Elysium Gallery in Swansea will this month play host to an exhibition At Crossed Purposes, featuring three-way conversations between two artists and a curator. The show, which runs from Saturday, November 10 until Saturday, December 23, is a creative curatorial project supported by 56 Group Wales that has led to the production of new work and new partnerships, a touring exhibition and accompanying book. The title of the project reflects its mix of conversation, creative practice, and curation, and aims to enhance the creative endeavours of its members by collaborating with artists from diverse geographical, generational, and thematic backgrounds. This collaboration seeks to redefine the 56 Group Wales, originally founded as a modernist avant-garde group in 1956, as a conscious, creative, collective, and critically relevant contributor to contemporary art in Wales.
Sixteen members were each partnered with an invited artist from elsewhere in the UK and Ireland as selected by the project director, Dr Frances Woodley. Each pair of artists were then invited to engage with her in a three-way conversation/correspondence. In total 32 artists and a curator were involved over a period of time that included the lockdowns when artists were often confined to makeshift studios. The curation of the exhibition reflects these conversations through the pairing of artists’ works.
Robert Harding, co-chair of 56 Group Wales, has been exhibiting for over 60 years, but this is the first time a curator has controlled the process. He says: “We were very lucky that Dr Frances Woodley agreed to take this role; besides being an academic and curator, she is also an accomplished artist. She was not only sympathetic to our aims but also knew how to communicate with a diverse range of artists, as well as being experienced in the administration required to bring together a large exhibition (over a hundred pieces) and edit an accompanying book.
“56 Group Wales has always believed in the process of ‘compare and contrast’. Frances shares this belief but challenged us to take this approach to a new level by pairing us with artists who we did not know, who were based outside Wales and who often had different life experiences. As she said, she became a ‘matchmaker.’
“The pandemic inevitably led Frances to use emails as a way of communication. There followed a long series of considered questions and responses that Frances edited into 16 three-way conversations. This extended and slow examination of varying artistic practice allowed the conversations to get well beyond the usual concentration on ‘lived experience’, and instead focus on the many other factors that determine artistic decision-making.”
The result of this way of working is a wide-ranging exhibition, a book that raises many issues relevant to artists that will have a shelf-life beyond the end of the exhibition, plus many new possibilities for each participating artist.
Preview: Saturday 10th November 7pm
Exhibition continues until 23rd December.
Exhibition open Weds – Sat 11am-9pm
Robert Harding & Tim Dodds, Martyn Jones & Martin Finnin, Sue Hiley Harris & Michael Geddis, Luis Tapia & Louise Manifold, Carol Hiles & Jane Rainey, Peter Spriggs & Christine Roychowdhury, Dilys Jackson & Keith Brown, Alison Lochhead & Judith Tucker, Pete Williams & Mark Doyle, Ken Elias & Morwenna Morrison, Harvey Hood & Molly Thompson, Rhodri Rees & Ellen Mitchinson, Sue Hunt & Paula Mac Arthur, Kay Keogh & Michelle McKeown, Tiff Oben & Garry Barker, Corinthe Rizvi & Louise Barrington.