previous projects, future plans (both solo and as part of good cop bad cop) and how Culture Colony has supported his latest project – the cross-over from the digital world into the world of actively supporting creativity.

Around Aberystwyth Arts Centre artists had been invited to make interventions. So we had Kathryn Dodd and Louise Bird’s White Shift – Short Shrift; Roger Loughor’s subversive road signs; Kim Fielding’s disturbing photographs and Michelle Collins’ invitation to curate her un-edited archive while wearing a badge that said ” Artist”, “Curator” or “Critic”, with sustenance provided by Pete’s mother’s cake and sundry biscuits. But I can’t pull up at this point without mentioning the rather wonderful Dartboard for Witches in  the gallery. This exhibition offers a refreshing new look at textiles in art and has been exceptionally well presented.

This was not an event, nor  is Culture Colony an organisation, that could be dreamt up in any strategy. It is driven by goodwill, vision, passion and the collegiate and collaborative nature of the arts community in Wales.

Plugging blown, as was my mission, I was suddenly conscious of the role that arts centres and organisations play in Wales. This role doesn’t fit neatly into any monitoring or assessment format but… Aberystwyth Arts Centre have put themselves squarely behind Culture Colony, who are now housed in the splendour of the Thomas Heatherwick studio spaces. I ruminated on this as blown has had so much encouragement and support from Chapter Arts Centre. The unsung part that arts organisations play in developing artists and the wider culture in Wales deserves a big shout out.

If you haven’t had a look at Culture Colony yet I urge you to do so and, if you can find the modest wherewithal to join, then get PayPal-ing forthwith.

And finally, my apologies to my loyal blog fans. I have been out and about, and can commend to you: To the Buddha Veils and Voids, at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, featuring Peter Finnemore and Jonathan Anderson (who has a show coming up at The Mission Gallery in Swansea very soon); Bystanding at g39.  I also revisited the wonderful new Mostyn Gallery and  We have the Mirrors, We Have the Plans, (sorry but you’ve missed it, but more great shows on the horizon), which was well worth a quieter visit, away from the private view hoopla; spent too little time at Re:Animate at Oriel Davies (this year’s curated Oriel Davies Open curated exhibition, featuring the full gamut of some of the most exciting moving image practice form across the UK) and did my annual pilgrimage to the  National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale, the gold medal for Fine Art this year going  to Simon Fenoulhet (hooray!)

More bloggery when blown issue 2 is safely at the printers (and there’ll probably be a shameless plug too).

paint and place

A quick plug for Elfyn Lewis’s wonderful work at St David’s Hall Foyer Galleries, which runs to March 27th. Darryl Corner has already offered a great review in his Western Mail column, so it would be daft to restate what he’s said.

But I’ve known Elfyn for some time now, and would add that I never fail to be impressed with his seriousness of intent, his constant probing and experimenting and his deep and obvious commitment to paint, a medium that bobs in and out of fashion like a WAG’s handbag. Like his more-or-less contemporaries, Brendan Stuart Burns and Catrin Webster, Lewis manages to use abstraction to open up responses to place even if those responses are all in the mind of the viewer.

Below is the press release for the forthcoming exhibition at Cynon Valley Museum and Art Gallery, in Aberdare (my top tip – there’s a free bus to Tescos from the station and said supermarket is just over the road from CVMAG.)

There’ll be a whole new body of work in that exhibition and I’m hoping it’ll include some of the larger works, which won him the Gold Medal for Fine Art at last year’s National Eisteddfod.  Both venues offer interest free purchasing for original artworks, through the Arts Council’s Collectorplan Scheme and, if you’re going with some cash or your flexible friend, I strongly urge you to snap up some of Lowri Davies’  beautiful ceramics as they sell like hot cakes.

‘Gestiana’ by / gan Elfyn Lewis 13 March / Mawrth – 24 April / Ebril 2010

Cynon Valley Museum and Art Gallery, Aberdare

‘Surfaces are layered with paint that overflows, dripping. Congested, thick impasto paint has been pushed and forced to create a painting, which is also an object of desire. These paintings are layered time after time until the upper layer explodes and transforms from its volcanic creation into a vivid landscape. These are eruptions of colour and beauty intended to transfix the viewer’. Elfyn Lewis was born in Porthmadog, North Wales. His abstract paintings born of his love for the landscape of Wales and the powerful memories associated with the places depicted are distinctive and instantly recognisable. In 2009 he was the principal artist representing Wales at the Euro Celtic Art Festival, part of the Festival Interceltique the world’s largest Celtic Art’s Festival as well as being awarded the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the Meirion National Eisteddfod of Wales. He has exhibited throughout the UK and worldwide and his work is represented in both public and private collections. Brodor o Borthmadog, Gwynedd, yw Elfyn Lewis. Mae pawb yn adnabod ei weledigaeth ddihafal o’r hoff fannau sy’n ymddangos yn ei luniau. Dyma arlunydd sy’n gweu grym y cof a chariad at wedd ei gynefin gyda’i gilydd. Yn 2009, Elfyn oedd y prif arlunydd yn cynrychioli Cymru yn Arddangosfa Celfyddyd Weledol Ewro-Celtaidd. (Rhan yw hon o’r Ŵyl Ryng-Geltaidd, yr ŵyl gelfyddydau Geltaidd fwyaf yn y byd.) Yn ogystal â hyn, fe enillodd y Fedal Aur am Gelfyddyd Gain yn Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Meirion a’r Cylch, y Bala, yn 2009. Mae wedi arddangos ei waith ym mhob rhan o’r Deyrnas Unedig, ac mae casgliadau cyhoeddus a phreifat wedi prynu darluniau ganddo.