Meanwhile, in St Pancras

Last week saw the opening of my second consecutive exhibition in London. Sewing Circle Rethread features 23 artists who feature needlework and craft in their artmaking. The exhibition is at the Conference Centre in St Pancras Hospital and curated by Elaine Harper-Gay and Peter Herbert. The exhibition space is quite unique since it is part of the working hospital. Exhibitions are often themed in a Health Care Conference Centre setting since most footfall is from healthcare professionals and other medical staff.

It’s always exciting to be displaying in strange and unusual gallery settings. It is important to me that my art is inclusive rather than exclusive and that it has ‘chance’ viewers from all walks of life. Artists themselves do not, and should not, exist in a bubble and any chance for cross-disciplinary talks to engage others in the Arts has always been key to my practice.

Sewing Circle Rethread is showing The Conference Centre, St Pancras Hospital, 4 St Pancras Way, NW1 0PE London, UK. Opening times are Monday to Friday 9-5pm. Show runs until 12th January. I’m hoping to make the journey across to London soon to see the show in-situ. Meanwhile a load of photographs from the opening night are available on Facebook by clicking HERE. If you find yourself in the area go see! You won’t be disappointed!

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Swansong

A few months ago I spent the day in a pub cellar listening to Swansong by Mudlark continuously for seven hours. Just let that sink in for a moment…

…seven hours…

Yep.

That’s a long time.

Let’s face it, for any sane person, listening to your favourite track over and over for such a long period of time would break you. Even if you were completely in love with a particular band, seven hours would probably be enough. You’d give that music a break for a while until you fall in love with it all over again. This hasn’t happened for me with Swansong.

It’s an occupational hazard when you’re shooting music videos then you’re inevitably going to be listening to something for a good long while. There’s not just the shoot, but the hours of editing that inevitably follow. It can either be a pleasure or a torment depending on whether you connect with the music. I refuse for it to be a torment.

The beauty of the music videos I make, as part of Stone Letter Media with Ben Honebone, is that we only want to work with projects that we connect with. We sometimes seek out bands that we know we have a vision for, because we know that what we can create will match up perfectly with the philosophy of the band. We’re big fans of Mudlark to the point where we made their video for Frankenstein’s Ruth first then only asked them if they wanted the video afterwards! Mudlark’s music is something dark and wonderful. They weave sounds together in such a haunting way it’s both unnerving and familiar at the same time. There’s a kind of symbiosis between these guys that just tells you they’ve known each other forever. There’s an uncanny beauty about their music which I just can’t quite put into words. I’m always left with the feeling that Mary Shelley would be writing Mudlark’s biography with help from Pink Floyd. It’s this feeling that we wanted to capture when we made the video; a sublime yet comforting darkness.

But I digress…

Tonight they’re holding a launch for their new single Come Clean/Swansong at Fuel Rock Club in Cardiff. I’m gutted that I can’t be there because these guys deserve the time, the support, and the accolade for their music. Doors open from 6:30pm.If you can’t be there at least check out the video. You can find more of Mudlark over on SoundCloud.

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Anti-confidence and the Art of Losing

When I deliver my workshops I’m always mentioning that I’m not a very confident person. It’s difficult for people to understand how this can be true because I’m the one delivering the workshop to help others feel more confident! I find it easy to bring out the best in other people because it draws attention away from myself. I can find the strength in others because I can see the positives in the current situation they’re in without seeing all their life history dragging them down. I can help other people feel good, but making myself feel good and promoting my own strengths is something I find very difficult to do.

How can I explain this better?

I remember something my Gran and my Mum used to do. Gran hated washing the dishes but she would come over to our house and wash dishes for Mum whilst she was out. Washing your own dishes is a chore and a bother which seems to never end, but washing dishes for other people does them a favour which they appreciate. Mum would return the favour by doing dishes at Gran’s house. Each had conned themselves into turning tedium into novelty just by swapping homes. By being pragmatic and generous to each other, household chores became pleasant surprises to be bestowed upon each other.

We all get by a little better with help from our friends.

Sometimes though you have to dig deep and go solo in putting yourself out there. Why do I find it so hard to promote my artwork, to go to exhibition openings, to send emails out to organisations to promote workshops? Well, it’s because I’m putting what small confidence I have in myself on the line and tempting rejection. Procrastination and doubt can be crippling in convincing myself that I’m setting myself up for a fall.

So what do I have to lose? If I’ve already convinced myself that I’m going to fail and there is no point in doing something then surely I have lost already. So if I’ve lost already then I have absolutely nothing to lose? Hey… hang on… Let’s just think about that for a second… I HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE!!!! Genius!

I am not confident, I am anti-confident. I am rallying against my own lack of self-belief and doing it anyway. I can ask friends for help because I’m not scared of the reaction they might give. I’m angry at myself and rebelling against my own negativity.  Tell me I’m wasting my time and that you don’t like what I do. I don’t care. I have nothing to lose.

So here’s a video promoting me. I made it over the weekend and with a little help from my friends it will positively put me out there. I’m not looking for ‘likes’ or counting the number of views. I’ve done it. I’ve broken my own self-imposed cycle of negativity and am running with this as fast and as far as I can.

What’s the worst that can happen?

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The Sewing Circle Rethread

I’m really pleased to announce that I’m involved in another London exhibition at St Pancras Hospital. The Sewing Circle Rethread is curated by Elaine Harper-Gay and Peter Herbert of The Arts Project, Camden and features 23 artists who use needlework in their art.

This is a really interesting exhibition for me in so many ways. Needlework for me has always just been something that you do. It’s been in my family for so long, so many generations, that it never occurred to me that this is something that isn’t necessarily mainstream. It’s only over time that I’ve realised that the way I was brought up and the crafts I learned along the way just weren’t available to other people. I learned to weave when I was 10 and I handmade rugs at 11. I’ve knitted and sewed pretty much anything and everything. It hasn’t formed the main body of my artistic practice because it never occurred to me until recently that it could.

For The Sewing Circle Rethread, I am showing a piece called We are all a Work in Progress. This is a full size paper torso based on my own form and created from hundreds of darkroom prints from my old sketchbooks. Cyanotypes and salt prints tumble over photograms and sketch notes to examine the ideas of us being formed of our combined histories and memories. I’ve always believed that it isn’t your experiences that define you but how you stitch together the memories after. We are always reworking and redefining ourselves, creating new stitches to hold our minds and bodies together.

The Sewing Circle Rethread will open on 10th November and is open for viewing 9am-5pm Monday to Friday until  12th January at the Conference Centre Gallery, St Pancras Hospital, London. Film maker Anna Bowman will be making a short film about this exhibition. I’ve already been interviewed by Anna as part of The Art of Caring at St Pancras. You can see that by clicking HERE.

 

The Art of Caring

Recently I took part in an exhibition called The Art of Caring which was held at St Pancras Hospital in London. The art I created, with Graham Parker, for this show was linked to revisiting memories and the healing process we go through as part of facing a major (potentially terminal) illness. It looked at creating a sense of something new from the ashes of the old as well as how we can look forward together in the art of caring.

But don’t read any more of this. What you actually want is to visit the exhibition, digitally, in video form, and hear all about the exhibition itself from the artists and organisers themselves. Graham and I went up to London St Pancras Hospital and were interviewed for our part in the show. Skip to around 8 mins 45 if you want to see us in action.

Enjoy!

Melanie Ezra and Graham Parker 'New Forms 7' (detail)

‘New Forms’ Melanie Ezra and Graham Parker

Local Exposure

Some of my pictures are currently showing at the Local Exposure show over at the Workers Gallery in Ynyshir. It’s an exciting exhibition showcasing works demonstrating a connection to the South Wales Valleys, inspired by local community, local history, the streetscapes, or landscapes.

The question for me is “What is local?” If local is a geographical thing then at what point of measurement do places cease to become local? I’ve asked friends in the US what they consider to be local and they’ve told me that local is within a 5hr car journey. For us in the southwest of the UK this means local could be as far as the fringes of Scotland.

To me, local is a view of the South Wales valleys, mountains, and beaches from the hill near my home here in the city. Local is also the whole of South Wales though since I have friends and connections in various towns, cities, and villages all across South Wales. I’m forever travelling between valleys or scooting up and down the M4 motorway. Local isn’t just the Rhondda Valleys (where the Workers Gallery is located), it’s the friendships I currently have across various places and the memories I have of these spaces. Local is about familiar places and deep-rooted connections. Local can be what you make it, but you have to make it yours first.

This piece Playing in the Sunflower Fields of Dyfatty is currently showing as part of Local Exposure. It’s several layers of hand cut photograph assembled and held with paper fasteners. Dyfatty is very local to me. It isn’t in a valley. It has no hills. It has tower blocks and traffic. It’s about as urban as you can get*. The sunflower fields of Dyfatty appear annually along with several wildflower fields nearby. I’ve noticed various town councils plant these small fields on traffic islands and next to roads to help local wildlife as well as bring a slice of sanity to those of us ever shifting between our local spaces. Wales is lovely and unspoiled in so many ways so when we have felt the need to plant urban structures there’s also an instinctive drive to counter this and return to nature somehow  From junkies to judges, school children to sisters of mercy, virtually everyone I’ve met in South Wales feels a deep connection the natural landscape here in Wales. It’s a heritage we’re proud to preserve.

When I took the original sunflowers photograph I was surrounded by thousands of bees, and hundreds of passing cars, and yet I was also at peace and quite alone. This small sanctuary on a triangle of land near one of the busiest traffic junctions in town was my playground and my paradise. This is my local.

Local Exposure runs 10am-5pm Thur-Sat until 4th November (or by appointment). Workers Gallery is also celebrating its 3rd birthday soon. To recognise this they are holding a special birthday bash on Sunday 29th October 3-6pm. As part of promotional activity they will be offering 10% discount for Workers Mates on a whole heap of things. Contact them directly to find out more. Email: wood4tt@gmail.com or visit: Workers Gallery 99 Ynyshir Road, Ynyshir, Porth, CF39 0EN

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Playing in the Sunflower Fields of Dyfatty

*I showed a photo of Dyfatty’s architecture once to someone unfamiliar with the area and they thought I was in Berlin. That’s how urban this place is.

Empowerment and Employability

Camera Confidence is all about helping people realise who they are and what they have to offer. Empowerment comes from having the guts to give new things a go and using the support around you to make things happen for yourself. With the right attitude so much is possible if you’re willing to take a chance. What’s the worst that could happen? You get rejected in some way? A course turns out not to be what you wanted? So what? Who cares? What have you lost? In the great scheme of things you’re still alive and kicking so just pick yourself up and dust yourself down and crack on with the next challenge. People who are a success aren’t necessarily successful all the time. They are just more willing to experiment in the possibilities of what can work for them.

Our participants are working out where they want to head in life and what challenge they want to tackle next. Their goal throughout the course was to be confident enough to stand at the front and lead a presentation of their photographs. In four weeks (only 8 hours total) this could feel like a massive challenge but they achieved it. Standing and presenting yourself to your peers is not a comfortable experience but it’s a really valuable skill to have. Being able to walk into a room with your head held high and know that you are good enough is a huge boost to confidence. It makes you more employable. It makes you more able to tackle the crap that life throws at you and be able to challenge your comfort zones. It makes you more able to be the best you that you can be. You can’t get better than that can you?