Various Artists

Elysium Gallery, The Cove, High Street, Swansea


Celebrating five years at the heart of Swansea’s art scene, the Elysium Gallery recently held a ‘Hullaballoo’ in their temporary space on the High Street, before their new venue opens this month. Approaching the Cove, where the exhibition takes place,  the first thing you notice is the amount of condensation – the influx of people out to celebrate the Elysium’s existence meant it was quite steamy on the inside. It was hard to pay much attention to the artwork upstairs as the music and number of people stretched concentration on anything but the here and now, but downstairs it was roomier, and the artwork on display made for a pleasant surprise.

On descending the stairs, it is hard to miss the collection of oranges on a golden rug that was to be used later on in a performance led by Nazma Ali. This was a highly ritualised performance, in which six women dressed in turquoise invoke a spell, similar to one at tactileBOSCH’s last ever show in October. At the height of this performance came the brilliant smell of oranges, which was made even more appealing by the lack of ventilation amid the 200 people watching.

Normally calling a work ‘Untitled’ seems like a bit of a cop out, but Victoria Coyle’s large painting (which also, by its sheer size, is the first thing you notice on descending the stairs into the basement) actually works in the context of the picture: it looks like the unearthing of a fresco underneath many layers of paint built up over the years, a la St Teilo’s Church in the St Fagans Museum. It shows an exasperated pregnant woman with a small child, perhaps tucking her in. As the picture looks newly discovered underneath the cloudy white which surrounds the two figures, the title ‘Untitled,’ for once, seems more than apt.

Next along is Lucy McDonald’s series of ‘Bird’ pictures, which use swift brushstrokes to capture the spirit of flight. Her use of colour to reflect the individual plumage of each bird works exceedingly well, and depicts movement in a way most pleasing to the eye. Even the background of the pictures denotes movement – a collage of wavy brush lines being used over an original drawing that I couldn’t quite make out. These pictures weren’t framed, and I felt that they should have been. While it may seem apt that they aren’t confined to a frame, which is against the whole notion of flying and its metaphorical aspect of freedom, I can’t help but feel that this would probably be reading too much into it – it felt like a curatorial decision rather than an artistic one.

On the far side wall, it wasn’t just the titles that were humorous in Tim Kelly’s digital prints. His absurdist playfulness comes through at every turn – in ‘A Bigger Moo,’ a man makes devil horns in a serious manner yet ‘mooooo’ appears directly underneath. Another playful piece (though in not the same way) is Ann Jordan‘s ‘Wherever you are, There Is Still A Long Way To Go,’ which depicts many views of an urban landscape from different perspectives, at different times of the day. The multiple silhouettes of her line drawings denote the many sides to every city. This heavy workload could only have come from many hours of observation, and is fascinating to view. Every now and again it is possible to make out a church steeple or chimney, stirring many a reminiscent thought as to the location of the artist when the canvas was drawn.