N. S. Harsha

A Centre of Art – Swansea 2 The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery

Last week I took a day to walk around some of the art currently showing in Swansea. The city is teeming with it – all sorts both international and local. For many years now the arts scene in Swansea has been good but in recent years it has been growing even stronger. So I will be posting each day this week with a different aspect of the work we enjoyed on our tour from one gallery to the next.

N. S. Harsha

We started at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery where N. S. Harsha had his largest exhibition in the UK to date. He was winner of the Artes Mundi prize in 2008 and one of the works was an installation made for the Glynn Vivian. The whole exhibition was impressive and the installation was powerful in its use of mirrors – I became one of the people painted on the floor looking up at the mirrored ceiling. It has a strange and disorientating effect.Continue reading

Architecture and Art in Cardiff City – Reviewing the Walk

Looking through the entrance archway of Cardiff City Hall towards the end of my walk this week and the National Museum of Wales, I have completed my circuit of the rectangle of classical, brutalist and functional architecture that makes up this cultural and educational sector at the approach to the city centre.

Completing the walk in the museum itself and the Artes Mundi exhibition (already visited three times), I can only recommend a visit to the show before it ends on 26th February.

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My Walk this Week – Culture, Classical and Concrete

My walk this week takes a tour around the classical and concrete block of cultural, educational and municipal buildings in the centre of Cardiff, Wales. Amgueddfa in Welsh or museum in English, this first image shows a segment of the display block alongside the National Museum of Wales which currently shows the banner for the Arts Mundi 7 exhibition. This is a biannual international art exhibition which we have seen since it started 14 years ago. The exhibition has one of the largest prizes in the art world (£40,000).

Started in Cardiff, it is a an event of which Wales can be justly proud. It ends in cardiff on 26th February and I will be trying to get to see it for a fourth time before that. John Akomfrah is the justifiable winner on this occasion but the whole exhibition, while being largely video based, is well worth giving the time to tour fully.

Amgueddfa / Museum

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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!