OUR CREATIVE PLACE | FEATURE
Billie Ingram Sofokleous profiles the south Wales artists behind 11 new pieces of work which have sprung from the Creative Cardiff project, and which form a ‘storymap’ showing the best bits of the region, as well as getting the thoughts of its project manager.
This week sees the launch of Our Creative Place, a “digital storymap” featuring artwork in a range of media from creative types based in or around Cardiff. You can view it by going to the link at the end of this article, clicking on the 11 icons, reading each artist’s testimony and watching the attendant videos. It all seems wonderfully uplifting, and who better to describe it than its Project Manager, Creative Cardiff’s Vicki Sutton.
What was the catalysis for creating this project?
At Creative Cardiff, we have always been committed to the importance of networks, connections and placemaking. We believe that the creative community is stronger when the people and thinking is joined up and working in collaboration rather than in silos. We recognise that many of the people who work, and produce work, in Cardiff choose to live outside of the city. We want to help tell and amplify the story of that activity and enable creative storytellers to do that in imaginative and innovative ways.
In the past year, the pandemic has meant many of us are working, shopping and playing more locally. Discovering, celebrating and cherishing the hidden or forgotten gems in our local area. And so it feels fitting to us that we should take this opportunity to extend our storytelling beyond the city into the local areas where many creatives live and work.
Why did this project strike you as being so important?
We see our strength at Creative Cardiff as working collaboratively to bring together the creative community, making connections where there aren’t any (or are not visible and/or understood) and providing focus. Done well, placemaking work of this kind can impact in a number of significant ways; playing a role in the wider regeneration and revitalisation of neighbourhoods and communities, building confidence within and identity and reputation outside. This is going be vitally important as we move through COVID-19 and its increasing impacts.
How has this project helped with the mental health of the creatives involved?
At a time when creative work opportunities and funding for the self-employed is limited, we hoped this paid commission would play a small part in enabling creative workers to continue their practice and build their networks. The pandemic has proven how important it can be for creatives who are freelance or self-employed to feel part of a network and to have their voices expressed and understood especially at government and policy level.
Do you think that somehow in the chaos of restrictions and loss that creative power has allowed this project to flourish?
It is evident in many of the pieces for this project that the restrictions and loss play a part in informing the stories that the creatives tell.
One of the main themes I felt across the pieces was the sense of belonging or being home. Where do you call home?
I live in Barry, and work in Cardiff where I also feel very at home. I grew up in Swansea and that’s where my family are, so there’s also a strong sense of home there too.
How has the last year changed the appreciation of art in all its wonderful forms?
I think there’s been an increase in people enjoying arts and crafts in their home and their local area, and also craving to go out and experience art and culture together.
OUR CREATIVE PLACE: THE ARTWORKS
A traditional Irish poem found in Elaine Gill’s Celtic Verse, narrated by Gwyn Davies, this piece is an immersive stopmotion animation which spans the calendar year, representing the artists through the medium of a salmon swimming.
Erin Mali Julian, painter and maker (Darren Valley, Caerphilly)
This short film captures the sense of belonging amongst the quiet and green places in Wales, interrupted gently by the human sounds of radio transmissions of their local radio station. The nominal representation of the elusive Bigfoot represented by found materials on litter picking walks by the artists involved.
Hunk Williams, multimedia artist (Caerphilly)
This short video piece, Lord Build Me A Cabin, professes to represent, or lionise, the Welsh Union Of Odd Queers, whose handstitched banner is filmed being paraded around backstreets; the 16mm film used to capture it was then painted over, lending a swirly psychedelic effect. This is coupled with audio relating a grandparent’s tale of Aneurin Bevan outfoxing some Tories in decades of yore.
Francine Davies, artist (Ogmore By Sea, Vale Of Glamorgan)
A magnificent, illustrated story and digital flipbook with a rich and textured audio of the tale. It explores the landscape as well as re-using preloved fabric.
Gwenllian Davenport, multidisciplinary artist (Merthyr Tydfil)
In a magical space between both English and Welsh, this piece utilises the wizardry of sound mapping from a self-made collection of imagery and audio through lockdown. A spoken word performance that enhances the shapes of the hills and through narration, this sculpts a journey to ‘The Chwarel’.
James Tottle, sculptor/carver/painter/designer (Blaenau Gwent)
A memento of the collective losses over the last year culminate this beautiful snapshot though the medium of ice – a carving of a child and her grandfather, frozen in time. In a collaborative short film that displays the form being created and an explanation of the artist’s last year, the change and futility of the pandemic brought into view is captured in this material, with its limited lifespan.
A real passion for their homestead, this feels like a juxtaposition of the presentation of self, being represented as an artist and identity being entwined. In exploring the landmarks, it has an impact in how we think about our own hometowns.
Naz Syed, visual artist (Newport)
The rainbow has been a symbol of hope throughout the pandemic, its connections to the LGBT community supplemented by a new visual link to the NHS and frontline workers. Syed’s ‘coat of radical kindness’, which has led the artist to be dubbed “Bohemian Mary Poppins” when sporting it, reflects creativity – made out of over 300 pompoms, it’s a colourful, tactile manifestation of creative dreams.
Lucy Jones, dance artist (Rhondda Cynon Taf)
Dance is of course a means of expression, and in this performance – housed outside in a number of landmarks and in public spaces across the Rhondda – we can hear a collection of chatter, birdsong, car sounds and a spoken word voiceover, overlapped with friendly everyday conversations and laughter.
Rufus Mufasa, participatory artist (Rhondda Cynon Taf)
A short film overlapped with a psychedelic filter separates the themes of Horatio Clare’s book Heavy Light and the Little Lounge in Cilfynydd; discussing the affiliation between feminism and faith, while delving into the process of modernisation and connection through prayer.
Stuart H. Bawler, Artistic Director (Monmouthshire)
Through the medium of film, through puppeteering wonderment, humorous narration and playful storytelling we jump into the world of ghost stories, UFOs and the terrestrial and extraterrestrial realm of celestial forms and belief. This expression of wonder and collaborative understanding of self. The challenge of the Three Peaks is as daunting as any challenge and travelling by any means necessary.
words BILLIE INGRAM SOFOKLEOUS