Category Archives: Art

Design for Contemporary Drama An interview with Director Mehdi Razi

In this interview Mehdi gives an overview of his career to date and shares his experience as part of Fio’s Arise Wales Creatives programme for Emerging Directors at RWCMD.

Director Mehdi Razi in front of the model box and designs by Kathryn Brown of Brown Boys Swim by Karim Khan

Hi I am originally from a Shiraz in Iran I first came to Wales in 2015 for a Masters in Product Design at Cardiff Met. During my time as a student I found Cardiff to be a very welcoming city. After completing the Masters I worked for two years in the Design Industry, based in Splott.

I was always interested in the performing arts and after moving to Wales a few things changed in my life, offering the opportunity to focus on the performing arts as a career. Initially I  started ushering and volunteering through Sherman 5 at the Sherman Theatre and National Dance Company Wales on the Dance for Parkinson’s programme

Volunteering helped give me an insight into the possibilities of different areas I could work in the arts. This alongside shadowing and then later assisting on performances gave me an option to see things in detail and how I could invest in these areas as a career.

I developed my experience as a Producer about 5 years ago with WNO on a placement and shadowing on productions. I produced an R and D project called Beyond the Rainbow with Oasis (who support Refugees and Asylum Seekers) and the Refugee Council for Wales, this resulted in an informal sharing at the Wales Millennium Centre.

I then started on small assisting roles with the company and also enjoyed working as an emerging producer for Theatr Clwyd. During lockdown I worked on some projects of my own with support from ACW

Thankfully as Lockdown eased, work opportunities opened up and I assisted Joe Murphy as trainee Assistant Director on Christmas Carol in 2021 at The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.

The Design for Contemporary Drama Exhibtion at RWCMD

Then in in April 2021 I signed up for Fios, ARISE – Wales Creatives programme for Emerging Directors. At the start of the project we all met with Patrick Connellan and Lucy Hall in the RWCMD Design Department they spoke about the relationship with the Director and Designer and the level of collaboration between the individuals

We were then put in pairs and given some plays to work on in order to help develop our working relationship. I was partnered with a RWCMD Design Student called Kathryn Brown.

The play we worked on is called Brown Boys Swim by Karim Khan

Kathryn created a mood board and we discussed the different elements of the production. We worked on the core idea of movement and cubic elements, The play interrogates feelings of oppression and the individuals place in society. Kathryn found that the traditional changing cubicle in the swimming pool would be great metaphor for the boys lives, sharing and then isolation so we played with this element.

Kathryn’s designs

We then worked on choreographic elements for the space. We had a few creative meetings, and considered what the change of position of the cubicles in the work would this mean to the audience and storyboarded the development of the play together.

A rough design was presented to me and we then looked at the blocking and the choreography was clear, we focused on the visual details, lighting, colour  and transitions in the space. We focused on design details and construction, how scenery might be moved around the space and considerations of construction. A more detailed version of the model box was presented to me, we then finalised the design details and the practicalities of the sightlines for the audience.  

Kathryn’s costume designs

Our  brief was based on a specific space called The Studio at Chapter Arts Centre so we went on a site visit to the venue.

Kathryn’s finished model box

This was my first project at College I really enjoyed going into the design studio as I have a design background myself. Everyone involved was very inclusive, it was very collaborative. The RWCMD Tutors would often come in to chat, it was great to see such a high level of support.

I enjoyed being around the students, RWCMD is comfortable and homely, its a welcoming campus you can have lunch and work its such a pleasant environment.

The exhibition at RWCMD runs until the 10 Feb you can find more information below with a selection of images from other RWCMD Designers.

Africa Fashion Week, Freemason HALL 2022 Review by Tanica Psalmist

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

‘Africa Fashion Week’ successfully celebrated its 12th year anniversary on the 8th & 9th October 2022 taking place in London, Freemason Hall. To ensure 2023 fashion show was another sell out 2022 had to be truly African infused & it truly was!!!

Credit Tanica Psalmist

A grand exhibition showcasing several merchants, latest garments & handmade jewellery made from various crystals, minerals and materials such as ebony and stone for starters! It’s no doubt that the Motherland was truly represented with deep infused floods of Africa’s rich culture, boutiques, diverse beauty & celebratory inspirations, influence & contentment oozing from the models onto the audience.

Credit Tanica Psalmist

I attended both days to glimpse AFW in every detail & glory from behind scenes, mental preparation to the adequate appreciation for the designers clothes, which all were worn to perfection! Many of the Fashion designers this year included; Pills, LN Watches , Sluvin Designs & Durban South Africa , Gugu Boutique, May M Designs, Massassi B, Twelve19styles, Ethnicity Clothing , Fresh by Do Turn, Slungile Mokoena Designer, Black Snow Men , Dogan Culture , Fashion Ash & many more great legends who’s brands captured, elevated & fulfilled the purpose to represent African designs on a global & grand scale.

AFW is more than just about diverse beauty, fashionistas, togetherness, celebration, unity, embracement, inspiration – it’s about elegance, royalty, Deity, learning, engagement & witnessing the beauty of freedom, culture, love, passion & acceptance.

Credit Tanica Psalmist

A typical start at AFW entails early starts booming intense makeup prep, dress & tech rehearsals & in return audience energy, infusion & model excellence! The unpredictability of unexpected authentic African dance styles is what makes poses equally exciting! certain poses entailed dance styles, such as; Ikpirikpi- Ogu (war dance), Atilogwu (Acrobatic Dance), Mmanwu (masquerades), Omuru onwa & Agbacha-ekuru-nwa, Indlamu, Adumu, Kete to name a few, hitting our eyes with eloquent spins, twirls & flirtation. The entire atmosphere took you to the African continent flight free for a truly memorable, captivating & rewarding evening.

AFW’s statement this year was to love yourself unconditionally & that your worth is not determined by the worth of high end fashion brands but by the price of realness, quality, uniqueness, happiness, tranquility, innocence, projecting your soul & to embrace the individuality of African culture, passion & depths of the motherland’s diversity.

Credit Tanica Psalmist

Nothing spoke louder then Sunday’s event where we witnessed the community within the audience come to life! oozing out positive intelligence, passion, enthusiasm, self love & a reminder to be you & live as you & be the best person of yourself, good job AFW – ROLL ON AFW 2023!!!

Review Call the Waves Exhibition & Stellar Footprints Chapter Arts Centre by James Ellis 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

It is water, the lifeblood of all things that is the major component of Chapter’s latest exhibit. A diverse group of mostly female artists and other academics have teamed together to tell an absorbing tale of their relationship with water on both a personal and cultural level. The lands of Wales, Palestine and Morocco feature, spread out in the gallery and not cluttering any of the work.

The first room with Kandace Siobhan Walker sees a fishing net looming over us with polaroids, song lyrics and sea-scape video that welcome us with much poetry and retro charms. Noureddine Ezarraf had made fabric pieces which I’ll confess don’t ignite the senses, though do have subtle nuances, both works marbled with black lining over the soft, amber palettes.

Bint Mbareh has found her own little nook, with a live performance of Stellar Footprints in her fabric fort. As we watch seeing only her feet and bottom legs, she asked us to feel as if we had water dropping on us and around us, then requested we walk around her structure so that she could capture the sounds. Speaking to Bint after, she admitted more needed to be done to capture the energy of the audience, who fizzled out after a while, giving up on the stomping, as if we were wading through water. She invited us beforehand for a select few of us to join her in the fort towards the end, some did though the piece appeared to be over. With a bit more rehearsal this could be quite tight, Bint’s vocals singing through especially exquisite towards the end.

Fern Thomas’ work sees wordy verses spread out all over the wall, as a rock on rope gently sways in our line of sight. A rich spiritual heritage fills the words and a universal mood comes across in these words of love and respect for water. The final room filled with the pieces by Alia Mossallam and Maya Al Khaldi had headphones with folk singing mothers looping and a little study area with desks and carpets (we are encouraged to add to the embroidery, with staff offering needles). I found this room quite absorbing, letters from the British government in Egypt allude to corruption and racism, the carpet spreading up to the wall a really nice touch as well. Veils also hang from the ceiling a slight flutter to the end of a exhibit with history and culture as it core.

Calls the Waves continues at Chapter Arts Centre till 20th November 2022 along with further workshops, talks and further performances. 

Review Raphael: The Credit Suisse Exhibition National Gallery by James Ellis 

Photo credit: Museum of Fine Arts Budapest
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

One of the many fine exhibitions in London presently has to be for Raphael. Though well known as a master artist in every field he covered, he might still be lesser known, more love for his contemporaries. 

Arriving in the space we are first met with a stunning small piece, a painting of Saint Sebastian. Here, he appears full faced and holding a spear, his famous symbol from the Romans trying to do him in. He simply glows and the finer details of his bright features and eloquent clothes stand out. You can see why they chose this first. I loved it so much I went all the way back to see it again prior to leaving the show. 

The amount of painting of baby Jesus is on mass. Of course he is frequently seen with the Virgin Mary and his cousin, John the Baptist, recognisable for his long, cane cross and fur. It’s the posturing of each figure that helps formulate a highly stylised vision. It’s the shading that stands out and the magic that Rapheal could colour with paint. Ginormous fabric pieces based off his work tower over exhibition walls, staggering to think the amount of hours that would have gone into making these. 

A huge Crucifixion impose upon the viewer, though not his most stimulating offering. Saint Catherine of Alexandria looks to the heavens for answers, in a perfectly contoured show of details and poise. Some drawings are too indistinct to truly appreciate and some scribbly letters prove his muddled writing, through a brilliant intellect.   

Lorenzo de’ Medici stands proudly in the final room, his clothes showy for this huge figure in Italian history. Growing up an orphan, one wonders if these mother and child iconography had a deep impact on the Rapheal. Architecture and metal work would also show off his vast talents, reaching fever pitch in a tiny room with video work of his buildings and some frescos. Looking back a good amount of time is required to drink this show in. At least two hours I’d say. 

Truly the hot ticket of the summer. 

Raphael: The Credit Suisse Exhibition continues at the National Gallery till 31 July 2022. 

Review Whistler & Kyōsai, Royal Academy by James Ellis 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) Whistler’s Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) Kyōsai: The Israel Goldman Collection 

A final gallery trip would be an action packed afternoon at the Royal Academy. In Whistler’s Woman in White show, we get a telling scope on Joanna Hiffernan, Irish model and muse to many an artist of her time. The show features her in many frames and other women in white from the era, Willkie Collin’s book of the same name getting referenced and a poster print from a staging looms over most viewers. A Klimt painting remains a thing of beauty, though we crave his more exuberant gold pieces. Rossetti’s painting of The Annunciation is one of the finest work here, of a slim build, the biblical image compress to a narrow canvass of tension. Truly something to marvel at.

Perhaps most fascinating is Joanna in Gustave Courbet’s Jo, the Irish Woman. Most remarkable, there are three version of the very same painting and it remains unclear which is the original. How fascinating to pick up on the slight variations in each of them, her eyes more sunken in one, her cheeks more rouge in another. It’s quite a candid work and it remained a highlight. Courbet’s Seascapes on the other hand felt quite pedestrian and of little interest, I spent a very short amount of time with them.

Of course, it all lead up to the big guns. Whistler’s Woman in White was the dazzling finale to this mostly fine exhibit. Joanna glows here, her red hair almost veil like with strangely little detail in it. As if a bride, she holds a flower and is atop a wolf skin rug. This is a moving encounter, Whilst proving his mastery though other work in the show would also prove this. She looks beyond the viewer as if lost in another realm, adding to the dreamy quality of the whole encounter. I can’t gush enough about this painting. Though quite a small exhibit, it’s effect is monumental.

Following on was something drastically different. Kawanabe Kyōsai’s work from Japan makes for a highly amusing and often touching apparition. It’s the ink work that really makes it. Some of the fine folklore and depictions of animals stand out. A female ghost is a horrible sight on one screen, a shocking sight in keeping with the superstition of his home country. The West adored his work and it’s easy to see why. Even just a cat with such a look of contentment makes for a joy to gaze upon. Some of the more outrageous drawings involves the bottoms and testicles of the figures, the latter being affronted by another more curious cat. You could almost hear the slide whistle.

The detailing on the robes of some women in the art is another eye watering detail. Also noteworthy how some of the crow works are highly figurative, the ink generously spread around, yet still it is clearly a crow. It’s the beak that gives it away, as well as the obvious black ink usage. A giant wide-spread panel sees demons and creatures, looking as if it was created yesterday, such was it’s fine quality (Gerald Scarf would lap it up!). This has clearly been well looked after (dating from 1871-1889. This would clearly go on to influence manga and anime, staples of Japanese culture today. Another fine show, for another fine artist.

At the Royal Academy of Arts, Whistler’s Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan continues till 22 May 2022 and Kyōsai: The Israel Goldman Collection till 19 June 2022.

Review Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child by James Ellis

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

My time in London has mostly been swallowed up by theatre and music. Itching to see more fine art shows, I approached the Hayward Gallery to get my fix.

Starting with Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child, this was a partially haunting experience in my view. The French-American artist had a long career and this show lingers with work from the last 20 years of her long life. Real clothes and textiles drape certain installations, bones and wire haunt others. The act of birth and motherhood dominate a lot of the imagery. Her cloth heads and figures disturb for their uncanny qualities, shapes and forms are colourful and pleasing in other work. The gallery itself was busy to witness these worn pieces, alive in the macabre mood which stung in the air.

Female forms hang from the air, half the body a lumpy spiral with the loss of a head and arms. Bourgeois makes you see the female form anew through these warped, bumpy bodies. An element of bondage creeps in, with the hangings, the wrappings and use of cloths making for steamy, messed up sights. It can leave you puzzled and enthralled. One installation featured the roots of a tree, with a wooden hand perfectly fitting into one branch of the root, another pleasing sight. The black, headless bodies in an apparent act of coitus as perhaps the most messed up things in the entire exhibit. I found myself awash in a fight or flight response to it all.

Of course her giant spider creature, (her most famous piece) makes an outing, perhaps the true highlight of the show. Resting on a metal cage, along with its very own eggs, the work appears powerful if fragile, inspired if taxing to make. Visitors really drink in this and you could feel the love with may a photo taken with the momma spider creation. Bourgeois spoke of her family as if spiders: always mending and repairing. Her lovely insight about a spider never getting angry when its web is broken just making it anew, is a nice quote for the wistful state out world is today.

It is a gallery experience which is entrancing, but might just leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child continues at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre till 15 May 2022.

Review Francis Bacon, Man and Beast, The Royal Academy by James Ellis

Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The biggest London exhibition of the work for years of Francis Bacon presently stagnates at The Royal Academy. I have fond memories of the previous exhibit at the Tate Britain in 2008, a lasting legacy for me as a lover of his craft. I can’t tell you how many times I doodled his Base of a Crucifixion figures in uni, a version of this on display, though not the pure horror of the original. The only work of his I’ve seen since is the lesser known painting in Cardiff at the National Museum, not one of his best (though I believe) is still on display.

Even with my energies waining I found this show at the Academy quite absorbing with all the morbid curiosity, crowds rushing to see the weird stuff first indeed. This is certainly for the strong of stomach as the amount of viscera splashed around is unbounded. We see some electric bull fighting paintings, (I saw an actual living spider in one of the canvasses and notified security!) with swept paint and a mustard yellow backdrop, the scorching Spanish climate defining death in the afternoon that is the so called sport. We know he loved boxing as well, violence is never far away. This gory spectacle both horrifies and delights.

Fine work is seen in his portraits of friends, lovers and his contemporaries. The way he holds the faces is but a still shot of a highly rendered, bruised stop-motion. The pit of despair which never leaves any of this work…consider the drunk and drug fuelled nights he created this paintings without any idea of what they might be in his baffling, hoarder like studio. His influences are clear and also quite random. The early photography of Meyerbeer, the classic Russian film Battleship Potemkin and even the animal world strongly feature and maintain masterstrokes in every flick and scrub.

Monkeys and chimps appear a few times, a reminder of our primal heritage and of our base desires. Sex is never far away from Bacon’s mind, a homosexual during the time it was illegal must have had a deep effect on him. His lover George Dyer haunts many frames, their tragic love story best presented in the film Love is the Devil: A Portrait of Francis Bacon. Derek Jacobi was simply made to play Bacon…

Nobody nor face comes out of his gaze undamaged, as if surreal boxing match in a dark theatre box outline. The deformed and the decayed loiter. His use of colours not usually seen in art: purple, orange and black also defines his brilliance. One sensational triptych even features huge pink paintings with three squalid female figures. His blows dust in other pieces, or newspaper print in another. Perhaps other unmentionables as well, maybe? His work is now in museums around the world and private collections. Here was a small buffet of his twisted vision with some good highlights and lesser seen work to boot.

A must see in London.

Francis Bacon Man and Beast runs at the Royal Academy London till 17 April 2022.



4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I’ve often wondered what defines the United States. Is it the polarising politics? The proud, hammering patriotism?The melting pot of cultures and lifestyles? Within this reassurance of nostalgia hyped up by popular culture, one book returns from the past with a subtle yet brilliant impact.

Though met with puzzlement when first published, Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces is a very telling piece of its time. Having traveled in 1972 from New York to Texas and back, Shore inhales everything around him. No sight is too banal or sordid and we get these really telling moments from a bygone era. A “palette of the age” seems to capture what I’m trying to say here. All images appear to utilise flash, all are in landscape and their breadth remains impressive.

We see meals, buildings, portraits and everything in-between. Though the shots of food make us think of today’s influencers, he seems to capture houses and other buildings rather well. The pop art feel comes in with the many photos of adverts, stands and sign posts throughout his American journey. Though only 24 at the time, his eye for a real cracking image is proven here and would herald a fine career in photography.

You can see Andy Warhol and his numerous polaroids soon to create similar sights, though on a much more intimate scale. An interesting feature here is the ominous shadow which lingers over models for their portraits, due to the intensity of the flash. This is undoubtedly the most 70s thing you will ever see…the fashion, design, cars and advertisements are all its testament. This is very much my parents era, yet I still have a pang for this yesteryear.
There truly is a real joy in these haunting, candid shots.

Although this revised and expanded edition is sold out, we can only hope more copies come out soon.

Price: £49.95 Published by Phaidon.


Lockdown Artist Prints Being Sold to Support Community Work

Local artist CONSUMERSMITH has kindly given The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre permission to sell prints of his headline-hitting lockdown-inspired street art ‘May Love Be What We Remember Most’.

The prints show the piece in its original home, the street where it was created, as a nod to the fact that it originated as a site-specific memorial for the coronavirus pandemic.

The money raised from the sale of these prints will go back to fund future projects that The Riverfront will be working on with artists and the community to bring people back together to enjoy the arts and being creative in person once again.

CONSUMERSMITH comments ‘I think it’s fantastic that The Riverfront are using my work to raise money to fund projects that will bring artists and the community together. The very nature of street art is being for the people.’

Sally-Anne Evans, The Riverfront’s Community Arts Development Officer adds ‘We are so honoured to be the home of this wonderful artwork. It was central to our community project ‘Share the Love’ that we ran while closed and now the piece is going to allow us to run more activities and reach more people now that we’re back open. As a registered charity Newport Live and The Riverfront are extremely grateful for donations and public support to be able to do a lot of the community work we do and we really hope that these wonderful prints prove popular so that we can use the money raised to run some wonderful workshops and community sessions. Lockdown showed us that the people of Newport love being creative, and we would love to be able to invite more people through our doors to join us for exciting new projects in 2022.’

Throughout the Riverfront’s closure the artwork was on display in the front windows of the building for passers-by admire. The piece stands as a memorial for life lost in recent times and during the pandemic. The elderly, the vulnerable, the isolated, the lonely, the people in care unable to be visited, so apt was its new home in the window of a building built for people to come together to socialise and share joy, yet a building forced to stay closed to keep people safe.

The piece will be on display in the Riverfront’s first floor gallery from the Art on the Hill weekend of 26-28 November through until the new year so that visitors can admire the vibrant portrait in person and up close.

The A3 prints of May Love Be What We Remember Most are available for purchasing at the price of £8 each from the Riverfront Box Office. You can view the Box Office opening times and find out how else you can support The Riverfront online at

HYDROJAM IN’ into the Woods by Ann Davies

HYDROJAM IN’ into the Woods

If you go up to the woods today, you’ll be in for a great surprise. Open your eyes take a deep breath and let Mother Nature take you on a tour of her wonderland.

Amidst the spectacular and historical Rhondda Fawr Valley lies an environmental organisation that is open to all. It is called “Welcome to our Woods/Croeso i’n Coedwig” incorporating the Skyline Project.

It is surrounded by the drama of Pen Pych Mountain and the majesty of the Cwmsaerbren Woods Treherbert.  With the legacy of Nant Saerbren powering the micro hydro electrical resource which channels the supply to the area.

Avant Cymru, in partnership with the organisation brought the Hydro Jam event to Treherbert over several weeks during June and July. The event proclaimed a collection of creativity and activities, so many to note here. Marquees were erected to enhance the surroundings and supply covering in the event of changeable weather conditions, with refreshments and seating accommodated by hard working volunteers.

The event began with a dancing session bringing ballroom dancing to the forestry of flora and fauna, all taught on an outdoor dance floor and stage; then the BeatBox Boys added their specialty to the prize-winning Lewis Merthyr Band, combining the band’s brass instruments to the sound of the beat. “Cwm Rhondda” was never so melodic, with the ‘beat box’ technique adding to the enjoyment for both sets of performers. The event continued during the week with Sewing demonstrations, courtesy of Julie the Stitch, make up demonstrations, Zumba on Zoom, Pilates, BeActive, the Vogue group performed, there were Swing Sessions, plus demonstrations from young dancers all leading up to the eventual Hip Hop Jam Competition held on the very last day of the event.

It was an eagerly awaited eco-friendly attraction of entertainment from local Rhondda Artists which included BAGSY, LLOYD the Graffiti master, SUZI JOSHI who produced some fantastic paintings on Perspex, Rap Cyphers presented by Larynx, together with the support of James and Bridie DOYLE-ROBERTS of Citrus Arts. The Bella Vista Coffee Club brought their folk and easy listening music to the event, performed by Helen Probyn-Williams, Sally Churchill, Gerhard Kress, Jim Barrett and Ann and Paul Hughes.

Members of RCT Creative Writers Group read their poems and short stories – who can forget the poet’s admission of being “A Naked Gardener”? (All said in fun highlighting the creativity of words).

On one night there was a battle scene performed as a rehearsal for Avant Cymru’s forthcoming performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

The last day was the culmination of much planning, hard work and ingenuity during this time of Pandemic. Welcome to the Woods arena, courtesy of Avant Cymru, saluted the UK Breakin’ scene with BBoys and BGirls from across the UK participating in the UK Breakin’ competition. How can I describe such enthusiasm flexibility and sheer joy of expression in one sentence? Enough to say I didn’t quite know what it was all about until this day, I now know I’m a fan. An incredible intergenerational gymnastic dancing spectacle (how the heck did they get into that position?) and what was more, everyone – and I mean every entrant was happily encouraging and congratulating each other on their routines. Let us just say it showed what taking part is supposed to mean.

The final came down to BBoy Nene who had travelled from Birmingham and BBoy Callum from Cardiff with the ultimate winner being BBoy Callum who was a student of Emma’s Motion Control Dance Group of Barry. Representatives of the Breakin’ Organisation WOOSH had a lot to consider, (one had to be in quarantine for a fortnight as he had travelled from the Netherlands to be at Treherbert for this competition) there were three judges (who each performed their own routine to much appraisal) plus DJ Jaffa from Cardiff and DJ Silence. The anchor woman was BGirl Sunanda Biswas a Choreographer and Teacher from South London.

With thanks to all who provided the entertainment refreshments accommodation and an especially warm welcome to those who came to assimilate just who or what was where at Welcome to Our Woods.

Appreciation to Rachel and Jamie of Avant Cymru for the invitation to contribute as RCT Creative Writers Group Members to this event. To Gavin Owens for the media film and Lee Williams for the photographs.

The Valleys were alive with the sound of a community enjoying life and being entertained at the same time!