Welcome to Roath

We ventured back into the heart of the big city today to visit Milkwood Gallery in Roath, Cardiff, to view their current exhibition, Welcome to Roath (Croeso I’r Rhath), curated by Bob Gelsthorpe.

“Shwmae a croeso i’r rhath, welcome to five responses to the locale of Roath. Welcome to observations of the overlooked, celebrations of the community, the old, the new, the cracks in the pavement and the spaces in between. Welcome to outside perspectives and insider explorations, welcome to an exhibition of CF24 and welcome to Roath” – (via www.woic.co.uk)

The exhibition features work by Laura Cooper, Carwyn Evans, Mark Houghton, Tiff Oben & Helene Roberts and Becky Williams. Some of these names are more familiar to us than others with Carwyn Evans having been awarded the Gold Medal for Fine Art in 2011.

There was a mixture of work on display including fabricated steel, wood and glass sculptures by Carwyn Evans, a old table top painted with bands of colour by Mark Houghton and a video ‘installation’ by Tiff Oben and Helene Roberts.

Interestingly the signage on the wall as we entered through into the gallery gave the Curator, Bob Gelsthorpe, equal billing as the artists. We weren’t familiar with his name prior to this exhibition but having done a little online digging we have discovered that he is a recent Fine Art graduate.

Apparently this exhibition was brought together, at least in part, via an open call online:

“Artists/ Makers of any level making work that is critically engaged but also ideally involves the geography, community or idiosyncrasies of Roath. We are currently looking for expressions of interest from artists/makers of any level from Cardiff or further afield in using the Milkwood Gallery as part of a group exhibition, Croeso I’r Rhath/Welcome to Roath” – (via www.isendyouthis.com)

Whilst the work that was exhibited maybe “critically engaged” at some level there was no apparent engagement between one work and the next in the context of the show. Any concepts revolving around the exhibition’s “Welcome to Roath” theme were also rather lacking which was a shame given that the exhibition purported to present a “celebration of the community“.

Tiff Oben and Helene Roberts’ did presented a video of someone (presumably one of the artists) wrapping bunting around a lamp-post in Roath but we found it rather uninspiring and any ideas that it might have been trying to convey were lost to the deafening silence screaming out from the void between the works.

Becky Williams also presented a locally inspired work entitled the Roath Exploration Experiment. This was a participatory piece that was sloppily represented by a wall of grainy postcard prints curling from all corners. This didn’t do much to encourage us to participate.

Milkwood Gallery is not a large exhibition space and the nooks and crannies resulting from the old architecture of the building would present a challenge for any Curator. In this instance however, there was a sense that the Curator had selected work for the show without any real consideration of how the works would work not only with one another but with space in which they were being exhibited.

The exhibition appeared not to have been curated but roughly assembled.

To suggest that the exhibition had been curated would imply that there was a dialogue between the works on display with regard to the overarching exhibition themes. Unfortunately we found the show lacking in dialogue and any engagement, critical or otherwise, with the exhibition’s central themes that were alluded to in the press release.

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy some of the work. Mark Houghton’s painted tabletop, for example, was appealing but in the context of this exhibition it was difficult to get a handle on the work at a conceptual level. The work would appear to be a part of a wider practice which say nothing to us of the “geography, community or idiosyncrasies of Roath“.

We’ve complained before on this blog about the all to free and easy use of the word “Curator” and derivations thereof and this exhibition was a prime example of the way in which the term has been dumbed down to be nothing more than a fanciful word for an “organiser”, “administrator” or on occasion “collector”.

Whilst we’d certainly look out for an opportunity to view work by these artists in a different context, on this occasion we were left a little cold as a result of the (lack of) presentation and curatorial nous.

The show continues until the end of the month so there’s still time for you to visit the gallery and make your own mind up.

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