The back story
With 2021 having been designated as the year of Wales in Germany I was keen for my hometown of Abergavenny to be part of this celebration. I spent much of 2021 curating a cultural exchange between the twinned towns of Abergavenny and Östringen. Unfortunately ongoing COVID-19 uncertainties both here and in Germany caused considerable project planning issues. In the end I decided to postpone the twinning aspect of the project, and concentrate purely on an exhibition by artists and makers from Abergavenny and it’s rural hinterland.
The Hibernation project is inspired by the time when the world when to sleep. The COVID pandemic starved both artists of the opportunity to exhibit their work and the public of opportunities to visit exhibitions. The aim of the project is to satisfy both groups, by firstly bringing together and developing a cohort of contemporary artists from Abergavenny, and then by curating an exhibition of work made during this period plus a series of artist-led workshops. The Hibernators exhibition will proudly celebrate Abergavenny and it’s sense of place, and showcase the breadth and quality of contemporary art made in and around the town.
My intention was always to base the project upon a core group of professional artists and makers based in Abergavenny. Possibly unknown to the general public, the artists would be as diverse as possible, of varying ages and working in different disciplines. They would represent a snapshot of contemporary art currently made in and around the town.
With a relatively small pool to choose from, I was aided by local arts organisations and able to select a fantastic group, working across the mediums of Photography, Painting, Sculpture, Drawing, Video, ceramics and mixed media: Catherine Baker Toril Brancher David Collyer Penny Hallas Lauren Heckler Ben Jones Clare Parry-Jones David Morgan-Davies Allison Neal Rachel Tudor-Best Daniel Williams Jessica Woodrow Catherine Wynne-Paton
The exhibition entitled Hibernators will take place at the Art Shop & Chapel in the centre of Abergavenny from June 4th to July 2nd 2022.
Whilst not directly about COVID19, the exhibition will feature work made either during the associated lockdowns or inspired by those periods, or new work made as a response to work made in those periods.
Opening up the exposure to art and offering the opportunity to be involved in creativity is an important aim of the Hibernation project. I believe this should be available to all, including those often marginalised by such events. Alongside the month-long exhibition a series of artist led workshops will be run with the Papillon Art Group and the Growing Space horticulture project. Where possible both groups have been workingwith those coping with mental health issues throughout the pandemic.
The work made in these workshops will be shown in the Red Square Community Window, Abergavenny from 2 June – 2 July to coincide with the main exhibition at the Art Shop & Chapel.
The Hibernation Project is generously support by the Welsh Arts Council.
I currently have some work featured in the new journal ‘Right to Roam’, from the Inside the Outside collective. The journal is a discussion on the issues of the right to roam, and a measure of the strength of feeling and passion it arouses. It features the work of 37 photographers from around the world.
The journal features my lockdown project ‘I wander’ . Using a Fuji instant film camera, ‘I wander’ documents nine short walks made from my home in Abergavenny during the first COVID-19 lockdown. With so little to feel good about during this period, the right to roam became doubly important to me. Having recently moved to the area these short walks and discoveries allowed me to continue to explore and discover my new environment and became central to my life. For a while they became both my work, and play.
For more information and to buy a copy of the journal, go to Inside the Outside/ Publications
‘I wander’ is the result of nine short walks made from my home in Abergavenny, Wales during the COVID-19 lockdown. The initial idea was to make a series of random walks that complied with the allowed one hour restricted exercise; to walk for thirty minutes: take a picture on a Fuji instant film camera then return home, recording the route on the Ordnance Survey mapping App.
I am not alone making work during lockdown, many others were/are trying to make sense of the ‘unprecedented’ times including the Stroud based group Walking the Land, who invited me to join their Sacred Space: two metre distancing project: 21 artists in lockdown respond to “social distancing” in their various ways. Using collage, they consider what they cherish around them, what they really miss, and how their experience during the pandemic might become a call for positive change.
After making a few walks I began to think about how I might make a piece of work using the photographs and mapping data I would accumulate. Using a grid to show all the photographs and maps seemed like a logical idea, and translated nicely into nine walks. But because I ended up taking more than one picture per walk I decided to make different pieces of work to show online and in a gallery setting.
The ‘I wander’ animation/slideshow is a moving collage that documents each walk, it shows the body of work as a whole. The ‘I wander’ grid of nine scanned and annotated instant film prints above is the first work made from individual elements intended for printing and exhibition.
Gallery at Home, Llancayo Court, Usk, Monmouthshire, Wales, NP15 1HY (nr Windmill)
Moving to Abergavenny in South Wales in the summer of 2019 gave me many opportunities to develop my practise. It was exciting therefore to recently have a solo exhibition at the fantastic Gallery at Home near Usk.
The exhibition was part retrospective featuring 25 photography and video works made in the last five years, as well as new works made since moving to Wales. For the first time I was able to show many of my more experimental collages as well as straightforward landscape documentary works.
Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic cast a bit of a shadow over the exhibition run, and limited the amount of people who could visit the gallery. Sonia at Gallery at Home however was very proactive on social media and made this lovely short film to share the show with a wider audience.
I recently became a member of Shutter Hub. They’re an organisation who provide opportunities, support and networking for creative photographers worldwide. I had become quite frustrated in applying to open submission exhibitions and photo festivals, mainly due to the level of administration, cost and rejections I’d received. Shutter Hub are like a breath of fresh air in that they’re not too expensive, provide loads of opportunities to exhibit and have a really open-minded creative ethos.
So far I have exhibited in the following exhibitions:
Home at Gallery at home, Usk – an exhibition supporting homelessness charities across the UK. The exhibition showcased donated images, with all profits donated directly to Crisis uk, Shelter Cymru and Toiletries Amnesty.
‘Across the Water’ (River Severn) represents home for me. Whether living in Wales or England the bridges across the river Severn have always had a big impact on me.
For the past year myself and four other artist from BV studios in Bristol have been collaborating with artists from the city of Hannover in Germany. Inspired by the spirit of twinning the five of us enjoyed spending time and exhibiting with five German artists in Hannover last summer. Here’s a summary of the aims of the project written last year: http://davemd.co.uk/bristol-artist-exchange-program-baep-hannover/
Following a successful exhibition at the Turba Gallery in Hannover in July 2018 all ten artists come together again for a show at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol during March 2019. The work I will be showing is explored in this blog post: http://davemd.co.uk/responding-to-lyme-disease/ These works have no direct bearing on the relationship between Bristol and Hannover, more so to the concept behind the exhibition. This work is about the seen and unseen, where what you do see often hides a very different reality.
Artists: Marlene Bart, Sven-Julien Kanclerski, Catherine Knight, Robert Luzar, David Morgan-Davies, Ruth Piper, Jean D Sikiaridis, Alec Stevens, Conrad Veit, Rui Zhang.
8 – 17 March (Preview Friday eve)
6 Leonard Lane
Bristol BS1 1EA
The flyer I designed for the exhibition collages an image from Hannover with one from Bristol, both shot in woodlands in the respective cities. These seemingly ‘Wild’ places in each city have been landscaped and adapted for our leisure time. The images not only highlight the similarities between both cities and cultures rather than their differences but also emphasise that boundaries between wild and man-made, real and unreal are often blurred: Anderswo ist hier : Elsewhere is here
Over the past few years I have been caring for my daughter who has Lyme disease, who with hindsight started to become ill about ten years ago.The disease is caught by having an infected tick bite, usually carried by deer. It’s a horrible disease that attacks every system in the body, causing neurological and autonomic symptoms as well as problems with the immune system. Because everyone is different, we all have our weaknesses, therefore aside from general Chronic Fatigue each person has their own set of health issues to deal with. This means there is no set means of treating Lyme.
My own work comes from personal experiences of landscape, primarily in the UK. In response to my daughters ongoing battle with the disease I have been re-thinking how I see the places and elements that have a specific significance to her story.
Frustrated by lack of understanding and support from the medical establishment, my daughter embarked on a course of treatment at a private hospital in Hertfordshire. Whilst staying nearby I spent some time walking small sections of the The Ridgeway National Trail. This piece is made using an image taken close to Ivinghoe Beacon, collaged with the Borrelia bacteria photographed under a microscope. The virus is everywhere, yet unseen.
My daughter remembers being bitten by a tick in Ashton Court Estate whilst still at school. At that time we knew nothing about the dangers of tick bites or of Lyme disease. The piece collages the location where she was bitten, the Deer park nearby and again the Borrelia bacteria. That moment created a fissure in my daughters life and family life in general; a fissure that continues to widen.
I see you – Video (6 mins) (2017)
Using an Infrared (IR) camera the film captures the tentative and intimate nocturnal wanderings of wild deer, but also the voids where no deer were seen. I am torn between being in awe of the beauty and secrecy of these animals and feelings of anger at how unwittingly they spread such a dreadful disease.
The artworks I have made don’t aim to give any answers, as I have none, but merely to raise awareness of the hidden danger of Lyme. I will continue to add to the body of work as and when we hit milestones in the path of my daughters recovery.
For more information on Lyme disease, please visit the Lyme Disease UK website
Although my work is often described as having a painterly quality, I have long had the desire to be able to emphasise this aspect through more hand-crafted printing techniques rather than through digital manipulation. With this in mind I have just finished a short 5 week course at Spike Print Studio in Bristol with Master printer Martyn Grimmer. This course focussed on Cyanotype and Gum Bichromate tri-colour printing.
Using digital negatives printed onto film and a UV light box, images are built up layer by layer by repeatedly exposing the same piece of paper covered with a) Cyanotype chemicals for the blue layer and b) a combination of Gum Arabic and Dichromate for the Yellow, Magenta & Black layers. With washing and drying the paper between applications it’s quite a slow and complicated process, requiring some patience! With time permitting colours can be repeated and new ones introduced.
Here are the results:
After doing a number of residencies over the past few years and having recently bought a caravan, it seemed like the time was right to curate my own residencies i.e. to spend time in an area of my choosing at a time that suited me; to immerse myself in this location and to think about making new work. My first trip in October 2018 took me to the village of Llanvetherine, 10 miles from Abergavenny on the edge of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales.
To focus on my artwork for a week, to explore, to walk, to photograph, to film
To re-energise my creativity
To be in and re-connect with Wales. Llanvetherine is about 20 miles from Ystrad Mynach where I come from and the same distance from Newport where my family lived in the late 1960’s.
Borders – I was keen to explore the border between Wales and England and photograph any visual evidence of there being such a divide. This was as much about me as the actual landscape, having come from Wales but spending most of my life in England. I did walk some of Offa’s Dyke and the Three Castles (White, Grosmont and Skenfrith) built by the Normans soon after the invasion of 1066. I discovered the border ran along parts of the River Monnow and photographed both sides.
As ever it is the location where I stay and explore daily where I ultimately find inspiration. My time in Llanvetherine was no different. In this case it was an orchard in the grounds where I was staying. The Orchard needed some care and attention, but seemed to perfectly reflect the time of year, the Autumn light and colours of the apples and trees combining to hint at the perfect summer now faded and gone. I spent time in the space reflecting, and felt like injecting some my energy, so decided to play. Here’s the result:
Elsewhere is here : Anderswo ist hier is the first exhibition to come out of the artist exchange between artists from Hannover and Bristol; the background to which I’ve written about here. Whilst aiming to challenge the assumption that engagements with others needn’t grow evermore distant, the project aims for a playful yet critical reflection on current times. In response to the cultural and artistic exchange around place, proximity, self and other 10 artists from the two cities present new work at the Turba Gallery in Linden, Hannover.
Alec Stevens (Sculpter) – https://www.alecstevens.co.uk
Catherine Knight (Painter) – http://www.catherineknight.com
Robert Luzar (Site-specific performance) – http://www.robertluzar.com
Ruth Piper (Painter/Curator) – http://ruthpiper.com
David Morgan-Davies (lens-based) – http://davemd.co.uk
Based at the Turba Gallery in the Linden district of Hannover
Conrad Veit(Film/Video installation)
Jean Sikiaridis (Performance / installation)
Marlene Bart (Print-Graphic scientific illustration)
Sven-Julien Kanclerski (Physical structures/installation)
Rui Zhang (Painter)