Our last chance at Being Mindful in Cwmafan this morning and we started looking at ways to keep looking at the world differently after the course is finished. The practice of pausing and looking is something we should all do from time to time to restore a sense of balance into our lives. Parks are great for this since we are instantly put in a calming environment.
We returned then to Parc Siencyn Powell to consider how our designs for life will continue. By putting together photographs in a sequence we considered the stories we could tell and how particular themes could help us be more creative, develop our technical skills further, but also help us discover more about this special place. Our participants told stories about renewal, the change of seasons, alternative perspectives, as well as the passage of time. By choosing to see their world in new and innovative ways our participants are more mindful of their local environment. I’m certain this is a way of living they’ll continue to practice long after we’ve left today.
A few months ago now a group from Townhill went to Rhossili for their Bringing Gower Home workshop experience. Today we rejoined them to celebrate what was special about Gower and how they have progressed since then.
We combined the photography exhibition with a family fun day and celebrated everything the Gower offered Townhill as well as all the positive things Townhill generates for itself. Some Bringing Gower Home participants have gone on to do other photography courses based on the confidence they’ve gained. Others have revisited the Gower through the winter and have spent more time connecting with this special place.
It was great to see other participants from recent Communities First photography workshops join us and share the differences and the similarities between taking photographs in the city centre as opposed to out on Gower Peninsula. We compared everything from the weather, to transport, to the local facilities in working out where we’d prefer to be.
This Townhill Through Photography exhibition will continue at The Phoenix Centre library in Townhill for a few weeks more to give the community the opportunity to spend more time considering their next visit to Gower through connecting with participants’ photographs. The exhibition also showcases other photographs taken by this vibrant and talented community. You can read more about Bringing Gower Home and how it champions Gower for Swansea Bay communities by clicking HERE.
Over at Melincryddan Community Centre this morning we’ve been exploring who we wish we could be. Looking at our hopes and desires is partly about setting realistic goals for our future as well as consolidating our past. Pretending, dressing up, and encouraging play is something most people don’t explore after childhood unless they’re a little inebriated. We encourage it in children so they can discover who they are and who they want to be. By the time we’re adults we are somehow supposed to have worked it all out so that we can be grown ups… whatever that means.
In reality we’re always exploring, hoping, learning more about ourselves. I’ve always felt that the day you stop learning something new is probably the day you die. There is always an evolution of the self which keeps on learning and evolving. It’s a long process of self-cultivation which philosophers have mused upon for millennia* but today we captured it in photographic form. Here are the people of Melin being mindful of who they are, who they were, and who they wish they could be…
*This is nothing new. Confucius knew all about the gradual long term process of developing yourself back in 500BC.
He said: “From the age of fifteen on, I have been intent upon learning; from thirty on, I have established myself; from forty on, I have not been confused; from fifty on, I have known the mandate of Heaven; from sixty on, my ear has been attuned; from seventy on, I have followed my heart’s desire without transgressing what is right.”
“The Master’s Way is nothing but other-regard and self-reflection”
So yeah, go off and reflect. Play. Learn. Be. Develop. Live.
New Forms is an ongoing exploration through building life-sized artworks around a model torso. Throughout the series I am deconstructing and collaging work of other artists, and sometimes my own, to create a new three-dimensional forms.
My original concept for New Forms was to go back over my past sketches and sketchbooks and use the material of my past to create a new body of work for the future. The canvas being a mannequin enhances the idea of a corporeal body which evolves as it transitions from past to future. These new ‘skins’ I’m creating speak new volumes from the remains of the old.
Through inviting other artists to donate me pieces of their past I’m no longer thinking of myself as a singular being but am evolving ideas on community cohesion. The experiences I have are not always my own since they are formed and informed by the actions of others. We are moving forward together as a society. It is almost impossible to exist without human contact of some sort and our collective pasts overlap and inspire who we are today. People who may not have featured in that past are here today to help evolve our futures. Our timelines are twisted and interwoven together, layered in sometimes obscure and incredible ways.
For New Forms 7 I have used source material provided by fellow artist Graham Parker. This material is more than a decade old and is part of a previous portfolio of painted works on paper. This creation by an earlier version of himself has been reworked into something more relevant to who he is today. The stitching follows the same style of suture that Graham recently received as part of ongoing NHS care. Meanwhile the hand is symbolic not just of our practice as fine artists but also the hand of friendship which we share. Through recycling and reworking Graham’s imagery into something tangible and solid we are merging practices through multiple timelines. New Forms 7 is a creation not just of this period in time but over several periods of our combined history. Time for us is not linear but instead forms a sustainable web of dialogue between each other and a wider society.
Graham and I have agreed to submit these images for The Art of Caring exhibition which will take place at St George’s Hospital in London 3rd-12th May to coincide with International Nurses Day. A selection of work from this exhibition will also be exhibited at St Pancras Hospital, London, from 20th July to 19th October 2017. You can read more about this exhibition by clicking HERE.
Melanie Ezra and Graham Parker ‘New Forms 7’
Melanie Ezra and Graham Parker ‘New Forms 7’
Melanie Ezra and Graham Parker ‘New Forms 7’
Meanwhile, I’m also writing a blog for A FaB Intervention over on the Fringe Arts Bath website. Together with fellow curators Ben Honebone and Tim Kelly, we’re asking artists to respond to stimuli that we’ve created. We’ve posted drawings, photographs, video, and music to give artists and performers ideas on what to create. Their responses will be displaying in a two week exhibition as part of Fringe Arts Bath in May/June or will form part of a street performance event on Saturday 25th May.
It’s really exciting to be part of Fringe Arts Bath again. It’s one of the biggest arts events on the calendar! Find out more on how you can get involved HERE.
Today’s workshop at Cwmafan Library focused on the idea of a portrait as a reflection of our personalities. Who we are is a complex mix of part, present, and wishing for the future. Sometimes we give our time willingly to others, other times we struggle to find time for ourselves. Our characters are always evolving along with our local neighbourhood. Our lives start with us and end with us and somewhere in the middle we muddle along the best we can with what life throws at us.
Here our group have looked at how best to represent their life’s journey so far. The photographs represent new skills to be learned as well as old ones rekindled. They show family history and employment history. They also show hidden reflections of today’s participants. They’re not your conventional selfies but then Cwmafan is not a conventional place. Our participants dug deep into the philosophy and concept of the self and found the best ways to represent an evolving persona.
We often get told by participants on workshops that they feel their photograph might have been better if only it was sunny. Well, unless you have some kind of magical meteorological device which I don’t know about there isn’t any way to get the sun to appear to order. Life isn’t about wishing for things you can’t get but instead appreciating the things you do have.
At Clase today we had moody grey skies and a misty view over the mountains and the city. It was bitterly cold in the wind and threatening rain or sleet or something horrible to drop from the skies any second. But that’s Clase in February for you, and rather than get depressed about it we made the most of exactly what was on offer.
We found hearts in trees, a horse, the start of Spring, water storage, barriers and open spaces. We imagined what Clase would look like in 3 weeks time when Spring kicks in properly.* It’s a real privilege to be here at the change of the seasons; watching the tail end of Winter leave us and Spring start to take hold. We improved on our compositional skills from last week and thought of the most inventive ways we could represent a moody Tuesday in Clase. Most importantly though, we found a unique sense of community, and we had fun!
*We’ll still be here then so it will be great to compare the photographs here with those we take on the final week.