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Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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A change of schedule. You’ve got to see this…

A bit of a change in schedule with this month’s review! I’ve pushed the promised Graphitint review back until next month (I was surprised by how they handled – more next month) to allow you plenty of time to visit this inspiring exhibition:

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What: Nature’s Song; Chinese Bird and Flower Paintings

Where: National Museum & Art Gallery, Cardiff

When: Until 23/04/2017 Tuesday-Sunday 10-5

Admission: Free

About: An exhibition showing and explaining traditional Chinese flower and bird paintings from as far back as the 16th century. 

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What really stuck me about this exhibition was just how thought-out and thorough it was. It was evident from the moment I stepped through the double doors into the space that whoever was behind the curation of this exhibition had passion.

Far from being what most would expect of an exhibition of paintings – walking around a space, looking at pictures on a wall, this exhibition is about becoming part of something. As you step into the space you’re immersed in a culture. You’ll initially be greeted by an information board offering introductory information, behind it a Chinese room divider, with a table offering high quality colour exhibition leaflets.

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Not only are they informative, but also multilingual – another example of thoroughness, which is continued throughout the entire exhibition. Video/audio adds a whole other dimension and interest to the exhibition, with the sound of spoken Chinese and traditional instrumental music wafting through the space, accompanied by English and Welsh subtitles! This exhibition accommodates thoughtfully for their most likely visitors.

I was surprised by the size of the space too. However, the space wasn’t sparse nor jam-packed to the extent of feeling claustrophobic. Visitors could move around comfortably without bothering each other, but never be short of points of interest. A wooden bench in front of the projected video was a sensible touch, and again, a thoughtful one.

In addition to the large screen there was also a small video station situated in front of what I’d describe as an installation, showing a replica work room, displaying traditional-style furniture, paper scrolls, and tools such as brushes and holders (copies of which are available in the gift shop). This allows you to truly appreciate the process and situation in which the surrounding artwork was created, especially as the video demonstrates how the tools would have been used.

notsoIt’s hard to find fault with such a well thought-out and intriguing exhibition, however there was one aspect that I’m still on the fence about: the lighting. Whilst I can appreciate the intention behind the decision to include ambient lighting to create a certain serene atmosphere, I feel that by allowing the lighting to be a form of creativity in itself (there were also lighting effects – patterns on the floor resembling waves) it took focus away from the real beauty – the exquisite art. I feel that this should have been pared back a bit, and I personally felt I wanted to turn the lighting up to properly see the detail in each piece, though some may argue that the dim lighting reflected the delicacy of the work.

concludePersonally speaking, ‘Nature’s Song’ proved to be one of my favourite temporary exhibitions of the past few years, and has real substance to it. For art history fans, cultural studies students, and of course artists and art appreciators, this exhibition offers not only beautiful visual aspects, but also a peek into a whole way of life and working.

In regards to child-friendliness, I feel this exhibition is more for older children, who can appreciate the art as more than just a ‘painting on a wall’. This is an exhibition to take your time in contemplative silence around. With Easter half term around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to keep GCSE and A-level art students immersed (and hopefully inspired) for a while. I may just go back for a second look…

 

 

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Monthly Review: ‘Your Gallery’ Newport

What: ‘Your Gallery’ exhibition

When: Now – 20th January 2017

Where: Newport Museum & Art Gallery 

Admission: Free

About: This summer the public were invited to choose their favourite pieces from the gallery’s stored collection, which is comprised of over 200 pieces of artwork. The choices were put together to create the ‘Your Gallery’ exhibition, including a ‘young choice’ section.

What became blatantly obvious to me was that this was such an eclectic mix of styles! From the more traditional, idyllic scenes by the likes of Stanhope Forbes, to more contemporary and risque pieces such as ‘The Foolish Virgin’ by Gerda Roper, and Mary Fedden’s ‘Maltese Town’ which displays shapes and colours so bold and in contrast with the more reserved offerings. This can only be a good thing, as the collection is not tailored to one specific taste, but offers a plethora of variety, making it appeal to a wider audience.

For those who appreciate technical skill, there are a number of works that demonstrate precision and explore perspective. ‘Newport from George Street Bridge’ by John Meredith is the perfect example of painstaking still life work, with the shapes of the buildings and bridge almost being an homage to architecture, rather than the cityscape. However, one painting which I found myself unsure of was ‘Balloon Barrage’ by George Phillis. This piece in particular fixed my attention. Whilst the shapes boast of accuracy and obvious care, with structures being easily recognisable for what they are, there was something peculiar about the perspective that I couldn’t quite put my finger on; there seemed to be almost a flatness to the lower half of the painting, adding to the slightly surreal angle put on what would ordinarily pass as an ‘ordinary’ scene. The fact that Phillis uses an interesting colour gradient in the sky (orange to yellow, ascending eventually to vibrant blue) combined with a sight we’re not used to in our modern world (Barrage Balloons were commonly seen during the war over cities) makes the painting more than just an observational painting, but conjures some extra depth.

Phillis’s work isn’t the only to make use of colour though, with a particularly striking piece called ‘ Rhondda Sunday’ by Nan Youngman being a prime example of how tone and colour can be used to create an atmosphere. Youngman uses muted tones to convey with perfection the depressing atmosphere of the street. You can almost feel yourself stepping into the soaked street.

In addition to appealing to varied tastes, I also liked the inclusion of explanations on why each piece was chosen. I found it particularly pleasing that one was chosen by someone who had studied at Newport’s old art school, which has now been converted to apartments. I also feel the inclusion of a ‘young people’s’ area was a lovely touch, particularly as I feel art and creativity should feature more in education.

Elsewhere in the gallery (which is limited in space, yet makes the very best of it) there’s the unmissable video/audio space which shows the work of artist David Garner. His exhibition, titled ‘Respond’, was inspired by coins in the museum’s Chartism area. His piece titled ‘Pennies for the People’, which is a chandelier made using two pence coins stamped with words relating to austerity, is shown hanging in the Chartist Cave, Llangyndir, accompanied by admittedly the most unique and offbeat harp music I have heard to date. Rhodri Davies uses music to convey feeling, and I was not surprised to learn that the piece was improvised. Truly from his feelings.

David Garner’s coin chandelier can be viewed downstairs in the museum in the Chartist area, a choice which I feel to be beneficial (as opposed to being on display in the gallery area) as it encourages the viewer to enter into the history of Newport and fully appreciate where Garner is coming from.

Although the exhibition is one of the best I’ve seen in Newport over the years, there were small details that I felt were missing. It would have been valuable to have included the mediums used in each piece (although it’s always fun to look at the textures and make a guess!) and information leaflets like those used to describe David Garner’s work would have been appreciated. However, the desk staff are always more than happy to talk you through the exhibitions and a brief description is displayed on a wall.

Unfortunately if you’d like to purchase a souvenir of the exhibition you won’t find it. As a self-confessed art postcard hoarder, I would love to have been able to bring home a reminder of the wonderful work as I do when visiting any gallery. The exhibition is small and you will only need to put aside an hour to have a real good delve into the art and museum. However, if you’re passing, or visiting the city, it’s worth a look.

 

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