Two Aberystwyth School of Art graduates, Ruth Hogg and Suzzy Murphy, have work on show at the Celf o Gwmpas ‘Discovery’ exhibition in Brecon Arts Centre until 27th January 2020. Encompassing themes from gender, environmentalism and mental health, the work on show portrays the artists’ discovery of new things about themselves and their practice over the last year. The network was founded in 2016 and since then has gone from strength to strength and is now funded by Arts Council Wales. Jane Mason is an artist and curator of the Discovery Exhibition.
Gerry McGandy – Can you tell us something about how the exhibition came about and what it means?
JM – Discovery is the third annual exhibition of Celf o Gwmpas artists’ network. Celf o Gwmpas is an arts charity based in Llandrindod Wells, mostly known for working with learning disabled adults. Over the last three years we’ve been developing an artists’ network which supports all local artists in Mid Wales to reduce isolation, encourage creativity and to help with professional development. So this is the third exhibition and the idea of Discovery was that it fitted with the Visit Wales theme for the year and I wanted something that wouldn’t be too restrictive for the artists because some of them have not been working for a long time or just coming back to it, some just starting out so I didn’t want it to be too restrictive but also I wanted there to be a theme so that I could actually promote the exhibition with something like cohesiveness as well as the diversity that comes with a lot of different artists. So, we’ve got various different interpretations of the word discovery.
GM – Perhaps you could talk me through some of your work here.
JM – Because Celf o Gwmpas is an arts organisation that runs community workshops I wanted to do something that engaged the community, engaged the audience. My work Unearthed is basically about the future generations discovering about us now. How do we know about ancient man? We dig up what he left behind and that’s how we discover how he lived. The idea was that people were invited to come and make an impression in clay which represents what they are going to leave behind for future generations to discover. Obviously, that’s taking into consideration the effect that we are having on the environment because everything we do leaves a mark. Once people have made their impression in clay I then cast it in plaster. It’s building up, there are more tiles each time it’s exhibited. This is the third exhibition, the first in Celf o Gwmpas, the second in Cardiff. At the first exhibition the larger tile was in the middle but when I took it to Cardiff I just took the tiles as it’s starting to work as a piece by itself without the central form. So, it’s very much about people expressing themselves and thinking about what impact they are going to have on the Earth for future generations to discover.
Ruth Hogg has six photographs from her NO FUCKING AGENDER project on show. The project is a collaboration with artist and anthropologist Auralmiths. The pair work with models of non-traditional or fluid gender definitions to explore how gender is constructed and affected by individuals and society. The models are encouraged to voice their thoughts on how perceptions of gender affect them, and excerpts from these are exhibited with the photographs and drawings.
GM – Ruth, this is the third exhibition in your ongoing research project NO FUCKING AGENDER. Tell us a bit about how the project developed.
RH – The project was conceived thinking about ideas on the male gaze and then the female gaze in opposition to that and then the possibility of there being a non-gendered gaze of a photographer. I feature in the photographs reflected in the mirror, photographing the models, highlighting the fact that I am making the photos. I really wanted to show respect to the models and not present them as objects but as people. So, I asked them questions about themselves. I asked them how they felt about their body image and how they felt about their gender and also how they felt about how society felt about their body image and gender and presented excerpts from their answers beneath their pictures.
Fin, a model, says; “I think Ruth’s point of departure was an interesting question in itself, this kind of research approach; can you transform the power dynamic and the gender role at the same time and are these power roles things you can subvert in a really experiential, practical sense?”
Suzzy Murphy is an artist and activist living in Llanrhystud. She works in oil and acrylic on canvas. Suzzy’s paintings are large and layered. Even her smaller canvases seem to be waiting to expand.
“These are message paintings,” says Suzzy, “as you look at them, more comes out in them. I entered this exhibition thinking about self-discovery. I’ve done a series of paintings in the last few years to do with the patterns in nature. These are wild and free as opposed to the patterns we fall into as humans, which are social constructs and largely controlled by our surroundings and environment. These are constructed by the media; newspaper, TV, films and increasingly social media marketing. Through fear and judgment, we are the destruction of ourselves and of the planet. Inside everyone I believe there is a frightened person, longing to be free as in the patterns of nature. So it’s about self-discovery.”
For more information: https://www.brycheiniog.co.uk/en/gallery/current-exhibition