Swansea Civic Centre
Until 23 May (open daily, 10am – 5pm)
LOCWS International works with artists to create new works that are conceived and exhibited in Swansea and respond to ‘the people, culture, heritage and landscape of the city. They have commissioned a new temporary artwork by Pontypridd-based Jackie Chettur for Spring 2010.
Chettur is an appropriate choice for LOCWS as she works predominantly with the landscape and personal stories, retelling shared histories with sensitivity and a pinch of romanticism. On an outcrop of grass between the Civic Centre – home of Swansea Council and Swansea Central Library – and the sandy beach of Swansea Bay the new artwork can be observed through eight turquoise viewers. Chettur’s site-specific dioramas were created through combining self-made background scenes and props with artefacts from Swansea museums, including ‘sailor made’ model ships, historic paintings, and journals. They feature three-mast ships approaching tropical islands with palm trees against sunsets or all-at-sea against dramatic skies.
On opening night the weather is appropriately grey and stormy, throwing wind and rain at the audience and adding atmosphere to the series of staged stereo photos Chettur has created using 3D imaging technology, inspired by the voyages of the Swansea Cape Horners. Mumble’s Head, past which the Cape Horners would have sailed, is visible in the distance beyond each viewer.
Above each image copper engravings feature quotes from a diary by Benjamin Davies, and industrial worker sent on one of Swansea’s copper barques. These provide further insight into the extraordinary sights during the ships’ long journeys to fetch copper ore from Chile in the late 1800s for the copper works in the lower Swansea valley. Thus an entry for ‘Wensday 3 day (Dec)’ reads ‘Clear sky but the sea looking verrey wild and rolling verrey heavy…thear came a large whale alongside the largest the captain had seen…at one O’clock pm thear came two…dolphins and went twice around the ship.’ Chettur’s image here is fantastical – the stuff of tall seafaring tales where creatures of the deep dwarf the Cape Horner and fire up the imagination.