Cardiff through art, by Katie Brown

June 11, 2012 No Comments »

For the last year, Katie Brown has been blogging on all things cultural in and around Cardiff. Katie Brown: On Culture has taken the MA student to venues, performances, screenings and events right across the city. But as she prepares to move to London at the end of the summer, she looks back over what she’s learned about Cardiff’s cultural scene over the last 12 months. Here, in the fourth of her five guest blogs for yourCardiff, she talks about Cardiff’s community art and photography scene.

“So far I’ve written about theatre and literature, now it’s time for art. Of course it’s easy to find great art in Cardiff, from the National Museum Cardiff to the Koywood Gallery or Chapter Gallery, but what I find most interesting is the city not as the location of art, but the subject.

Korfball player Terry Matthews, photographed for We Are Cardiff by Adam Chard. Just one of the photographs that is appearing in A Roath State of Mind this month.

The stand-out success story of Cardiff art this year was the Cardiff Before Cardiff project. When Jon Poutney was refurbishing Warwick Hall, he came across a large amount of photographs and negatives, which he later discovered had been taken by Keith S Robertson during the 70s and 80s.

Not knowing how else to find the subjects, he put the photos on Facebook and sure enough people started tagging them. Jon then set about finding the original subjects and photographing them again, as well as other people and locations. This became a Tumblr blog where Jon and Keith’s photos were displayed together, which in turn became an exhibition at the Wales Millennium Centre.

The exhibition has now closed but the blog is still up and a book is in the pipeline. What is fascinating about the project is how difficult it is to tell Jon and Keith’s photos apart: it proves just how cyclical fashion can be, and how some parts of Cardiff still remain unchanged.

This side of Cardiff that is often forgotten is one that We Are Cardiff also celebrate. In response to the negative image of Cardiff often perpetuated by the media – one of binge-drinking and disorder – We Are Cardiff collects portraits and stories of ordinary (and quietly extraordinary) Cardiffians on their website and also in exhibitions.

One of these exhibitions which I have recently enjoyed is A Roath State of Mind, on at the Waterloo Gardens Teahouse until July 2. As the name suggests, the exhibition (comprising a selection of portraits on the walls and many stories scattered around the tables of the teahouse) presents Roath as not just a geographical area, but a thriving community.

Volunteers roll up artwork for Papergirl Cardiff

Another community initiative that I’ve really enjoyed this year is Papergirl Cardiff. Now in its second year, Papergirl Cardiff (an extension of Papergirl which started in Berlin) collects submissions from people of all ages and experience, exhibits them for a week in The PrintHaus and then distributes them to random passers-by by bicycle.

As yourCardiff recently reported, the bike ride took place on June 4 and was a great success. I really enjoyed visiting the exhibition, discovering exciting new illustrators (Ian Watson and Nathan Hallett were my favourites) and nosing around the artists in action at The PrintHaus. I hope Papergirl Cardiff will build on its success again next year: follow their blog for more details.

Talking of discovering new talent, one of my favourite exhibitions this year was Eccentric Worlds and Nonsensical Scribbles at the beginning of February.

Not in a gallery but an abandoned shop in the Capitol shopping centre, this was a chance to admire the work of illustration students from the Cardiff School of Art & Design (CSAD). I was really impressed by the wide range of illustrations, from cutesy children’s illustration to some quite disturbing pieces; video animation, installation pieces and even T-shirts. Photos of some of the work and links to the students’ websites are available on their blog.

Now there is another chance to see the illustration students’ work, along with fine art, architecture, graphic design and more, as this week the CSAD holds its Summer Show (until June 15 at the Llandaff and Howard Gardens campuses). Full details are available here: I can’t wait to see what the students have been working on, and will of course be blogging about it!”

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