The exhibition in October 2017 featured work primarily produced on a short three week residency at the YGAT (Gate) Gallery in St. Clears in September 2017. It was a follow -on from the previous residency at The Burren College of Art in Co. Clare in the West of Ireland. It was a coincidence, perhaps, that both featured West coast locations with the connection of the name Clare….although spelt St. Clears, it was pronounced “St. Clares” or Sanclare.
The plan was to continue working in wild zones and with the history and heritage of the area and its various landscapes featuring in the subject matter, providing the “muse” for the work. Starting off with The English Lake District at The Kurt Schwitters Merz Barn, continuing to The Burren in Ireland, and now South West Wales, the next and last to complete the project is the Scottish West coast, tbc in due course.
The Gate residency was formed based on the work produced in Ireland. The notion was to engage in a discourse between the Landcape and its sublime features and the inner parish of the mind, with the overlay of cultural interpretation by a significant poetic voice. The voice in the Lakes was Schwitter’s himself, In Ireland WB Yates and Seamus Heaney, and in Wales Dylan Thomas. Whilst in St Clears I stayed in Laugharne, opposite Brown’s Hotel, famous as one of the various watering holes inhabited by Dylan Thomas, and his Boathouse on the River Taff Estuary.
What was also evident in the beautiful and varied Welsh landscape was the evidence of its past history with Castles and Historic features virtually on every rise, standing stones, Neo-Lithic tombs and Tumuli, ancient churches and evidence of the Old Pilgrims route from Canterbury to St. David’s on the Coast.
I visited several of the Pilgrim Churches in the area and discovered some of the pilgrim artefacts such as graves and stone markers, standing alone and forgotten in achingly lonely places, in fields, adjoining river banks, in forests and littoral shorelines where once many feet would have passed on their trek to the ancient Cathedral Church. They seemed to be signs from our past, unseen by many and unvisited by many, whilst often todays populace would fly by on modern roads not very far from these old routes. Today’s lives are lived more often than not in total isolation from these historic features in the landscape, unless they become “Disneyfied” and regurgitated into a tourist board “Coastal pathway” or tourist “Must See” hot spot.
For me the search for the sublime, the rural muse, is activated when we connect with the inner landscape, the inner parish of the mind, and the interpretation of cultural overlay in the work of Dylan Thomas. In his work he often made reference to the pilgrimage of life, of religious thoughts associated with the landscape in a picturesque eloquence of phrase associating God with thunder, rainbows and night and reminding us that the sublime (or spirit ?) of things is often found in the common elements of rock and stone, echoing perhaps Gerard Manley Hopkins “Heceitas”or “this-ness” and even the Duns Scotian philosophy of sublimity of Wild places.
In the work produced at YGAT I have taken the notion of place as refuge and sanctuary where these wild places become realms to reach into the past, or the past reaches into the present. This borderland or liminality is where residual memory surfaces and the past becomes evident. To live in the present is one thing, but the present is formed by what has gone before. In this work I have tapped into the collective history, through the landscape and impressions formed from the work of Dylan Thomas, and synthesise it in an amalgam of different impressions, views, thoughts and memories.