Ceri Subbe reviews Bodfa Continuum – the Possibilities of Time, an exhibition at Plas Bodfa exploring time and storytelling via 69 creative projects from over 77 artists, makers and creative people.
A new multi-disciplinary art exhibition has opened its doors in a 1920s manor house in Llangoed, Anglesey. The title of the exhibition – Bodfa Continuum – is concerned with the flow of time and how we experience this flow. Bergsonian ideas around time’s malleability are examined as over 77 artists explore creative spaces located in the liminal areas between past, present and future. The immersive exhibition exists in a place between fiction and non-fiction, consisting of more than 35 rooms filled with works from painters and printmakers, potters and pathfinders, sound artists and poets.
The exhibition statement declares an ‘admission of existence – to concede and celebrate our influence on this house and this place’, and current owner of Plas Bodfa, artist and cultural initiator Julie Upmeyer, passionately seeks to intertwine the domestic lineage of the property within the current space. The house has been, amongst other things, an American-style steakhouse, a residential care home, a tapestry kit company, and a tearoom. This hybridity of identities bleeds into the current exhibition where the artists have incorporated elements of the house’s history with their artwork, including a mock-up of the old tea salon, haunting paintings and photographs of past occupiers, murals, music, and sculptures both inside and outside of the property.
The exhibition is certainly heavily concerned with memory and remembering, leaning on an almost gothic investigation of the presence of the past in the present. Where the exhibition excels, however, is in its willingness to inhabit more futuristic content. The most striking room out of the thirty-five available is that occupied by the art of mwnciboi (@mwnciboi).
The stark, monochrome, urban drawings are seemingly misplaced in this gentle country house, and yet, are a completely appropriate force in powering a sense of future trajectory and as a means of challenging the necessity of forgetting over remembering.
Another bizarre, and yet strangely compelling, room consists of a mini-disco playing the K C and the Sunshine Band hit ‘Get Down Tonight’, engaging the viewer in a direct dialogue with the seventies, within the context of a hundred year old house. This has an element of the absurd, chiming with other surrealist-inflected artworks in the exhibition such as a typewriter on a toilet, a smashed up piano buried under a mound of soil, and a Mexicana-style mirror which turns into a steak (yes, a steak) when viewed through its QR code. Some of the rooms also have a Tracey Emin-esque sense of the unmade bed – objects strewn around rooms in an attempt to instil a lived-in feeling. This occasionally borders on plain messy and does not have the gravitas to carry the intention, it does, however, fill the spaces with an atmosphere.
The impact of the exhibition fulfils the brief of exploring the possibilities of a house. The ricketiness of the property provides a hauntingly necessary sense of memory seeping into reality, questioning the elastic way we experience time in space. The house itself is an excellent vessel for creative visions, and owner Julie Upmeyer provides the warmth and enthusiasm which allows for creativity to thrive. The gardens must not be overlooked – brimming with joyous growth and life – they provide an oppositional emotion to the dilapidations of the house, in keeping with the past/present opposing themes of the exhibition. The views from the house and gardens of Snowdonia and the Menai Straits are also works of art in and of themselves, beautifully framed from within in the property by two large turret bay windows, and from the sunken tiered gardens on the outside which hint at a glimpse of mountain summits, giving an expansiveness to the overall outlook.
Ultimately, the question posed by this exhibition is what makes a space a place? The answer, it would appear is art, art that is capable of transcending time, space and context, art that can give a future to the past. In his seminal text The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard describes the chief benefit of a house as a space which ‘shelters the daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace…the house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories and dreams of mankind.’ What has been achieved at Plas Bodfa is a balance of reconstitution of where daydreaming has been experienced in the past, and continues to shelter dreamers today in a house that is alive with both analeptic and proleptic vibrancy. Plas Bodfa will eventually be home to art studios, an artistic residency program, holiday-lets, events, retreats, a family home and will continue to host and inspire cultural projects of all kinds, and when visiting the exhibition, it is not difficult to imagine.
The Bodfa Continuum exhibition is part of Anglesey Art Weeks – Open Studios and Galleries 2022, an open studios event all across Anglesey. Bodfa Continuum – the Possibilities of Time is showing at Plas Bodfa 9 – 24 April.