I visited an undergraduate show in The old Tabernacle Chapel, Llandudno, Wales, as part of The Hylfa Gelf Art Trail* in September 2015. All four of the undergraduates were studying at Bangor University on the Fine Art program. They had been offered the opportunity to showcase their work over 3 day period and curate the exhibition with tutor support.
The old Tabernacle church hall is located in this attractive and busy seaside town, 21 miles (or 32 kilometers) from the university they are attending. It is almost at the top of the main shopping street and very accessible in a good location on the ground floor. It seemed a unique well-lit space with many large windows & overhead fluorescent lighting.
I walked around the small exhibition, mentally noting the pieces that interested me. I made a few brief notes using the following questions.
- Is there a theme & ambience?
- Are there a variety of frames, stands, displays?
- How are the pieces linked together?
- What sort of building/ space is it displayed In?
- Are the works accessible to view ? ie some restaurant & cafe galleries, the pictures can be obscured by tables and chairs or diners, or located in inaccessible places & dark corners
- Is each piece well displayed?
- How are the individual pieces displayed?
What are the hanging effects? ie spot lit? On tiny glass frames? Walls? What ?
- Does it use video or audio technology
- is there a unity to the display
- Who’s work did u view
- Is the lighting appropriate
- Is there enough explanation about the expo & each piece, or a catalogue
- Is it visually stimulating – yes lots of interesting pieces caught
- Record your overall impression of the layout & hanging…..
- Is there someone who can explain it
- Who was the Curator
- What media attention has the expo got …Hylfa Art Trail?
- Are there a variety of mediums or one single idea?
Two of the artists were present to explain the collection, Emily Meilleiur and Pat Berry and small cards were written clearly in type near the exhibits, which displayed basic information. I asked if they were pleased with the location and space, they admitted that when they were first introduced to the chapel some of them were concerned there may not be enough light, but they made the most of the situation.
There were multiple ideas & mediums to investigate and I liked that a chair was available to sit & gather your energy or to sit & admire the pieces or make notes and sketches. By comparison I had found it wearying to go to the Turner Contemporary in Margate in Kent on a hot August day or the Guggenheim in Venice and not find anywhere to sit and contemplate the works. I introduced myself as an undergraduate on a Textile Degree course, working by distance learning, I asked for permission to take photographs.
Emily Meilleiur’s background as a Marine Biologist, informs her work. She showed me the plastic bags picked up around the coast of Wales that are being colonised with coral life, some of her work flashed and sparkled on paper hung from ceiling, embedded with plastic bags of coral life forms and illuminated by an overhead projector.
Pat Berry is a textile artist, influenced by the German painter and sculptor Ansled Keifer, she likes working with tactile pieces. She had arranged a hand dyed silk piece to hang down the length of one wall & drape it across the floor space. It suggested to me a reference to a cascade rite, I could imagine petals strewn on the piece & walked upon.
Another piece, a model of a female torso was collaged & hung from fisherman’s wire from a dress hanger.
Another textile work belonging to Pat Berry was described simply as A Vest, it looked rather threatening with all the electric cables and what looked like batteries.
Pat showed me a framed textile work under glass, she is fascinated by studies of church buildings. This piece used layers of different textures & threads and was displayed on an easel. She was stitching a second landscape piece on her sewing machine and was happy to discuss it and show me her process and sketchbook work that led to it.
Helen Starley experiments with sculptural forms exploring wood, bark wire & paper.
Geraldine Swatridge work was inspired by images of her late daughter and the raw emotions she went through due to her mental illness and subsequent death.
I always pay attention to how images are displayed in an exhibition as I often learn something new. Some drawings were simply blue-tacted to the wall, whilst sketchbooks were accessible and displayed on tables. Some framed work was held by simple wall brackets and the use of fisherman’s wire. A long bar along one wall had work hanging from it and I noted they can all be moved and re-displayed quite easily.
Emily had a projector of her work flashing against some hanging art pieces creating an interesting light display. The small box was also used to be orientated to the wall to view the video against a plain white background. She also had a light box displaying some of her plastic bags on the surface revealing small colonies of coral, a hand lens lay next to it, so viewers could be interactive and study the tiny micro ecology.
I thought afterwards, that it would have been intriguing, with her science background, if she had access to other technology to view these colonies under a microscope, and possibly make a video of that.
I really enjoyed the interaction with the two artists and it differed from the flat imagery behind glass that can often be seen in some Art Galleries. I wish I had more opportunities to visit undergraduate shows. I was delighted when Pat Berry invited me to lunch at her house later in the week to continue our discussions about Textile Art and particularly to chat about the differences between the two methods of study we had chosen.
*Helfa Gelf Art Trail is an annual collaborative undertaking in North Wales, made possible with the following organisations :