My exhibition Unlost Places II (Deceptions of Solitude) is in the Art Pane Relief windows at The Workers Gallery, Ynyshir, CF39 0EN between 20th September and 3rd October 2021. So in a departure from the usual tongue-in-cheek stuff, this month’s blog is for those people who can’t get to Ynyshir or for the ones who want a bit more information about the artwork.
About Unlost Places
Unlost Places is a project which uses various methods of creative expression to map the metaphysical features of landscape and in particular, the spiritual legacy that lingers in ancient places. Unlost Places I reflected on the Iron Age hillfort of Mynydd-y-Gaer on the Glamorgan Ridgeway. Unlost Places II is centred slightly further west on Mynydd Llangeinwyr.
Mynydd Llangeinwyr is not a mountain by any commonly accepted measurement of altitude but those who live on its slopes or in its shadows happily dismiss the evidence of spot heights and contour lines on maps. Mynydd Llangeinwyr may be more aligned to “the high, steep hill” of a dictionary definition but when you cross the ridge in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims or stride along the Old Garw Road, rutted by generations of drovers, when you pause at the Bronze Age Burial Mounds of Bryn-y-wrach and look across the long, empty horizons and grass strewn slopes and know that thousands of years ago some other soul stood where you stand and saw the same things, then who is to say there is only one way to define a mountain? Unlost Places II consists of interpretations of Mynydd Llangeinwyr through the prism of the existence of two individuals – the eponymous Gwrach of Bryn-y-wrach and St Ceinwyr who is remembered in the spring, church, llan, mountain and village that bear her name.
Art-Pane-Relief Window Gallery
Both windows follow the same premise:
- textile art to represent an aspect of the physical landscape together with bells to indicate the presence – real, imagined or potential – of the numinous or spirit of place
- a collection of small dolls which illustrate the journey through life that all individuals undertake and which leads some to consider the possibility of a greater scheme
- the poetic tercets (3 lines, 7 syllables in each line) end with the phrase “deceptions of solitude” giving credence to the possibility of such a scheme
- a larger doll to embody the female protagonist associated with each place
- textile art which reflects upon the spiritual legacy in the location
Window One – Bryn-y-Wrach
The Last One
Hand embroidery on machined appliqué, various fabrics. The usual translation of Bryn-y-wrach is the Witch’s Hill. Less well known is the tradition that the last sheaf of corn to be harvested was known as the Gwrach. It was left standing in the field as shelter for the spirit of the land over the winter months. The following spring the Gwrach would be ploughed into the soil to ensure a good harvest.
The Barrow Wights
Stump dolls, various fabrics. Barrow Wights are described in folklore as small, scurrying creatures who tempt passers-by to enter the realm of the fae or otherworld.
Text printed by hand onto hand-made paper with a collage of watercolour painted leaves. Three composed poetic tercets describing the enduring legacy of folklore traditions.
Doll with hand embroidery on machine appliqué, needle-sculpted face and an internal armature for support. According to folklore, all crossroads were haunted by a witch who appeared as a beautiful woman. Having ensnared a traveller, she would turn into a crone or hag before disappearing. The traveller would never be seen again.
Hand embroidery on painted canvas. Illustration of the concept of genius loci – the spirit of place.
Window Two – Llangeinwyr
Free form knitting. Contrary to popular opinion a “llan” is not a church but a stone-walled enclosure. The original llan lies to the north of the current churchyard and it was in this field that I threw a ball of wool down the slope then walked after it, knitting as I went. The finished piece contains field debris such as moss, dried grass and tufts of sheep wool.
Stump dolls with crewel embroidery stitches. Haptic experiences like the handling of beads are associated with prayer and contemplation in many religions. The patterns on these dolls are finger traceries which fulfil a similar purpose.
Text printed by hand onto hand-made paper with a collage of watercolour painted leaves. Three composed poetic tercets relating to the stories surrounding St Ceinwyr.
Doll embroidered with medieval stitchery, needle-sculpted face and internal armature for support. Tradition links St Ceinwyr with the Mountain Ash tree so this is depicted on both sleeves and the panel of the doll’s skirt. St Ceinwyr was said to have the ability to turn snakes into stones and many ammonites were found near the places she lived. These spiralled shapes are stitched into the fabric.
Hand embroidered collages set on a mirrored background. The underlying concept which links both windows is that Christianity imposes a pattern and order of behaviour to replace the colour and texture of self-hood. In exchange the individual has the promise of a heavenly existence. The collages of Numinous 9 represents the 8 stump dolls – highly coloured in Window One, monochrome and simplistic in Window Two. The ninth patch and the mirrored background reflect the viewer both metaphorically and literally.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a browse through Unlost Places II (Deceptions of Solitude). I suspect next month’s blog will be less intense mostly because I am spending October cat-sitting, harvesting the garden, walking a half marathon and catching up with all of my mentoring clients who have patiently taken a back seat while I’ve been stitching all day, every day recently. Plenty of potential there for tongue-in-cheek stuff.