Tag Archives: Review

Review Wolfsong TJ Klune by Sian Thomas

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(5 / 5)

I recently read Wolfsong by TJ Klune. Even now, as I begin writing, I can only hope I have the best words to convey my astonishment and amazement at how spectacular this book truly was. I don’t even know where to begin.

Maybe I do. After a little thinking. I’ve read a handful of books that have touched my heart so deeply. I love reading because I love stories. Even if I find them not the most enjoyable, even if they had a lacklustre ending, even if I did enjoy them, but probably only once, the few books I’ve read that have whisked my heart away are something else entirely. They are always so full of emotion and immeasurable intensity. This book was that. This book was that, and more. So, so much more.

I’ve read a handful of books that touched my heart deeply, yes. But there’s only one other book I’ve read that I’ve had to resist reading all at once. Or resist reading it because there was unimaginable emotion flowing straight from the words straight into my mind and heart and soul. Even this book succeeded that. While I read both with enforced breaks (maybe for my own good, I fear my heart may have pounded out of my chest) when I wasn’t reading this one, it was just quietly (sometimes loudly) on my mind. I wondered where the next chapter could possibly take me, I wondered how it could possibly end, and I was more than happy – ecstatic – to get my answers.

Every time I let myself crack open this book and carry on, I felt like I was somewhere else entirely. Everything about it just felt so real, all the relationships and emotions and turmoil and actions, they all felt so real. And while I like fantasy-esque novels a whole lot (they seem to have the best stories for me), and this was one, and it was way out there because it was about werewolves (which I did realise by the title and the cover but for some reason it seemed to float away from me, though I caught it when there was talk of family nights and smells and a lot of talk about the moon. Oh boy, did it hit me then. I waited for the main character, Ox, to get hit with that twist with eager anticipation) it was new and enticing and everything inside just felt so predominant and so real.

I think it’s something I find in a lot of books that are shelved and never really reread – that they never felt quite real. Usually, they are all story. Which is nice, too, but in a different way, I think. But with this book, with Wolfsong, there was the story and then feelings were also the story. I loved that. I loved that so much it made my heart ache because I want to write and that’s what I wish I can someday have the ability to write. Something like this, where the feelings are such a gigantic part of everything – because, isn’t that how things are? In day to day life? You do things depending on how you feel, right? It’s why the kind of books that I don’t reread, that are all story, stay that way – they’re usually dutiful. Having to do something because it’s them, they are the main character, it’s their duty. They didn’t have a choice.

Wolfsong reiterates that you do. You have a choice. The main character, Ox, he has a choice. He picks what he does because of how he feels. I loved that so much. So much. This was a book that I was raring to read to know what happens next, who will do what next, what’s coming over the page, but this was also a book that I wanted to stop and slow down and cherish every second and just – revel in it.

And what makes it better – it had leagues of LGBT representation. Love, just anywhere. Everywhere. No fear, no worries. Ox openly stated he was bisexual. In other pieces of entertainment I’ve experienced with bisexual characters, they never seem to say it. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong pieces of entertainment, or maybe writers just don’t want to do it, but to finally see it done was so refreshing – it was like I hadn’t stepped outside for years and suddenly I was racing around the streets or the woods or just anywhere. Air, everywhere. Like I could breathe easy by just keeping on reading. Green relief, like it says in the story. I think it was that. Green relief in the fact that neither of the characters in the main LGBT relationship died, either! I was a little worried, I do admit. I know that with the life-or-death situations all throughout the book it could have happened, and I really did believe one of the two were going to be killed off, and that it would have fallen into the Bury Your Gays trope (where one person who is LGBT dies, usually needlessly, usually after finding a partner) and I have never felt astounding relief and been so glad when it didn’t happen. I was invested. In the story, in the main relationship, and I was afraid that it was going to happen. And then, it didn’t. It didn’t happen, and I felt such amazing relief and thankfulness. Again, like it was all a breath of fresh air.

The writing itself was extraordinary. It was dialogue and emotion and plot, and it seemed to be more, somehow. I suppose I could describe it as being written jaggedly? Either way, it fit perfectly. With the character, Ox, and the others. It fit with the story and how it unfolded. It fit with me, how it was jagged. I understood. I understand.

There were scenes that amazingly hilarious, too. Jokes, or just how they seemed to play out. Things that were funny because of who said or did what and the reaction. I loved it. While it seemed serious and like important things were always happening, there was always room reserved for humour.

There were so many characters. There were so many people to give your love to in the story, there were so many people to root for and fear for, to hope for and to just plain admire. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

I don’t want to give anything away, I really don’t. I went in wholeheartedly blind and I came out the other side in awe. I think that’s how it should be for anyone else.

I give it five stars. It is probably the best thing I’ve read all year.

Review Clear-Cut 6 M.A.D.E. – by Amelia Seren Roberts

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Origami Reinkarnasjon performed by Simon Gore and Jack Rees

Traditional Sephardic lullabies, liberated CCTV Footage and choreography merging Jane Eyre with the tunes of PJ Harvey are among the diverse acts at Clear-Cut 6 programme of experimental performance arts.

The audience clamours for position in the gallery space at M.A.D.E; spectators gather at the back and the edges of the room, whilst others nestle amongst the many cushions and pallet boxes laid out for our comfort. The atmosphere is one of anticipation, but also of fun and togetherness. After reading through the programme at the beginning of the evening, I find myself curious about each of the seven experimental acts in turn. Clear-Cut is an event unlike anything I have attended before, and the diversity of the audience and acts alike is immediately apparent. The evening is a showcase of video works, dance, spoken word, performance, visual arts, new music and more. To experience this diversity of performance in a single event is impressive. It’s something of a one-stop culture stop.

Where genres collaborate and collide”, Clear-Cut 6.

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Will Salter, host of the evening and Dada performer

Will Salter is our animated host; himself performing Dada poetry at intervals throughout the evening to great effect. His verbal explosions punctuate the spaces between acts, and mischievously disrupt the audience should they grow too comfortable. Dada retains a long history with experimental performance related to (or in denial of) the fine arts, which makes the presence of the genre particularly appropriate on this occasion.

Our agenda for the evening is jam-packed, prompting fears that we might not achieve all seven acts. In actuality, the evening is well-structured whilst maintaining a casual and friendly atmosphere.

Marega Palser merges literature, illustration and popular music in, ‘Jane Eyre, The DarkSide...’ Initially inspired by Paula Rego’s illustrations of the novel by Charlotte Bronte, Palser’s performance really is a highlight of the evening. The artist said of the inspiration for the work, “each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly interesting…” Palser describes the piece as, “a thought in progress…” and the work curiously encompasses elements of the unknown. The piece reveals something of an internal conflict, which ultimately dictates movement, yet there is undeniably confidence in the madness.

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 ‘Jane Eyre, The DarkSide…’ performed by Marega Palser

IdentiTTy’ by Arnaldo James and collaborators is a film which asks more questions than are answered. “Does ethnicity or origin come through when skin tone is homogenised? Is morphology reflected by environment? Can identity be conveyed through dance and abstract non-verbal storytelling?“ The potentially fluid and reactionary nature of cultural identity is explored in this choreographed video work. Referencing Japanese Butoh and Creole traditions alongside more indigenous Trinidadian movement the piece claims to examine, “the similarities that occur in different cultures through movement and music”. The piece is visually stunning.

Nicholas Morgan & Margot Przymierska perform as the collective, ‘Parallel Lines’. In, ‘That’s the family you have’ Nicholas and Margot divulge separate yet intertwining stories, “improvising around box-set narratives and the immediate, subjective experiences of our own lives, collapsing characters, time & space, fiction & reality”. Their simultaneous telling of the circumstances surrounding the funeral of a relative, alongside an audio description of moments from the popular series ‘Game of Thrones’ captivated the Clear-Cut 6 audience and was at once sensitive and hilarious.

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 ‘That’s the family you have’ performed by ‘Parallel Lines’,  Nicholas Morgan & Margot Przymierska

Meanwhile, above the performance space, the gallery plays host to a film and sculpture installation by contemporary artist, Merran Singh Dubb. ‘Temple of Consciousness’ explores the relationship between the declining condition of the natural environment and the similarly marred spiritual condition of humankind. “It is evident that we are destroying the planet but ultimately, we are destroying ourselves”. The installation thoughtfully presents imagery representing spirituality alongside the elemental extremes of natural disaster and climate change.

To close the event, ‘Trio Ladino‘, consisting of Angie Kirby, Bethan Frieze and Eloise Gynn are a trio of musicians and vocalists performing adaptations of Arabic and Sephardic traditional lullabies. The trio describe their sound as, “ancient melodies fused with more contemporary musical perspectives, anchored by lullaby-like themes and romantic narratives”. The performance is a calming and captivating conclusion to the Clear-Cut programme.

On reflection, improvisation and experimentation were certainly the order of the evening with every act proving both valuable and unique. The atmosphere was at the same time informal, friendly, supportive and progressive. Clear-cut is unlike anything I have seen and I will be attending from here on!

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 ‘Trio Ladino’ performers Angie Kirby, Bethan Frieze and Eloise Gynn

For a taste of Clear-Cut, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeQJ4MaIVtU

https://www.facebook.com/CardiffMADE/

Image credits to Glyn Owens and Sarah Vaughan-Jones.
Special thanks to M.A.D.E Gallery, Sarah Vaughan-Jones and all contributors and performers for the organisation of this event.

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M.A.D.E. Pick of the Degree Shows – Review

 

M.A.D.E Pick of the Degree Shows: Does what it says on the tin…

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(M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

M.A.D.E Pick of the Degree Shows is a group exhibition of fourteen graduate works from South Wales Universities. As the title suggests, the work that makes up the exhibition was sourced directly from the degree shows of Cardiff School of Art & Design and The University of South Wales, so represents the most current student practice to come out of the capital.

 

The show brought together a collection of promising artists graduating from Welsh Universities this year whose works best demonstrate an affiliation with M.A.D.E’s endeavour to communicate the significance of, ‘self-expression as a crucial human endeavor’. Curators of the show and co-directors at M.A.D.E Zoë Gingell and Josh Leeson selected works that they felt were most ‘strong’, and feel the exhibition ‘stands up to the best of work coming out of Cardiff and its environs’; A tall order, although I would agree that the quality and diversity of the works in the space certainly warrant their inclusion in the gallery’s selection. There’s something to be said about balancing the aim to exhibit as many deserving students’ works as is possible in the space whilst maintaining the critical and physical distance necessary to surround each artwork. In this respect, it is necessary to consider the commitment to make quality artwork visible to audiences who might not have had the opportunity to visit each of the respective Degree Shows.

 

M.A.D.E doesn’t pretend. The space is not the expansive white cube sort we might experience at venues like Chapter’s gallery space; it has a character that calls for tricky display decisions and can account for a more intimate and relatable experience of the work. A proportionately large amount of artworks shown in the limited space of the gallery was surprisingly not to the detriment of the exhibition. Through careful placement of artworks and recognition on the part of the viewer of a few central curatorial motifs, the show remains legible and engaging and the artworks are given conceptual space enough to breathe.

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(Julia Hopkins @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

The artists chosen for the show have all produced works deserving of recognition and I’m pleased to see two of my own ‘picks’ from the CSAD Degree Show, Julia Hopkins and Sam Wall, were part of the M.A.D.E selection. Julia’s miniature compositions implied interconnected movement, balance and reactivity. The structures were made ‘and frequently unmade’ in efforts to find some elusive meaning. Meanwhile, Sam Wall’s drawn works expanded and crawled over the page, a two-dimensional continuation of monster-making which begs, borrows and steals from the fantastic sculptural work presented as part of the artist’s Degree Show exhibition.

(Follow this link to my previous review of the Cardiff School of Art & Design Fine Art Degree Show: http://getthechance.wales/2016/05/27/review-csad-fine-art-degree-show-2016-amelia-seren/)

Novel approaches to storytelling were evident in several of the works. Rachel Lucas presented written descriptions in place of photographic equivalents. The accounts documented the lives of refugees and explored the desensitisation of society to a genre of harrowing images. Mikky Saunby’s ceramic works implied primitive narratives, while George Curzon casted Imogen, the artist’s sister, as the protagonist of Shakespeare’s tale, Cymbeline in a photo series exploring the trials of adolescence. Florence Fung integrated Chinese ceramic techniques into works more outwardly aligned with contemporary Western aesthetics. In Journey the artist referenced the traditional Willow Pattern, and through the craftsmanship of each piece illustrated the ‘inseparable relationship between the present and the past’.

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(Mikky Saunby @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

Another recognisable thread, which linked works in M.A.D.E Pick of the Degree Shows, was an emphasis on personal expression through creativity. James Moore’s diptych video works, Headspace both demonstrated and validated the emotional extremes of anxiety and fear, whilst Melissa Hooper’s series of images, Unsettled explored her relationship to the outside as a sufferer of Agoraphobia. Macarena Costan also used photography as a medium, this time to question the disconnection experienced between our memories and the reality of past experiences after following a visit to her family home in Spain. Aaron Davies’ interest in issues surrounding gender identity was manifest in his ceramic compositional forms. Each piece suggested typically male or female characteristics and potentially endless combinations thereof, eliminating any inclination towards gendered binaries. Mylo Elliot’s painted works employed graffiti writing as a medium to explore language and communication of the self. Symbols and visual motifs made up a personalised hieroglyphic language subject to interpretation. The inclusion of personal experience in all of these works provided a useful entry to the artworks for empathetic viewers, and the reimagining of familiar narratives made for engaging artworks.

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(Florence Fung @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

Consideration into the limits of specific mediums is evident in the remaining works. A reincarnation of Eloise Barratt’s light installation in the M.A.D.E gallery space made for an ambitious display. Viewers were encouraged to entertain their perception of colour as a legitimate medium by drawing attention to the illusionistic nature of colour and light. Whilst Sarah Barnes’ works explored the limitations of the Camera Obscura technique, set within the context of the custodial teen bedroom. Conor Elliot’s photographic prints undermined the visual language of art history by questioning over-familiar and preconceived ideas of what an artwork should look like. His witty photographs critique the ‘staleness’ of referential and ‘typical’ fine art using its own symbolic medium.

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(Macarena Costan @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))
Through their programme of events and workshops it is obvious that M.A.D.E possesses an ethos to nurture and support the creative and local communities. Their more recent endeavor to celebrate emerging artists is a welcome venture amongst the student community, and hopefully the general public as well! This opportunity for graduate artists to have exhibited their practice as part of an established platform affords valuable exhibition experience to all of the shows participants. Exhibitions such as this can increase the visibility of very early-career artists, encourage careers in the arts, and forge new relationships between artists graduating from creative university-level courses in South Wales.

The opportunity granted to exhibit these artworks was invaluable, nonetheless it was evident that the works chosen warranted their display, and I look forward to seeing all of the artists involved exhibiting in Cardiff and further afield in the future; A worthy show.


Florence Fung / Rachel Lucas / Julia Hopkins / Aaron Davies / Mikky Saunby / Conor Elliott / James Moore / Mylo Elliot / Eloise Barratt / Sam Wall / George Curzon / Melissa Hooper / Sarah Barnes / Macarena Costan


M.A.D.E is a hub for the arts and contemporary crafts and regularly exhibits a diverse range of artworks as well as performance showcases and pop-up events. Situated on Lochaber Street in Roath, the venue also hosts a small café which offers local and ethical produce.


(All photographs taken by the author on the occasion of the exhibition in question, for official images of works, please visit the artists’ respective websites).

 

 

Review CSAD Fine Art Degree Show 2016 by Amelia Seren

Cardiff School of Art and Design Summer Show

Universities all over the UK are currently opening their doors to the public to celebrate the occasion where soon-to-be Fine Art Graduates show the culmination of their three years of study.

Having been previously caught-up arranging my own final exhibition at Loughborough University, I am more than pleased to be offered the chance to explore the Undergraduate Degree Show at Cardiff School of Art & Design 2016.

On entry to the building, I am reminded of one of the reasons I elected to study at CSAD in the first place. Ascending the stairs into the appropriately-named Heart-Space, the invited guests attending Industry Night are treated to a drink at the bar whilst they anticipate the exhibition spaces above. The space is at once open and inviting.

On the third floor, what were formerly studios are now transformed into polished exhibition space. At this stage I’d typically offer an introduction to my first impressions of the general aesthetic, or approach-to-making of the Cardiff show, but there isn’t one. As Olwen Moseley, Dean of the School of the Arts, states in her address, Cardiff’s Arts Undergraduates are really given the choice to apply whatever creative medium that takes their fancy; meaning the university encourages students to adopt a cross-disciplinary approach to the nature of their learning and practice.

Subjects including The Overlooked are addressed by artists Sophie Burrows and Megan Fergusson; Scale is explored, from examples of miniature maquettes to the monumental nature of Ethan Dodd’s crystallised representation of a lightning bolt. A Sense of Home was another concept addressed by Mary Walter-Thomas in ‘Eirianell’, as well as in the works of Megan Fergusson and Zoe Peridakis. The Self and Consciousness are explored in the work of Jade Trollope and Tobiasz Wasyliszyn.

Creative approaches concerned with the Materiality of objects is a topic frequently addressed by the works exhibited at Undergraduate Degree Shows, however, with one of the foremost Ceramics courses in the UK, at Cardiff School of Art & Design, Materiality is done well. One such artist approaching the theme was Nathan Mullis, whose works address how the making process can afford the objects meaning and significance.

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www.nathanmullisartist.co.uk

Further diversifying the nature of display, the Fine Art show includes a darkened exhibition space as well as the typical white-cube environment, showing digital video-works and light-works.

Despite recognising some links in the subjects of the works exhibited, every student has accomplished a distinctive approach. The section below details my picks of works included in the Summer Show that showcase the talents of the soon-to-be recent Graduates of CSAD:

Emily Panizzi’s contribution to the show, an operational marble-run construction, functions as a metaphor for current financial structure and practice. The work is designed to represent economical cash-flows and trickle-down economies, highlighting the eventuality of most currency settling in the pockets of the wealthiest 1%.

Panizzi has expressed an interest in the Japanese concept of Ma, which “explores ideas around a space delivering an experience”, and it is the interactive aspect of the work that I consider most successful.  Whether deliberate or not, occasional system failures -where a marble might stick in the works, or leave the run altogether- serve to support the metaphorical functioning of the piece.

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www.emilypanizzi.com

Lauren Bailey’s abstract micro-compositions appear to populate, or even germinate within their pocket of space inside the CSAD building.
Jovially gathering in this cohesive installation work, the constituent parts of Bailey’s artwork make up a virus of two and three-dimensional things that might threaten to infect the shared exhibition space had they not been contained.

Bailey’s installation incorporates features of the physical environment, growing over foil-covered vents and galvanised pipes. Seemingly improvised forms constitute the ‘real-world’ expression of marks made by digital drawing tools, and the viewer is transported into a three-dimensional drawing of a soft-play centre.
Through playful combination of colour and form, this light-hearted approach to process and materials reads as an ode to the doodle and relieves the viewer from the often-weighty nature of contemporary artworks.

There is joy in the simplicity of Bailey’s compositions.

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LaurenBailey

Danielle Adair’s contribution to the show appears, on first impressions, both repulsive and intriguing. Atop the rusted and bare innards of a sprung mattress, sits an abject representation of…what exactly? Certainly something of the once internal, made external is at work here. Initially communicated is a callous harshness, an image devoid of comfort. Adair’s Phil questions tensions between the physical and psychological conditions of the body. The pulsing mass of exposed flesh is, to me, a reminder of the incarceration of the psyche within the abject body. The mass of injured latex and rattling motor translates as a physical embodiment of the inevitability of suffering. As in David Lynch’s Eraserhead, the ‘child’ is exposed as skinless and sore, Adair’s Phil is itself an example of a raw, unsettling presence, an acceptance of the limits of the flesh. However gruesome, perhaps Phil has the opposite capacity; to communicate a certain optimism, or triumph of consciousness over the flesh.

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https://danielleeadair.com/

Julia Hopkins presents a playground of perplexing, small-scale structures, (or are they maquettes of larger works?) Hopkins’ constructions dance the boundary between the functional and non-functional; what should be, and what is. These are structures that appear initially to have a purpose, or function, but on further inspection reveal a uselessness which implies that the value of the objects must lie elsewhere.

Akin to a contemporary-art-MouseTrap, the neo-modernist compositions imply interconnected movement, balance and reactivity. Recognisable in the works is a strong synergy of materials; common threads: timber, plaster, thread itself. Also recognisable are a host of recurrant symbols; the pendant, the tower, the scaffold…but why? Everything about this collection of works suggests a game of sorts, to make sense of the arrangement where perhaps the joke is that there is none. Hopkins perpetuates a state of curiosity, a need to ‘figure-it-out’, where so-often artworks convey strictly determined readings. Thank you for keeping us on our toes.

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www.juliahopkins.co.uk

An ominous mountain of refuse dominates the exhibition space of Sam Wall. It mechanically stutters and screeches towards viewers who might draw closer to investigate.

This awkward stack of regurgitated detritus has been collected by the artist from the urban environment. Objects, or leftovers, spat out by the city and rendered purposeless are collected and absorbed into a creature befitting the grim-reaper of throw-away tat.

Wall’s monster-making, in both his sculptural and two-dimensional works, questions the value of objects to represent a culture deemed obsolete.

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https://www.facebook.com/ekstraternek/

I would like to join Olwen Moseley in wishing this year’s graduates all the best in their futures, be that in pursuing further study or employment in industry. I fully recommend readers to pay a visit to the Fine Art Degree Show 2016, and to check out equally impressive offerings by other departments of the school while you’re there!

Cardiff School of Art & Design’s Degree Show 2016 runs on the Llandaf Campus from 21st – 27th May.

https://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/artanddesign/Pages/summer-show.aspx