Category Archives: Art

SWAPS – Photographs from the David Hurn Collection at the National Museum of Wales by Roger Barrington

A new photography gallery has been introduced at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, and to launch it, an exhibition of photographs from the vast David Hurn Collection is on display.

Thomas Babington Macaulay, the eminent British historian and politician, when referring to John Milton wrote, ‘[his words] are words of enchantment. No sooner are they pronounced, than the past is present and the distant near… and all the burial-places of memory give up their dead’. The same could be applied to documentary photography and its cousin photojournalism.

We all know that memory plays tricks. At 9.15. am on 21st October 1966, a huge piece of water-saturated debris accumulated from a century’s heap of coal spoil, descended upon Pantglas Junior School and other buildings in the Welsh village of Aberfan. In the aftermath, 116 children and 28 adults had perished, victims initially of the greed and indifference of the original mine owners, and latterly, the National Coal Board.

As a ten-year old boy, (the same age as many of the victims), this had, and continues to have, a profound influence on me. “There by the grace of God” is an appropriate thought. At the exact time of the disaster, I was seated in my classroom, safe and sound in an environment that all children should feel at school, only separated by the Brecon Beacons from Aberfan. I remember passing through Aberfan the following evening, returning from Cardiff, and seeing the floodlights set up for the rescuers in an ever-diminishing sense of hope of pulling out any of the victims alive. Was it my mother, or a friend of my mother’s, who came across an obviously distressed elderly lady in recon market, who after enquiring if she was alright, said that her granddaughter was a young student at that school. The unreliability of memory.

David Hurn, an established 32-year old documentary photographer at the time,  felt that he had to be there. Not only to capture the scene, but to try and portray the anger felt by so many, as to why this tragedy occurred.

 The sombre scene, heightened by the grim realism of using back and white film, gives a very strong message. Two schoolfriends look down at the scene of the disaster, with, (possibly the elder one) having his arm placed around the other. Are they brothers? Are they classmates of some of the victims, coming to terms with the realisation that they won’t ever see their friends again? Does it also show the strong bond of community, prevalent in the Valleys of South Wales to this day? An “us against the world” mentality, which would be a very suitable and understandable feeling after what had happened here. Is this a spontaneous photograph, or did David Hurn set it up as a composition? Documentary photographers rarely do this, so I would expect Mr. Hurn to answer in the negative. Does it really matter if he did, because for me, it neither degrades or elevates the power of this photograph. How can the viewer look at it, in terms of memory? Possibly as a revenant, a ghost-like spirit returning to this exact time and place, or as a stranger, going back to an area that he/she once knew, but alienated from it through the passage of time and physical difference to the landscape?

At this point, I should point out that this photograph does NOT appear in the exhibition currently on display at the National Museum of Wales. David Hurn, although born in Redhill in Surrey, eight two years ago, is considered to be a Welsh photographer. Brought up in Cardiff, as a young boy he paid a considerable amount of time visiting the Art Galley of this wonderful museum, and it left a very strong mark on him, because earlier this year, he donated two fabulous collections. The one, amounting to around 1,500 of his own work and the other, the subject of this exhibition, prints that he had swapped with other photographers whose work he admires. The photograph above does from part of the donated body of his own work, and I enquired with Bronwen Colquhoun, the recently appointed Senior Curator of the Photograph Department at the NMW, as to whether, at some time, it will be on display, and she answered in the affirmative. The reason why it appears in this review is to hopefully illustrate how powerful an image of documentary photography can be. All other photographs that appear here, do form part of the exhibition.

The display is located in one large room and is set up in such a way, (although it is not readily apparent to the viewer unless they are very well acquainted with David Hurn’s collection of swaps), that it forms a logical pattern.

The starting point should be a photograph that David Hurn, as an unknown photographer acquired from the already famous Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain. David was photographing pigeons at Trafalgar Square in London in 1958, when he was approached by another photographer doing the same thing. This photographer turned out to be Larrain, someone who David hugely admired at that time, and continued to do so, after forging a strong friendship, until the Chilean’s death in 2012. David couldn’t believe his luck. Not only did he gain the opportunity to meet one of his idols. Sergio was very complimentary about the way that he was going about taking his photographs. Over a coffee, Sergio told David that he felt that he had a future ahead as a professional photographer, but he felt a little skeptical, as he preferred to capture everyday life rather than important newsworthy events. After admiring some prints that Sergio had taken, he was given some of them as a gift, a very unusual occurrence at that time. So, this is where what has become a collection second to none, and valued at over three and a half million pounds.

SERGIO LARRAINE – ‘From the Monument

‘A Los Dos Congresos’

Buenos Aires 1957-58

The question as to whether the result is either a spontaneous shot or contrived, doesn’t come into question with the next photograph that I am referring to, that is, unless they super-glued the bird’s feet to the ground.

ELLIOTT ERWITT -Florida Keys 1968

Erwitt is known for his ironic and absurdist photographs and the humour in this photograph is there for everyone to see. It illustrates the opportunistic nature and photographer’s eye to perfection.

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON -Henri Matisse in his studio with his doves, 1944

Henri Cartier-Bresson is regarded as one of the great photographer in history of candid shots. In the next photograph, we see such a print of the French modernist artist Henri Matisse, holding and surrounded by doves. The peace and tranquility that Cartier-Bresson captures is almost poetic.

It used to be considered for a photographer to sign his work, a rather pompous act of self-grandeur. This print has a dedication, “for David H l’ami Henri C-B” a method sometimes used to get around this signature problem.  Cartier-Bresson was another photography who David greatly admires. When the Frenchman visited David’s flat to view some of his prints, it was almost if God himself had walked in, he recollects in a filmed interview.

As David’s fame increases, he became braver in asking photographers to swap prints. This is exactly what he did when he approached Dorothy Lange on a trip to the US. Lange you may know, is famous for her “dust bowl” photographs taken in the American Prairies at the height of the Great Depression. Her iconic photography “Migrant Mother”, perhaps more than any other image, eipitomises this period of American history, also immortalized in John Steinbeck’s, “The Grapes of Wrath”.

DOROTHEA LANGE – White Angel Breadline San Francisco, 1932

The grimness of this time is captured in this photograph that Dorothy swapped with David. You see a shabbily dress middle-aged man, (maybe wearing his only clothes) facing the camera and a group of other men turned the other way around. The man is clutching a mug. Could this be his only procession? The photograph gives the impression of resigned hopelessness. The other figures possibly representing how society has turned its back on the subject of this image.

As you enter the room, if you turn your attention to the left side wall, you will see a small group of photographs that represent photographers who started out the same time as David trying to establish themselves in a highly competitive market. These people and David used to get together in coffee bars in London in the 1950’s and offer critical opinion, and offer support to one another. The photos on view represent the work of John Bulmer, Patrick Ward, Ian Berry, Philip Jones Griffiths and Sir Don McCullin.

 

JOHN BULMER -Untitled from the Series North, 1960’s

On the Internet, this colour photograph has a different title “Woman Hanging out Washing) Tipton. This town is Halifax.

 

PATRICK WARD – Blackpool 1960’s or 1970’s

October in Blackpool, and sheltering on the Golden Mile from the wind among Deckchairs

This photograph taken on a windy day in October with the waves crashing in and a deck chair attendant taking shelter from the wind by surrounding himself with his hirable goods reading a book. Blackpool pier is in the background. Is there anywhere more desolate than a British seaside resort out of season? For that matter, in season also! Ward captures this feeling, and you can’t help wondering, why is this man bothering? Perhaps he has no choice.

IAN BERRY -New Year’s Eve at Trafalgar Square 1960

The pursed lips of the young lady in the foreground asks, is she just about to do the kissing or is she waiting for her partner to kiss her.

Berry was the only photographer to capture the massacre at Sharpeville, but here we see him capturing an intimate scene in happier times.

PHILIP JONES GRIFFITHS -Vietnam, 1967

This image shows a Vietnamese woman tagged with the designation VNC (Vietnamese civilian). This powerful photograph suggests to me the degradation and reduction of the value of humanity, labelling in such a way that you might do with a suitcase or an exhibit in a museum. Jones Griffiths, a fellow Welsh photographer made his name covering the Vietnam War.

SIR DON MCCULLIN – Biafra 1968

This poignant photograph shows a young twenty-four-year-old woman with a suckling baby who is looking for milk that she can’t obviously provide through the emaciated condition.

David comments on this photograph by describing this woman’s dignity of expression. You feel that if anyone can get through this and come out on the right side, then she is that woman. He also compliments the skill of his friend Don by saying that the trust that the subject has for the photographer is exemplified by the fact that she is looking directly at the photographer, allowing such an intimate portrait to be taken.

In 1965, David was asked to apply for membership of Magnum Photographs. This commercial body was founded in Paris in 1947. Among the co-founders were Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capra. The latter you may recall took arguably the most powerful image of war, “The Falling Soldier” taken during the Spanish Civil War. Capra, whose life was tragically cut short at the age of 40, when he stepped on a land-mine during the First Indochina War, in 1954 swapped this photo with David.

ROBERT CAPRA – French woman who has had a baby fathered by a German soldier, being marched through the streets after being punished by having her head shaved. Chartres, France 1944

What struck me about this photograph is the stark image of the baby, tenderly being held by this mother, on contrast to the hatred and derision of the crowds. Innocence the Baby versus.  War -Hatred as a result of conflict.

MAGNUM PHOTOS

Magnum Photos is still flourishing today and provides a marketplace for photographers who was members to sell their work. It also, according to Cartier-Bresson is “ Magnum is a community of thought, a shared human quality, a curiosity about what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to transcribe it visually”. The criteria for membership is strictly enforced and passes through two stages – Associate and Full Membership. David became an Associate member in 1965 and a full member two years later.

As you enter the exhibition, you are greeted by a huge number of photographs, all taken by members of Magnum Photos. Photographers such as Eve Arnold, Martin Parr, Peter Marlow and Thomas Hoepker to name a few.

EVE ARNOLD A Baby’s first five minutes, 1959

The stark black background accentuates the tender and intimate touching of a baby’s tiny fragile hand. A photograph that touchingly shows the unique bond between mother and child.

MARTIN PARR – New Brighton 1983-86

Martin Parr, another long-term friend of David, took a set of photographs depicting the Wirral seaside resort of New Brighton, once a prominent location for day-trippers and tourists to the town, now in a state of decline, but still having an active scene.

PETER MARLOW -David Beckham London, 1999

A candid photograph of a relaxed looking David Beckham at the height of his pomp.

 THOMAS HOEPKER – Andy Warhol in his ‘Factory’Union Square 1981

One of a set of quirky photographs taken in NYC of this iconic subject.

TEACHING

In 1973, David turned to teaching and founded the School of Documentary Photography in Newport, Gwent. A section to the right of the room is dedicated to some of his students who were able to forge successful careers in photography. A photograph that particularly interested me is by Abergavenny-born Sue Packer and adorns the cover image of her publication, “Cheltenham Ladies – A Portrait of Cheltenham Ladies College.

SUE PACKER – Cheltenham Ladies, 1984

There are no smiling adolescent young ladies here. In fact, you could almost accuse them of being sullen in some instances. Is this a statement of the difficult road ahead of them, possibly as females when setting out on their careers? Cheltenham Ladies College is one of the most prestigious public school institutions for girls in England.  Does their privileged backgrounds account for their provocative expresses? Could it be a sexual provocation? It is an intriguing photograph and not difficult to see why it has been the subject of a David Hurn swap.

David’s reputation is such nowadays that to be asked to swap a photograph with him, is a testament to your own arrival as a photographer of renown.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVID HURN IN THE EXHIBITION

Although the exhibition is not about photographs that David Hurn took himself, Bronwen  Colquhoun managed to persuade him to include three of then. In order to tie in with the theme of the exhibition, these photographs are the ones that David is asked to swap himself.

Taken from Arizona Trip, a forthcoming publication, (November 2017), of a collection of photographs that David took at the back end of the 1970’s in that state. The photograph captures a landscape that will be eradicated when building developers move in shortly after it was taken.

SUMMARY

This magnificent collection of 700 + swaps, many which are presented in this exhibition is a remarkable coup for the National Museum of Wales. In his own words, David says that he only would donate these collections if the NMW started its own dedicated gallery for photography. Photograph galleries are a relatively recent feature, beginning in the late 1960’s as purely commercial enterprises. Galleries in terms of providing a viewing platform for the pleasure and education of the viewers came later, but it is still a little surprising that it has taken the NMW so long to set up its own gallery. Bronwen Colquhoun says that the intention is for exhibitions to change at roughly six-monthly intervals and drawn from a rich treasury of photographs showing Welsh cultural, historical, industrial and social life. The David Hurn Swaps Collection is the perfect instrument to kick-start this important new feature at the National Museum of Wales.

5 Stars5 / 5

On from now to 11 March 2018

Admission: Free

Venue: National Museum of Wales

Suitability: All

David Hurn will be conducting a talk about the Collection at the museum on the 20th October 2017. Admission is free, but I have been informed that it is advisable to book now to avoid disappointment as demand has been very high.

FURTHER INFORMATION

© Ffoton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hLCisOI0Xw

https://museum.wales/blog/2017-05-17/Magnum-photographerDavid-Hurn-donates-his-photography-collections-to-AmgueddfaCymru-National-Museum-Wales/

 

 

Review of “From Bacon to Doig” at the National Museum of Wales by Roger Barrington.

4 Stars4 / 5

A small, but important exhibition of 20th Century British  art is currently on display at the National Museum of Wales.

Ian and Mercedes Stoutzker have lent works of art from their impressive collection of 20th Century artists and sculptors. Works by many of the greatest British names appears here including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth and David Hockney.
Ian Stoutzker, a successful businessman, decided to loan the works because of his connection to Wales, through his mother. She was a music teacher from Tredegar and spent all of her young life there.
When I hear my mother’s accent I say ‘I’m back in Wales’, because that was my background and she never lost her love of Wales, which she passed on to me. I looked like my mother as a boy, and I am my mother and she lives through me. And I know the contentment she would have that I share her love of the country.
It is a small exhibition only occupying  one gallery. However, when looking at any Collection, it is fascinating to see how it has evolved, which Mercedes informs us was from a very modest sum of available money. The downside is that it is also, inevitably, a very narrow selection of diversity.
A selection of the exhibits on view  are as follows :-

Grayson Perry – “World Leaders Attend the Marriage of Alan Measles and Clare Perry” Glazed Terracotta 2009.

Alan Measles being the name of his childhood toy teddy-bear and Clare, his transvestite alter-ego. Perry likes to place Alan Measles as a political banner, and you can notice the inclusion of Euro political figures such as Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and others gather round for a wedding in a manner recalling earlier Christian iconography.

R.B. Kitaj – “Still – The Other Woman” 1973 Oil on Canvas

Kitaz was an American artist, who spent much of his creative live in England. He had a significant influence on British Pop Art.

Francis Bacon – “Portrait of Henrietta Moraes” 1966 Oil on Canvas

 

 

Francis Bacon’s naked 1966 portrait of his friend Henrietta Moraes lying on a bed with her feet towards us, her face an ape-like mask, her flesh blackened in places as if by disease, is a masterpiece of disturbing decadence. (The Guardian Review online).

Ben Nicholson – “Still Life – Violin” 1932

 

Finally, my personal favourite on display :-

Peter Doig – “Untitled” 2001-2002

The low resolution reproduction here, doesn’t do justice to the vibrancy of the flowers in the foreground and the austere icy setting behind it.  The Scottish artist’s work regularly sell at auction for over ten million USD, and compared to a lot of work that passes as art in the 21st century, it is not difficult to see why.

“From Bacon to Doig” is a major exhibition of 20th Century British Art, not only in the Welsh cultural scene, but on the world stage. Indeed, it has been mentioned that it is the most important collection of art to have been exhibited at the National Museum of Wales, since the celebrated Davies sisters show of French Impressionist works back in the 1940s’.

For those who are not particularly interested in the narrow taste of the Collection,  you may come away slightly underwhelmed due to it’s relatively small size and limited diversity of taste.  For devotees of 20th Century British Art, then this is an exhibition not to be missed.

Combined with the Peter Hurn “Swaps” exhibition located in a nearby gallery, this could amount to an unforgettable half-day visit at the National Museum of Wales

Admission: Free

Runs from now to the 31st January 2018

Links

https://museum.wales/cardiff/whatson/9390/Bacon-to-Doig-Modern-Masterpieces-from-a-Private-Collection/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-39006591 – Video

There is a talk on the exhibition at the National Museum of Wales on 17 November 2017 –  admission free. The event commences at 13: 05 and you can book upon arrival to attend.

Would you like to join us for a creative conversation?

 

Image credit: Barbara Lavelle

Would you like to join us for a creative conversation?
Saturday, 23rd September, Central Cardiff.
We welcome your thoughts & insights, and value your opinions.
You are invited to join us LIVE in Cardiff at 2.30 – 4.30pm GMT
or on FB Live at 14.30 – 16.30 GMT; 09.30 – 11.30 EST; 06.30-08.30 PST. 

Dress Code: Up to you. 
RSVP (Places are limited)   

Purposefully, I deconstructed our activities and found creative listening rose to the top of our raw materials. The critiquing and response to Arts and Culture requires sharp and sensitive listening first and foremost.  

                             

We are thrilled to bring you Wales’ first Hot Tub salon. The topic: Creative Listening. Brought to you by Get The Chance, delivered by Third Act Critics, and presented as part of the Gwanwyn Festival of Creativity for Older People in Wales, funded by Wales Government and the Arts Council of Wales.

Creative Listening follows Advantage of Age’s successful season of hot tub salons in London. A of A received funding from Arts Council of England and were recently featured in The Sunday Times  and is, for all intents and purposes, the launch of Advantages of Age Wales. Thanks to Suzanne Noble from Advantages of Age for her support.

The event is also partnered with NYC-based producer Jonathan Pillot, who will launch the NYC Advantages of Age on Sunday, 17 September. If you’re in NYC, all the details are here Thanks to Jonathan for his support, too.

I took inspiration from his project Listening to America in the run-up to the US Presidential Election. Pillot took a Studs Terkel-esque road trip and produced a series of unscripted interviews with real people in the uneasy weeks running up to the November 2017 election. The election campaign really split opinions in the USA; at the same time BREXIT was splitting opinions in the UK. It left me pondering on the necessity of listening as a critical tool to progressing big ideas and forging change. I endorse promoting big ideas and forging change, and I believe in doing so by starting in a small, slow and steady fashion. I sensed a Listening to Wales project would be a powerful way to reach people here. Creative Listening is a small step in that direction.

Advantages Of Age’s hot tub salons were set up ‘as a platform to curate and host a series of performance salons incorporating an array of creatives united in their refusal to ‘grow old gracefully’ and to challenge the mainstream narrative of age. The events featured an array of creatives celebrating alternative narratives of age through creativity, querying, and rebelliousness.’  Creative Listening echoes those sentiments and explains why we are getting into a hot tub here in Cardiff, Wales.

I do not have a degree in Listening; I am not an expert in the field. But I am a human being — who has lived on this planet for 50+ years. For that reason alone, I believe that I and those others who fall into that broad category, have something to offer a conversation on listening.

To put a finer point on it, I have trained and studied performing arts and worked in the creative industries and the media throughout my life and career. Purposefully, I deconstructed Get The Chance’s activities and found creative listening rose to the top of our raw materials. The critiquing of and responding to Arts and Culture requires sharp and sensitive listening first and foremost.

We will be a gathering of human beings investing a few hours on a Saturday afternoon in September sitting in and around a hot tub exploring what creative listening means. I hope it doesn’t sound too banal. If it does sound banal to you, and you can’t be bothered to actually be there, perhaps you will check it out on the FB Live stream, and join us that way. That would be less of an investment in time and effort, so perhaps you will get something out of it via this alternative option.

I am excited by it. If you are excited by it, too, but cannot make it on the day, you can join us on the FB Live Stream, from anywhere. Hosted by Advantages of Age, the FB Live Stream will enable you to stay dry and still participate. Your contributions will be welcomed and valued, and our social media monitor will be sharing as many of your views as possible.

JOIN THE CREATIVE LISTENING FB PAGE AND WATCH FOR DETAILS ON HOW TO JOIN THE EVENT VIA LIVE STREAMING.

When I conceived of the idea for an event called Creative Listening, I thought I’d made the term up. I had no idea that there were so many different types of ‘listening’ out there, including ‘creative’, which had already been coined. ‘Creative’ I found was only one of a number of nouvelle and trendy labels for this very primitive activity. Other labels such as Deep Listening and Active Listening indicate that what might previously have been considered passive was being re-evaluated and now required energy, (the definition of active is ‘ready to engage in physically energetic pursuits’) and was making a profound impact (the definition of deep is ‘very intense or extreme’).

I was motivated by the amount of relevant material I was finding on this topic, and I knew that there was much to explore. Whilst working on the event, I was further motivated by the realisation that creative listening has a strong relevance to other themes I am inspired by and a synergy with other projects I am working on. If they are fusing together it has to be more than a coincidence. It is more likely because it is meant to be.

A final word about Get The Chance. I’ve really enjoyed and benefitted from being a Third Act Critic and being associated with Get The Chance for a number of years now. When I left my full-time career in the creative industries (for personal reasons) at the turn of the century, I did not realise it would be so difficult to return and especially to return with the status I had worked so hard to achieve. There is something very wonderful about being given a chance. There is something very powerful in a community-based social enterprise that supports you to get a platform to do what you really want to do. That there is a mutual benefit, and that the rewards are reciprocal, is even more rewarding.

Leslie R Herman
Producer
9 September 2017

Review: King Cetshwayo, The Musical, Theatr Brycheiniog by Helen Joy

4 Stars4 / 5

 

The opening night of any performance is usually pretty interesting This was something else. A royal visit, the hands of conciliation shaking across the decades, the welcome of the Welsh to the Zulus, the acknowledgement of the times past and present with no apology.

I cannot say that it was a comfortable feeling in the room when the British role in the taking of Zululand was portrayed. The massacre of British forces at Rorke’s Drift promptly followed by the razing of the villages and the kidnapping of the King. An unrecorded conversation between Queen Victoria and King Cetshwayo and his return to South Africa.

Some of us in the audience dared to laugh at what that conversation may have comprised, given the dear Queen’s proclivities! This lightened an otherwise confused response to a musical storytelling which did not portray our Empirical desires in a good light. But a portrayal generous enough to acknowledge the bravery of soldiers on either side. Bold enough to openly regard a mutual respect for the field of battle and conquest.

Beautiful in its dance scenes, fearsome in its warring, acute in its narration – comic in its mimicry of the gun-carrying redcoats. The skin-prickling returning cries of warriors in the audience. The poet. The costumes. The toe-tapping music. The beat. The heat.

This was a slightly chaotic, slightly shambolic, utterly brilliant rendering of a terrible business all round.

A theatre packed with dignitaries and artists; and the men stand for the Queen. A queen surrounded by family and protected by warriors. Splendid and significant, she spoke of their visit as an advance party whose report back would determine any subsequent visit by the King. I get that. This is not easy political fayre.

Dorcas Cresswell and her team should be applauded for their efforts in bringing these extraordinary and important events together in ways accessible to all of us. It was refreshing not to hear apology for events long past but acknowledgement; commemoration not dismissal. Art and theatre expressing easily subjects otherwise difficult to discuss openly.

I hope I shall never forget seeing Zulu warriors hop on a bus in central Brecon. I have a feeling I might not be alone in this. Never underestimate the impact of a well-placed assegai.

As part of this series of events you can still catch the event below

Now – end of October: Sibanye – Brecon Welcomes the Zulu’s!

Free, non-ticketed exhibition in the Andrew Lamont Gallery, top floor of Theatr Brycheiniog.

An exhibition of photographs that were taken during a visit in January 2017 to KwaZulu-Natal by five members of The Friends of The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, Brecon.

The visit was by invitation of KwaCulture – an organisation based in Durban and the visit coincided with the annual commemoration of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift which took place in January 1879.

The exhibition is part of the King Cetshwayo 135th Celebrations in Wales, August 2017 that has been organised by The Friends of The Royal Welsh Regimental Museum in partnership with KwaCulture and Maluju Charity.

The Andrew Lamont Gallery is open during Theatr opening hours and is fully accesable via the lift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review All About My Tits, Chapter Arts Centre by Helen Joy

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

All about my Tits

I know Anna, a bit. We worked together briefly in a local charity supporting people receiving mental health services. We stayed in touch as she moved her career into the arts. I interviewed her on Radio Cardiff about this play. Her play. Her life. Her tits.

Anyone thinking this was going to be about anyone else’s tits is mistaken. Any social-political commentary is suggestive rather than overt, Anna is her own one woman treatise on the elastic line between tit and breast, sexual objects and milk bar.

I really like the atmosphere as we walk in to take our seats. The room is dark, girls are dancing, pop is playing, pictures of breasts various on the screen.  White Russians are handed out. Not sure we get the significance yet. Much clearer when the breast milk samples are offered ’round later in the performance.

The dancing girls insinuate themselves into the audience. Hecklers and fighters for the views of others on breastfeeding as it progresses. A messy milky fight for rights.

It is a monologue of Anna’s experiences, a voyage ’round her breasts from girlhood to adulthood to motherhood and beyond. She refers to her book, diary perhaps, along the way. Stories are started, we are left to draw our own conclusions.

Anna uses her heckling dancers to good effect. A male heckler is used to make the point that it is not a show for titillation, ‘though Anna is fearless and shares her body appropriately and willingly and with a gentle self-deprecating humour.

Now. Here’s the thing. I haven’t had children and frankly, I don’t know much about tits as mother nature never felt much inclined towards generosity in that department.

This is a play about Anna’s tits. I have no idea what she is talking about for most of the time. I can see that the audience loves it – mostly women, mostly women with children I would assume, they are nodding in agreement and laughing with Anna throughout. She relates back. It is very nicely done.

Anna is sharing the intimate details of her life and most of the women, and a few men, are with her. Laughing with the relief of their own confusion, pain, embarrassments and pleasures being given air-time.

The atmosphere becomes heady with love for Anna, for her honesty, for the sisterhood. But I am lost.

I am sitting next to another woman equally detached from the proceedings. We want to love her too but we can’t. We are not part of this. But we admire her, enormously.

Afterwards, by invitation, the foyer is full of women signing the cartoon tits laid out on tables, they are groupies waiting for their heroine, their voice, to join them. Something powerful is happening here.

The clue was in the title. This is a brave, funny, honest autobiography and like many things we don’t quite like, don’t quite understand, it will stay with me far longer than anything I have enjoyed more.  It made me think about the changing roles of the breast in society and in nature. It made me slightly jealous.

PS typing this has been annoyingly tricky as predictive/corrective text replaces TITS with TITUS, BREASTS with BEASTS. Says it all really.

Seen: Friday, 7th July, 2017

Venue: Chapter Arts, Cardiff

Reviewer: Helen Joy for Get the Chance

Performer, producer, director, writer: Anna Suschitsky

 

https://www.chapter.org/all-about-my-tits

 

 

An Interview with photographer Nigel Pugh

Hi Nigel great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I’ve been a practicing artist for twenty four years, concentrating solely on photography for the last seven years.  I was born in Mid Wales the woods and rivers that surrounded me were my playground, place of solace and exploration. I absorbed the wildlife and it’s nature, whilst intuitively responding to the ever-shifting light upon the abundant textures and landscapes. During eighteen years of living in Mid Wales I began to note the ecology dwindling, and left wondering, why? Forty years on I estimate that 80% of the river ecology alone, has disappeared.

I went to Art College to study photography, typography and illustration. Four years later I returned to Wales to build and run a successful arts business in Cardiff. I became a father to two lovely children then returned to explore environmental and social themes in an attempt to seek answers to unresolved questions. Photography appeared to me as a modest way to retain a little bit of an ephemeral state; a record of what has been lost, to be lost, or regained.  I began to explore my photography practice as my part to play in the promotion of living within environmental constraints and the promotion of a more sustainable, symbiotic relationship with nature, the promotion of a more socially equitable society. I chiefly focus on environmental and social themes; the actions, narratives, interactions of individuals and their relation to their environment and community. I have sought to promote sustainable community resilience, to live within environmental constraints. My nature photography usually documents and promotes native ecology and the worth of its reinstatement. Over many years I have campaigned for, promoted and supported many environmental organisations, that adhere to the above principles.

So what got you interested in the arts and specifically photography?

My fathers relationship with us was often via a lens, he was a very good photographer. We had several family albums in our home, since I can remember, when at the family home they would always be poured over. I loved the documentation, the relationship with moment, place, time and people. I was always praised for my art work, never imagined doing anything else. The hardest thing was settling on a medium. Even though photography was part of my degree, it took having children and being a full time dad to return to this medium. I never liked the blank canvas, although I have created, sold, exhibited, both 3D work and illustration. Photography re engaged my sense of community, took away the blank canvas, fitted perfectly with my social and environmental campaigning and activism. Initially as a medium of evidence, then increasingly as a component part of story telling, socially engaged arts practice, given over to creating positive change.

As part of Refugee Week you are currently showing at Wales Millennium Centre with an exhibition called ‘Creating Sanctuary’ can you tell us more?

‘Creating Sanctuary’ identified human commonalities of purpose, work, security of home, family, friends, community, creativity, camaraderie, healing, sharing loss and grief. The subjects sort shared the commonality of volunteering their time to working with refugees. Refugees, whoever they are and regardless of where they are from, have had their basic human requirements wholly or partly removed. Creating Sanctuary recognises and illustrates the core human requirements that volunteers, or the ‘sanctuary makers’ are assisting to recreate and reinstate. The exhibition was co-ordinated to coincide with Volunteers’ Week and Refugee Week and my hope was that the project will encourage others to accept and assist in the integration of refugees in Wales, and lead to increased voluntary action; to further Wales’ journey in becoming a ’Nation Of Sanctuary’. The exhibition features six volunteers that have worked with refugees in different ways, from right around Wales. Three portraits of each, loosely based on the themes of, voluntary work, home and community. These portraits are then followed by quotes extracted from written responses to seven questions that I asked of the volunteers before taking their portraits.

“I have held a teenage girl while she cried for her mother who she will probably never see again and heard women speak in hushed tones of their past that they struggle to share even with women who suffered the same. These people are just people, alone in a new place, they are professionals, students, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers.”

Catrin – The Birth Partner Project

Barry & Cardiff, South Wales.

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/350509/350514/

Link to an audio interview with Nigel on FFoton.

https://www.ffoton.wales/interviews/2016/5/nigel-pugh

‘Get the Chance’ works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists or audiences? 

The Arts Council; I feel is doing its best in ‘out reach’ and ensuring accessibility to all. It will always be extremely difficult to cover all bases, due to cost. All Arts Council funded Arts Centres should do their utmost to reach into disenfranchised, or non-engaged, disadvantaged communities.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

If I were to wave a creative wand, it would create ‘creative hubs’ central to all constituencies. These hubs would have affordable co working spaces, and would house access to facilities to deliver a wide range of the ‘creative arts’. Many a creative is born from a bedroom with an online connection, a computer, and the related software to be able to explore, learn, create and deliver. This access should not be a privilege. Think ’Creative Arts Youth Centres’

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers? 

In all honesty, I barely have time to see enough of the Arts from right across Wales. I am usually tied up with what I am trying to achieve, whilst parenting two children. What does excite me is, if all had the realisation that where ever you are from in Wales if you raise your voice Welsh politics is extremely touchable. If you work together we can create more localised viable economies which include the Arts as a vocation, as being viable, without having to permanently move to a city region. Or if you wished to return to your birth town with your acquired skills it is an option.

Days of Melancholy © Tatiana Vinogradova

As a photographer living in Cardiff I was lucky enough to be included in the ‘diffusion festival’. The exhibition or works that touched me the most within ‘diffusion’ was Tatiana Vinogradova’s ‘Days of Melancholy’ a series focusing on the life of gay people in Russia. Works such as this strongly illustrate the relative freedoms that we do have in Wales to express and be, whoever we wish to be; this should be a right, again, not a privilege.

Lastly, the best things that I have experienced of late on a personal level, were 1) being awarded an Arts Council Grant, 2) getting to work with caring compassionate people from across Wales, 3) completing a project and seeing it on the walls of the Wales Millennium Centre, 4) how positively ‘Creating Sanctuary’ has been received.

It was a journey, that I fully intended to extend further, but whole heartedly not just for my own wellbeing, as my photography is not separate to my activism, or to who I am.

http://www.nigelpugh.co.uk/-/galleries/social-documentary/creating-santuary-final

nigelpugh.co.uk

Nigel gives an overview of the images from ‘Creating Sanctuary’

The Portrayal of Muslims In the Media, A Personal Response from Amina Elmi

 

Diversity in the media is already a huge issue that is still largely unsolved. As a Muslim, I have found that Muslims are often neglected from talks about diversity. This article aims to start a discussion on why this is and what needs to be done. Even the smallest gradual change will make a difference and will celebrate Britain as a multi-cultural nation.

In the media, we see Muslims play the role of terrorist number 3, speaking in a foreign tongue to intimidate the viewer. Many television shows and films are guilty of this. It’s tiring, stereotypical and only helps to further Islamophobia rhetoric. If that is the only version of Muslims people see, then it is no wonder that people harbour such negative views to a religion they know little about expect from what the media has shown them. Bigotry flourishes in this environment which is why change is required now more than ever.

As well as spreading prejudiced views, it is also giving the younger generation of Muslims the idea that they do not belong. With little to no representation it leaves young Muslims to perceive that the there is no play for them in the media industry. By excluding them, a whole narrative is missing, a unique perspective that won’t be shared. Yes, anyone can write a Muslim character or play one, but they will not be able to understand the unique British Muslim experience. It’s a whole generation of young people only seeing negative portrayals of themselves and accepting that’s how society sees them.

The solution? Muslims in influential roles such as directors and producers. Perhaps most crucially writers. Muslim writers have the ability to write from their own experiences that would resonate to not just Muslim viewers but to everyone. We have far more common than what divides us. If negative perceptions are tackled, then less people will be influenced by bigotry and unjustified hate. With the creation of more Muslim roles we could have more Muslim actors and actresses breaking into the industry.

However, we have seen an emergence of Muslim characters in the past few years. Riz Ahmed, whose career has exploded in the past year has grown from strength to strength. Raised in a Muslim family, he has starred in the Star Wars and The Night Of, the latter earning him a Golden Globe nomination. He is even an advocate of more representation. I highly recommended his speech to Parliament on the lack of diversity in Britain.

Watch Riz Ahmed warn Parliament about the danger of failing to improve TV diversity

Another example of positive Muslim representation, perhaps the most significant is Kamala Khan. A Marvel female Muslim superhero. It is difficult to get across how outstanding and crucial Ms Marvel (a.k.a Kamala Khan) is. She is the superhero the world needs right now.

I am envious of the young girls who get to grow up with a hero that they can see themselves reflected in. Yet I am more overjoyed that she exists and is inspiring girls all over the world.

However, this is a starting point. We need more positive Muslim representation in the media to overpower the toxic portrayals that are being shown today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ms._Marvel_(Kamala_Khan)

http://www.vox.com/culture/2017/2/2/14457384/kamala-khan-captain-america-protest-icon

  • Amina Elmi, @queenchester, Young Critic

Get the Chance announced as runners up in the Celebrating Diversity Award at this years Epic Awards

 

Get the Chance  have been announced as runners up in the Celebrating Diversity Award at the 2017 Epic Awards organised by Voluntary Arts. The ceremony took place on Sunday the 19th March at the Sage Gateshead as part of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival.

 The Epic Awards were set up in 2010 by Voluntary Arts, an organisation that works across the UK and Republic of Ireland to promote participation in creative cultural activities. They celebrate the amazing contribution voluntary-led creative groups make to their communities.

https://www.voluntaryarts.org/epic-awards

The Celebrating Diversity Award is selected from across the full shortlist of 32 groups by a panel of judges representing  teams in each nation. This award celebrates groups that have taken an innovative approach to highlighting the positive effects that come from living in a diverse society and is something that is central to the work that Voluntary Arts does all year round. Get the Chance were unanimously praised by the Epic Awards judges for

The project’s unique approach to encouraging a diversity of voices

 Guy O’Donnell, Director of Get the Chance said;

Get the Chance is honoured to be selected as runners up in the Celebrating Diversity Award. We strive to reflect the diverse nature of society in our voluntary membership. We learn from our team about barriers to sport and cultural provision and seek to work together to provide responses which are representative of all citizens in the UK.”

https://www.voluntaryarts.org/epic-awards-2017-winners

Membership of Get the Chance is free for further details please contact Guy O’Donnell, Director of Get the Chance

 getthechance1@gmail.com

Get The Chance

 

 

An Interview with lecturer, artist and designer Becky Davies

Hi Becky great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Currently, my work involves three core roles. I’m a freelance Set and Costume Designer for Theatre and Performance, I am an Artist who mainly produces artwork via commission, and I am a part-time Senior Lecturer on the BA(Hons) Creative and Therapeutic Arts course. I am also an Associate Artist of Taking Flight Theatre Company (who produce accessible and inclusive performance), and a resident designer for new musical theatre company, Leeway Productions.

http://www.beckydavies-theatredesigner-artist.com/about

So what got you interested in the arts ?

It may sound a cliché​ (but it is the absolute truth!). I was obsessed with drawing and painting from as soon as I could hold a pencil. This was my absolute first love and my way of telling stories and inventing worlds. I have always had a vivid imagination and I used to routinely dress up in elaborate costumes and build cities out of cardboard, towels, sheets, rope, chairs​ and pegs, whatever was available.

I was very lucky as I was encouraged by my parents and teachers to pursue my passion and follow a path towards a creative career. I had a romantic idea that I would end up as a Parisian Bohemian in an attic studio in Montmartre! To earn money while at school and then university, I facilitated art workshops in holiday playschemes for a Welsh language charity from the age of 15.

By the time I had reached Atlantic College, I was making wearable sculpture in my art lessons and I thought I was going to go into fashion, or a Foundation Art course if all else failed. I went round all of the University Open Days, and the atmosphere everywhere I went was not the right fit for me. I was more taken by the prosthetics department in the floor above the fashion department when I went to an Open Day in London which should have told me something!

It wasn’t until the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama toured their annual puppetry performance to Atlantic College that I met Christine Marfleet (or ‘Marf’ to most of us RWCMD alumni) that I knew I had to go to an Open Day for what was then called the BA(Hons) Theatre Design course. I saw a room crammed with tiny, lit models for opera productions, a gloriously messy scenic painting workshop and beautiful garments being embellished in the sewing rooms – I was totally sold! It was RWCMD or nothing for me by that point, and I was over the moon when I was accepted. Everything moved at lightening speed from that point onwards.

RWCMD Annual Puppetry Performance

You are a visual artist as well as a theatre designer. Do the skills required to work in these art forms relate to each other?

A lot of my making skills and language of creative expression came from my training as a Theatre Designer. At the start of my Master of Fine Art course at Cardiff School of Art and Design, I could make an installation art piece or a sculpture pretty much exactly as I had planned it. I was used to being resourceful, problem solving and making under pressure. However, this foxed my Fine Art lecturers quite a bit as my process was very different from a Fine Art process. I very quickly realised that I needed to begin to discover what my work was about at this point through a more unpredictable process, to use this opportunity to explore not planning for an end product. As a designer, I can be playful in my preparatory model boxes, drawing etc., but as an artist, I started to push myself to play through the entire process of making with no pre-defined end product. This created an interesting tension and challenged me in a whole different way. I am very grateful to have explored the distinction between these two roles as a creative practitioner at that point. I graduated feeling confident in how I work.
As an associate artist of accessible and inclusive theatre company, Taking Flight, you are often breaking new ground with regards to access relating to areas of design. Do you think this is fair to say?

As an associate artist of Taking Flight, my role is incredibly exciting as I have opportunities and support to push the boundaries of creative access within the realms of design for their productions year on year. It is a constantly evolving area of research and most of this is done through Research and Development periods and whilst engaged in preparatory work and rehearsals for the show.

Increasingly, I have developed the sensory potential of the costumes, props and site dressing. These are rich in texture and detail which, whether an audience member or performer has a sensory disability or not, adds conceptual and experiential depth to the design. BSL interpreters and audio describers have roles in the production. I inform audio description from a design perspective and consider the sounds my costumes and props make in helping to define and identify a character. For Director, Elise Davison, and I, access is never an afterthought or an add-on, it is an integral part of the show​. The creative potential is massive and enthralling – it enters my dreams at night!

Taking Flight’s ‘Breaking Out of the Box’ symposiums bring theatre and access practitioners together to discuss the inherent challenges and creative developments. I cannot wait to explore creative captioning and audio description in ways informed by the works of Ramps on the Moon, Solar Bear and other interesting companies. I have been inspired to produce tactile pre-show boxes and models with advice from Robin Bray-Hurren from Graeae Theatre in addition to designing for touch tours. Being at the forefront of accessible and inclusive theatre, being part of a vital creative conversation, is a wonderful place to be making work.

And as if you aren’t already busy enough you are also a “current Senior Lecturer for the BA Creative and Therapeutic Arts, one of only two courses of its kind in the UK promoting the development of refined workshop facilitation techniques for inclusive and community benefiting creative interventions.” I wonder if you could tell us more about this role?

I was initially employed as a visiting lecturer, teaching art skills to students on the course. It was very different when I started in 2011, where students went out on placement, delivering art workshops only in education settings. I very quickly became Senior Lecturer and then Course Leader for 4 years and during this time, the course developed in a very exciting way. The placements and types of participants the students worked with opened up to incorporate elderly care homes, homeless charities, refugees and asylum seekers, women and children with experience of domestic abuse, people with disabilities of all ages, and the list keeps growing. This is to reflect the growing need for creative interventions, alternatives to the norm, to help participants grow, develop, connect with others and achieve a sense of wellbeing. The course incorporates placements every year, art studio practice as a prominent component, and supporting theoretical subjects such as Therapeutic Principles, Inclusive Practice, Human Development and many more. We feel that our students are very much at the forefront of this area of work, and they are supported by lecturers who are also engaged in current practice. I now enjoy lecturing on the course part-time, and my colleague Beth Pickard is Course Leader. Her vision continues to take the course from strength to strength.

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists or designers?

I am very fortunate that in my own work I am usually surrounded by theatre practitioners, artists and creatives in general who are exploring the potential of inclusive practice with great enthusiasm. The role of a set and costume designer naturally demands that you deliver something beautiful, engaging or striking within restricted and often short time frames, under pressure, within a budget and against the odds that come your way. It is therefore frustrating when access is not a part of the process from the beginning. It is difficult for a designer to ensure that the vision for the show is cohesively applied across the production if the access requirements are added on at the end. It should be a dramaturgical decision really. However, the reality is that this conversation regarding creative access is far from mainstream and is still a very new concept to some companies. Consequently, I feel it important to champion this in my work.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

I think the more research into creative access, the better. More funding will enable a rich exploration of potential methods and strategies to be adopted more universally.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

The ability to regularly work bilingually in a prolific Welsh language arts scene.

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

I went to see F.E.A.R. by Mr and Mrs Clark at Chapter Arts Centre. This was an intimate, one man performance that had me gripped the whole way through and anxious about everyday, life worries and getting older! It also had an accompanying film that operated as a collage of nostalgic footage and impending doom – signature Andrew James Rock!

FEAR by Mrs & Mrs Clark

Thanks for your time Becky

F.E.A.R. by Mr & Mrs Clark, a review by Helen Joy

F.E.A.R.

An autobiographical tour of the constructed fear that society, religion and family place onto young shoulders.

Mr & Mrs Clark

There is someone in front of me who is bored, who doesn’t like it. There is much loud huffing and shrugging. But as far as I can tell, everyone else is in thrall to this captivating performance. Most of us are about the same age as Mr Clark and he is describing us. To a tee.

These are our fears too. Nostalgia and angst. Nuclear war and homemade bunkers. Overhead cables and safety belts. Clunk click. Superman y-fronts and God.

Being watched, getting a proper job, having sex, getting AIDS, getting a girl pregnant, not having children, having a mortgage, taking drugs and dancing. Hair, too much in the ears, too little on the head. Farting. Weeing. Keeping it in. Keeping it up.

God, this is so uncomfortable, so perfectly awkward as we confront the identities of our public information inspired youth and our middle age of worry.

It is inclusive – we want to bop about with him on his dance floor, we don’t want to admit to being the 1 in 3 who voted to keep immigrants out, we want to relax into our group hug. We remember terrorism then and now, we remember war, then and now. Why would you want to join the army? Get a proper job. Put your hand up if you have taken an AIDS test.

We all hide in our masks – our crocodile facade, we feel responsible for everything bad in the world and wonder constantly how we are still here, how we didn’t catch diseases from loo seats and get run over by trains. But we are being watched by God, by Jesus, by cameras, by the internet. Brilliant.

This is brilliant. It is funny, challenging, difficult, joyous, hard viewing. Mr C’s eye contact is hard to return. We feel guilty, the collective conscience of the ‘70s.

FEAR. And the really clever bit is its accessibility. Signed and spoken as part of the production, not something outside of it. This is most properly inclusive and even better for it.

Maybe we have learned something after all. It is these children who became the adults who changed our social makeup, who challenged the divisions between sexuality and race and class and ability, who invited everyone to join in, who broke the boundaries we inherited.

Perhaps FEAR is not always such a bad thing. I wonder what that man in front of me was really feeling.

 

4 stars

 

Project Details

Directed by: Agnieszka Blonska Performed by Gareth Clarkcroc