What is Art? What is an Artist?

Artes Mundi – I recently visited the exhibition Artes Mundi 5 at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff and following our tour of the show, left the museum in a state of excitement, confusion, frustration and disappointment!

Despite my mixed emotions about the art works on display, I would still recommend going to see the show so that you can make up your own mind. I cannot show my own photos on line but works by Sheela Gowda, Darius Mikšys and Miriam Bäckström can be seen here.

My excitement was over the work of Teresa Margolles and Sheela Gowda. My confusion was over the so called tapestry of Miriam Bäckström. My frustration was over the “curation” (!) of Darius Mikšys and my disappointment was over the “documentary” (!) by Apolonija Sustersic. So I left with very mixed emotions.

I see curation as curation and documentary as documentary, not art as such. Tapestry I understand to be a weft faced weave made up of a discontinuous weft which covers the warp threads, hence weft faced (and no, I haven’t taken that from a dictionary). I am a tapestry weaver and know what tapestry weaving is and it is not this thing made/woven by a computer!

Time for a rant – Suffice it to say that, when we stood on the steps of the museum on our way out and I was asked what I thought, I was speechless and flabbergasted. The reason being, primarily, this “tapestry”. There was nothing wrong with the imagery – indeed, it was one of the most visually striking pieces in the exhibition and the development of the design for the piece, using mirrors, was fascinating. However, to then have this made into a woven tapestry by sending the design off to Belgium to allow a computer to spend a month interpreting the design and then 24 hours weaving it, suggests, no, shouts out to me, that the artist has no understanding of or sympathy for the medium. The image was interesting but the work of art could have been so much more.

Ending my rant – as a tapestry weaver, I do not want the public being led to believe that this is tapestry weaving. It may be relatively cheap to weave a tapestry in this way, but doing it with understanding is invaluable!

Later that evening my wife read to me a section of the book she is currently reading – House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. The passage below (page 420 in the paperback edition from Transworld publishers) is not shown here in the context of the book and is not the full section either but I feel the statement pertinent to the context of our visit to the museum.

“There are seven incarnations (and six correlates) necessary to becoming an artist: 1. Explorer (Courage)  2. Surveyor (Vision)  3. Miner (Strength)  4. Refiner (Patience)  5. Designer (Intelligence)  6. Maker (Experience)  7. Artist.  ¶ First, you must leave the safety of your home and go into the dangers of the world, whether to an actual territory or some unexamined aspect of the psyche. This is what is meant by ‘Explorer’.  ¶ Next, you must have the vision to recognize your destination once you arrive there. Note that a destination may sometimes also be the journey. This is what is meant by ‘Surveyor’.   ¶ Third, you must be strong enough to dig up facts, follow veins of history, unearth telling details. This is what is meant by ‘Miner’.  ¶ Fourth, you must have the patience to winnow and process your material into something rare. This may take months or even years. And this is what is meant by ‘Refiner’.  ¶ Fifth, you must use your intellect to conceive of your material as something meaning more than its origins. This is what is meant by ‘Designer’. ¶  Sixth, you must fashion a work independent of everything that has gone before it including yourself. This is accomplished through experience and is what is meant by ‘Maker’ . . .”

There’s more but I’ll leave it at that. You can always buy the book!

Neptune’s Audience

Last Friday I went down to Blackpill in Swansea Bay to meet a group of people doing Nordic Walking and try it for the first time myself. I wanted to try this for a few months but my prompt to do so was as much to do with the StillWalks project, Sights and Sounds of the Countryside as my personal interest – the project still needs further funding and if anyone is interested in helping out with this, here is the crowd funding link – 7 days to go to the deadline for funding.

The walkers are a group organised through Mentro Allan and I wanted to meet them in order to make first contact with carers in the area. We would like the community group on the Sights and Sounds project to be made up of carers from rural wards in Swansea.

Neptune’s Audience! Arriving early in the bay and having brought my camera, I got a few shots off before others arrived. Here is the reason for the title of this blog post 🙂 Other photos can be seen on Flickr.

oystercatchers

Neptune’s Audience

oystercatchers

Caught on the Hop!

oystercatchers

. . . and on the wing.

 

 

All’s Well in Ludlow

Despite the tension beforehand, all went well with our Meet the Artists event last Friday at Ludlow Assembly Rooms. It was well attended in the evening and it was good to talk with everyone.

Not only that, we also had a very pleasant stay in Ludlow at The Mount guest house and awoke the next morning to another beautiful day.

The exhibition runs until 26th October so there is still time to visit. Exhibition pics  some of Ludlow are below and more will be posted on Facebook over the next couple of weeks.

Finally, on another matter, please check out the StillWalks Crowd Funding pitch and help me help kids and adults enjoy “Sights and Sounds of the Countryside”.

StillWalks exhibition

StillWalks exhibition

StillWalks exhibition

StillWalks exhibition

Jean Duncan Paintings

Jean Duncan Paintings

Evening in Ludlow

Evening in Ludlow

Morning in Ludlow

Morning in Ludlow

Today’s the Day

Meet the Artists at Ludlow Assembly Rooms this afternoon from 3.30 – 7.30 pm.

All are welcome, no charge, free wine and a chance to meet us, Alastair Duncan and Jean Duncan, and ask about our work. There is tapestry weaving, digital prints, painting on metal and canvas, photography, video and video interventions.

The show continues until 26th October and can be viewed during normal Ludlow Assembly Rooms opening hours which includes evenings.

Work from the show can be seen here.

Tenses 3

Tenses 3

West 1 by Jean Duncan

West 1 by Jean Duncan

Tension Mounting for Meet the Artists event

Last week I delivered my exhibition and my mother’s to Ludlow Assembly Rooms Alastair Duncan (tapestry, prints and StillWalks) and Jean Duncan (painting)

The weather was atrocious and I thought en route, “If I get a puncture, I’ve had it – I can’t unload everything from the car to get to the spare tyre when the weather is like this, it would all be ruined!” Fortunately this did not happen and by the time I reached Ludlow, the rain had dried up 🙂

Our Meet the Artists event has been arranged for 3.30 – 7.30 on Friday 12th October – that’s next week! Neither of us are known in the area and I am concerned that nobody is going to turn up, so the tension is mounting as with all events like this.

Other attractions – Aside from our exhibition, which of course is reason enough to visit Ludlow, there are other attractions as well. The comedian, Marcus Brigstocke, will be playing in the theatre after our event on 12th October and I think there are still some seats available. There are great places to stay overnight and the town itself is a very charming place.

So if your wondering what to do next weekend, that is the place to be. Finish early on Friday and book yourself a visit to Ludlow 🙂

Ludlow

Ludlow

Ludlow Assembly Rooms Arts Centre

Ludlow Assembly Rooms Arts Centre

 

Crowd Funding – Sights and Sounds of the Countryside

StillWalks Sights and Sounds of the Countryside Project – Crowd Funding

The StillWalks Crowdfunder pitch for outstanding funding towards the Sights and Sounds of the Countryside project is now live and looking for sponsors / investors.

This is a brilliant project that I hope, in future, to replicate with many other schools and communities.

Only £10 – Invest anything from as little as £10 and get a reward for your support.

Please take a look at the Crowdfunder pitch and help me promote the project and pitch by passing on this publicity to your network of contacts and friends.

I have personally guaranteed to cover this shortfall if the funds cannot be raised as I feel the project is so important not only to the schools and groups taking part but also to StillWalks and its development to say nothing of our natural environment.

All or Nothing – All the funds required through the Crowdfunder pitch must be raised if anything at all is to go towards the shortfall in the project funding. If the target is not reached in the time allowed (30 days), then you pay nothing and my guarantee comes into play.

All details of the project are on the pitch.

Production Day

Production Day

Berry Woods

Last week I visited Berry Woods on the Gower. The purpose of the visit was to explore the the area to be used as the production location for Knelston Primary School and the Sights and Sounds of the Countryside project (mentioned in a previous post) which is due to start next month.

I am really looking forward to going out with the children and the other project workers, Emily Hinshelwood and Julie Brunskill, to investigate the landscape in detail.

Here are some pics from my visit to the woods.

En route to Berry Woods

En route to Berry Woods

Berry Woods

Moss in Berry Woods

Berry Woods

Berry Woods

Berry Woods

Berry Woods

On the way back from Berry Woods

A friendly face near Berry Woods

Heading back from Berry Woods

Heading back from Berry Woods

Buzzard

I spotted four of these Buzzards while around Berry Woods

 

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Exhibition and Meet the Artist event.

Tapestry weaving, original digital prints, photography, video and painting.

Alastair Duncan and his mother, Jean Duncan, will be exhibiting their work at Ludlow Assembly Rooms Arts Centre from 5th – 26th October, 2012.

Alastair’s work will include examples of his work as a tapestry weaver and digital artist as well as his work with StillWalks which will include screenings of selected StillWalks as well as two “alternative” videos that he has described as interventions!

Jean Duncan’s work will be displayed in the Cafe Gallery in the arts centre and includes painings on metal as well as on canvas. The paintings are from her works known as The West.

Meet the Artists

On Friday 12th October from 3.30 – 7.30 both Alastair and Jean Duncan will be at the Arts Centre to answer questions and talk about their work. All are welcome.

Why not stay over and visit the beautiful market town of Ludlow at the same time. There are some great places to eat and stay as well as things to do . . .  Marcus Brigstocke will be on stage at the Assembly Rooms at 8pm the same evening!

You can find Ludlow assembly Rooms here.

Further examples of both artists’ work for the exhibition can be seen on Flickr.

Tenses 3

Tenses 3 by Alastair Duncan

West 1 by Jean Duncan

West 1 by Jean Duncan

John Muir Award Training Day

I had a great day in Singleton Park, Swansea this week where I and about 20 others enjoyed a day of training in the delivery of the John Muir Award (see pics below). John Muir’s environmental philosophy and the award criteria fits perfectly with the ethos of StillWalks.

Appreciation and understanding of the natural environment is at the top of the agenda with StillWalks as are other features such as stress relief, health and wellbeing – these elements are also a part of the John Muir philosophy.

Town and Country – StillWalks, however, does not exclusively feature the natural environment and wild places. Indeed, the urban environment is of as much relevance to StillWalks as the countryside – and in fact this is the case with the John Muir Award as well. The young and the old, school children, teachers, families and individuals are all encouraged to look at and listen  to, explore, discover and appreciate the wild places within urban areas as much as those in our countryside.

And the news is – StillWalks is going to be carrying out a project with schools and communities over the Autumn and Spring called Sights and Sounds of the Countryside. The project will tie in closely with John Muir Award work also being delivered to schools by Tim Orrell and Swansea Nature Conservation Team (hence the training day). StillWalks has successfully applied for funding for the Sights and Sounds project from Swansea’s Countryside Connections,  Sustainable Development Fund and Literature Wales to work with an artist and writers to produce a collection of videos similar to those made on the Josef Herman project.

The training day was interesting, useful and great fun. Fortunately it was good weather and we were able to get out and about in the park for some fun and games.

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Walking with Josef Herman

“Brilliant” “The very best schools project ever!”, Betty Rae Watkins (Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru).

The “Walking with Josef Herman” DVD, made with Alastair Duncan and StillWalks is to be screened on the BBC Big Screen in Castle Gardens, Swansea next week (see invitation below). The videos produced on the project (see below) are what I would describe as bespoke StillWalks – bespoke because they use voiceovers. These are recordings of the school children reading the poetry they wrote with Emily Hinshelwood as a part of the project following our production day on location in Ystradgynlais. The project was the ninth annual artists’ residency organised by the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru and Caron McColl and Lynne Bebb from Swansea Arts in Education, part of Swansea Education Effectiveness Service.

Screening – Castle Gardens, Swansea. Wednesday 19th September, 2012 from 11.00 – 12.00.

JH logo

Herman Walk logos

Josef Herman DVD

Josef Herman DVD

The DVD contains more than videos made with the schools but the videos can be viewed individually below.

Llanfaes Josef Herman Walk – Rainy Day in Ystrad from Alastair Duncan on Vimeo.

Ynysmaerdy Herman Walk 480p from Alastair Duncan on Vimeo.

St Thomas Herman Walk 480p from Alastair Duncan on Vimeo.

Parcyrhun Herman Walk 480p from Alastair Duncan on Vimeo.

Invitation - English

Invitation - Welsh