Saturday, 11 August 2018

Y Lleoedd Celf

Mae’r Eisteddfod Genedlaethol wedi dod i ben ym Mae Caerdydd/The National Eisteddfod has drawn to a close in Cardiff Bay. It’s clearly been an amazing feat of organisation, negotiation and ambition to take over some of the most iconic buildings in the city and create an Eisteddod without fences ...except the ones necessary to stop stupid people falling into the Bay.

I had four amazing days helping steward “Y Lle Celf”, the Eisteddfod’s art exhibition,  in the Welsh Government’s Senedd building. After three days my face was familiar enough to the security screening personnel  to be able to wave me through without taking my belt and watch off. Though it also took me about the same length of time to get used to the wayfinding in a building not designed for displaying art. Andre Stitte’s vast sculpture and the stairs to the craft and ceramics on the top floor were clearly visible. But there were more than a few people who promptly left without realising there was a cornucopia of paintings, sculpture and audio-visual treats in the basement.

Stitt’s work was familiar to me from its previous outing at the 2016 Eisteddfod, but had grown upwards and sideways in ambition, much more conveying its desired impression of high rise architecture and grid style towns of the 1960s, much less of formica kitchen tops.

My personal favorites changed as the week went on. Ray Church, a ceramicist based in Carmarthen and no doubt Wales’ answer to Grayson Perry, had combined traditional style Greek vases with images of modern military hardware to create a political commentary. This surely was the most appropriate form of art for its location at the centre of Wales government. 

Meanwhile, in the depths of the basement with its own specially constructed wall to boot, was Jennifer Taylor’s “The Guardian at the Heart Machine”, a multifaceted tin foil cave of audio-visual art which, for the most part, was accompanied by Jenny’s actual legs. It not only conveyed a rich sense of the prehistory of West Wales, but also showed tremendous dedication to spend hours twitching your legs sticking out of a giant blue sphere. I had the pleasure of meeting the rest of Jenny on her off-duty moments.

Zoe Preece’s two tables (to describe them in an over-prosaic way) grew on me, partly because they needed extra special attention from the stewards to prevent anyone from damaging, moving, or walking off with one of the 45+ pieces of porcelain. Both of the tables had head-scratching titles, “The way the earth remembers our bodies” and “An archive of longing”. Both had that delightful reveal of being something other than its initial appearance. She walked away with two prizes, as well as (so I’ve been told) selling both works.

It was odd, in many ways, that so few of the works on display conveyed much of an archetypal sense of ‘Welsh-ness’. There were no textiles (or sheep’s wool) visible. Only one that I recall used the Welsh language. Perhaps this was because the exhibition was more oriented towards the industrialised non-Welsh speaking south. From the point of view of the Welsh language, BayArt’s “Dim ond Geiriau (ydi iaith)” exhibition down the road was far more fitting, and the symposium on Wednesday involving Welsh-speaking and non-Welsh speaking Welsh artists was a fascinating contribution to the debate about ‘Welsh’ art and the language.

Wel, roedd profiad gwych a chofiadwy, dw I’n edrych ymlaen i’r tro nesa!