Spring #3: Joao Morais walks down High St Arcade, the thoroughfare in Cardiff, to sample the latest exhibition from Project Ten.
While walking down High St Arcade, the bright Victorian shopping thoroughfare in the centre of Cardiff, it is impossible not to notice Adam Robinson’s giant abstract-expressionist painting, ‘Wet + Windy Brecon Beacons’. Placed against the back wall of Project Ten’s latest pop-up space, it is well situated to catch the eye of all passers-by in this busy part of the city centre. After the initial attention from its sheer size (the painting measures 200x300cm), the viewer is drawn to some of the more discreet emergences of neon orange and turquoise underneath the sombre hues that dominate the piece. The oil colours have been allowed to drag down the length of the canvas, and like the all-encompassing rain in the Brecon Beacons, they emote the personal experience of the artist; seeing the bright colours through Robinson’s drips, one is reminded of better times and drier days. As it is called ‘Wet + Windy Brecon Beacons’ (my italics), this implies to the viewer that the drips should perhaps not be vertical but angled – a minor complaint from a nitpicker such as myself. But ‘Wet Brecon Beacons’ as a result would not have sounded as evocative. As an eye-catcher to entice people through the doors of the gallery, the curator Cat Gardiner could not have hoped for a better piece.
Spring #3, the latest group show from the project ten collective, showcases new work from the gallery’s artists and designers. As well as Adam Robinson, the gallery also welcomes Carly Llewellyn for the first time. Her flirtatious and delicate prints are depictions of intimate articles of clothing. Prints like ‘Claudia Pleat I’ are angled and close up, so it takes a second to work out what the object is, encouraging either shock or laughter in the viewer.
Up the pop-up space’s long, rickety stairs is a small room at the top of the building. Barrie J Davies’s ‘Another Painting’ triptych* has a childlike quality, with subtle changes in the letters between each painting – perhaps an ‘n’ is rotated, or there may be different and often garish colours clashing next to each other. The Mickey Mouse in the background of each painting also adds to this childlike quality. Although the title suggests that they should be titled ‘Another Painting,’ anyone who has seen a Barrie J Davies show before will know that he is a humorous artist and often incorporates the surreal and bizarre into his work. The way that the words are written suggests that the artist was open to the idea of them being viewed as saying ‘Another Pain Ting’ (‘ting’ being slang for thing) suggesting an anti-autotelic view of the art world.
Across the far wall of the top floor, Debbie Smyth’s ‘Stag’ is an attention-grabber. This needle and thread composition is held in place along a border with dressmaker’s pins creating the inverted sillhouette of a stag. Echoing Cat Gardiner’s design-led vision for the gallery space, this piece juxtaposes its delicate materials with the masculine portrayal of the stag. Curatorially paired with the more delicate ‘bird branch,’ this allows the viewer to see an evolution of the idea. Smyth also uses this technique for her pieces ‘Ferris Wheel’, which is a depiction from afar of the well-known fairground attraction, and ‘Ship Ahoy’, of a ship. The technicality of their structure is echoed in the industrial nature of their content, as well as the sombre black-and-white of the composition. Spring #3
The well-lit lower ground floor wastes not an inch of space. Placed on the side of the stairs leading down, Natalia Dias’s ‘Waterfall’ is not the first piece you see on descending the staircase. After being shocked by ‘Mandala’, a series of terracotta hearts in the centre of the floor, the viewer is then caught again with the series of stoneware tongues entitled ‘Waterfall’ emerging from the wall. These have a surreal, alien-like quality and are as fascinating as they are grotesque.
Huw Aaron’s ink on paper pictures are to appear in a publication later this year in Eisteddfod Chair-winning poet Nei Karadog’s latest collection of poetry. The most striking of his three pictures is ‘Tawelwch y Cwm’ (‘The Quietness of the Valley’). In this picture, a crow stands on an old miner’s helmet. As it is silhouetted it is up to the viewer to decide whether the miner’s helmet is still lit or not; however, as a crow in Welsh mythology is known as a harbinger of death, it is perhaps geared more towards this end of the metaphorical spectrum.
All in all I enjoyed the show and would recommend visiting this. Project ten always makes the most of its spaces in each new location and the shows are impressive. I look forward to the Summer exhibition to see the next evolutionary step of this collective.