Lockdown painting update | Newyddion diweddaraf am baentio cyfnod clo

December 6th, 2020

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6ed o Ragfyr 2020

Mae’r dawnswyr rwyf wedi bod yn gweithio gyda dros y naw mis diwethaf i gyd wedi cael profiad o aflynoddwch yn eu bywydau proffesiynol, aml yn cadw eu harfer yn annibynnol mewn gofodau dros dro, gan fod defnydd stiwdio wedi’i gyfyngu a gweithgareddau wyneb yn wyneb wedi’u hatal. Dw’i ddim fel arfer yn meddwl gormod am gefndiroedd yn fy ngwaith, ond ‘chydig wythnosau’n ôl dechreuais awgrymu ymylon y lloriau dawns byrfyfyr hyn mewn lluniau – yn dechrau gyda darlun o Izzy Holland, a oedd wedi creu darn ei hun o ddawns i mi weithio gyda, ac yna mewn lluniau o Emma Slater ac Ann Louise Wall, a oedd (mewn darn o’r enw Grow) wedi creu coreograffi i’r llall.

Yn gwneud y lluniau hyn o ddawnswyr unigol, fe’m trawyd gan ba mor effeithiol yr awgrym o’r ardaloedd caeedig o’u cwmpas yn rhoi cyd-destun i’r ystumiau, o ran y gofod llythrennol, ffisegol lle gallant symud, ac hefyd efallai fel ran o’r cyfyngiadau ehangach y maent yn ymateb iddynt, megis colli cydweithio wyneb yn wyneb a chamaraderi ymarferion a pherfformiadau, ac ansicrwydd parhaus am y dyfodol.

Mae’r thema syml hon – ffigurau unigol gyda chornel motiff yr ystafell y tu ôl iddynt – yn dod yn gyfres yr wyf yn gobeithio ei datblygu ymhellach. Yn gwahodd y dawnswyr i archwilio eu meddyliau eu hunain o ran hwyliau, mynegiant, dillad ac yn y blaen, fy ngobaith yw creu casgliad o luniau sy’n bortreadau o unigolion, er bod yr unigolion wedi’u cysylltu’n agos â disgyblaethau artistig a rennir a’r dycnwch i barhau i weithio drwy amgylchiadau mor heriol.

Cefnogir y gwaith hwn gan Ballet Cymru a Chyngor Celfyddydau Cymru.

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The dancers I’ve been working with over the past nine months have all experienced acute disruption in their professional lives, often keeping up their practice independently and in makeshift spaces, as studio access is restricted and in-person activities suspended. I don’t usually think too much about backgrounds in my work, but a few weeks ago I started suggesting the edges of these improvised dance floors in pictures – beginning with a painting of Izzy Holland, who had created her own passage of dance for me to work with, and then in pictures of Emma Slater and Ann Louise Wall, who (in a piece called Grow) had each created choreography for the other.

Making these pictures of solitary dancers, I was struck by how effectively the suggestion of the enclosed areas around them gives context to the poses and gestures, both with regards to the literal, physical space in which they are able to move, though perhaps also in terms of the wider restrictions they are responding to, such as the loss of face-to-face collaboration and the camaraderie of rehearsals and performances, and continuing uncertainties about the future.

This simple theme – solo figures with the corner of the room motif behind them – is becoming a series which I’m hoping to develop further. Inviting dancers to explore their own thoughts with regards to mood, expression, clothing and so on, my hope is to create a collection of pictures which are very much portraits of individuals, though individuals closely connected by shared artistic disciplines and the tenacity to keep working through such challenging circumstances.

This work is supported by Ballet Cymru and by the Arts Council of Wales’s National Lottery Fund.

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ING Discerning Eye prize

November 21st, 2020

I’m delighted to have been awarded this year’s ING Discerning Eye Chair’s Prize for one of my paintings of Krystal Lowe and Gwen Davies made as part of my Kickstarter project, Painting Dance, a few years ago. Gwen and Krystal’s beautiful improvisations were a key part of my early experiments with collaborating directly with dancers, and continue to inform the work I’m doing now.

Many thanks to Beverley Knight – who selected two of my pictures for her area of the exhibition – and to the judges and all involved, and congratulations to all the other prize-winners and shortlisted artists. I last submitted pictures for this show in 2002, and it’s great to be involved again.

The exhibition features a huge array of work by six hundred artists, and can be viewed here until December 31st.

The second of my paintings in the show is Summer School 3, featuring Ann Louise Wall and Joseph Isaac Powell-Main rehearsing Divided We Stand at Ballet Cymru’s 2019 Wales International Ballet Summer School.

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Newyddion diweddaraf am baentio cyfnod clo | Lockdown painting update

October 5th, 2020

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5ed o Hydref, 2020

Fel mae cyfyngiadau Coronafeirws (COVID-19) yn parhau i effeithio sawl agwedd o’n bywydau, rwyf wedi bod yn hynod o ffodus i allu symud fy ngwaith gyda’r dawnswyr o fod yn seiliedig yn y stiwdio i cydweithredu o bell. Mae defnydd y dechnoleg ofynol i gynnal fy arfer wedi bod yn allweddol i hyn, fel y mae’r cyfranogiad o gynifer o bartneriaid creadigol – gan gynnwys dawnswyr doeddwn i ddim wedi’u disgwyl gweithio gyda nhw eto, sydd wedi bod yn lenin arian go iawn ir profiad hwn.

Wedi’u lleoli mewn nifer o leoliadau – hyd yn hyn yng Nghymru, Lloegr, Yr Eidal a Ffindir – mae fy mhartneriaid yn y prosiectau hyn wedi bod yn gweithio mewn lleoliadau stiwdio pan fyddent ar gael, ond yn amlach mewn gerddi neu mannau yn ei cartrefi, o ble mewn llawer o achosion maent hefyd yn cynnal dosbarthiadau rheolaidd, dysgu neu gymryd rhan mewn gweithgareddau dawns eraill.

Yn ystod arbrofion cychwynnol ar Zoom, gwithiodd dawnswyr cwmni Ballet Cymru Joe, Izzy, Maria a Andrea mewn parau i greu ystum mewn amser real – deuawd sefydlog gysylltiedig drwy ystum, a chyda chamerâu wedi’u lleoli yn y fath fodd er mwyn fy ngalluogi i greu rhithwir gofod a rennir wrth i mi ddod a nhw gyda’i gilydd mewn lluniau. Mae’r cyfansoddiadau syml hyn yn gwenud deunydd ar waith blaenorol y dawnswyr yn y stiwdio ymarfer, ac roeddent yn cyffwrdd â’r galon mewn ffordd rhyddef i mi ddarlunio, ail-lunio fel y gwnaethant darnau o’r gorffennol coreograffi lle’r oeddent wedi rhannu gofod ffisegol, ac wrth wneud hynny tanlinellu eu sefyllfa bresennol.

Rwyf yn datblygu y ddull hwnnw gyda cyn dawnswyr cyn-broffesiynol Reetta, Amy a Romy, rydem yn archwilio math newydd o gydweithio, wedi’w gymryd allan o amser real, lle mae’r artistiaid yn ymateb i goreograffi ei gilydd drwy fideo – yn dechrau gyda darn gan Reetta, a creu cadwyn drwy y grŵp sydd bellach wedi dolen yn ôl i Reetta eto.

Mae’r lluniau dw i’n ei greu yn gymysgedd o gyfansoddiadau unigol a grŵp, er bod y cyfansoddiadau’n parhau’n weddol syml wrth i mi addasu i’r dull newydd ac archwylio sut y gallwn greu y gamargraff o mannau a rennir yn gydlynol wrth ymateb i’r ddeialog rhwng y dawnswyr. Hefyd gan fy mod yn dechrau adnabod, rwy’n credu fy mod yn ffafrio y trefniadau ffigurau syml, llinellol hyn fel modd o awgrymu hylifedd rhwng ystum, yn rhannol drwy ddod o hyd i adlesio ymhlith onglau allweddol ac ystum, fel y gwelir ar lawr y ddawns.

Tra bo’r gwaith hwn yn parhau, mae cydweithredu pellach hefyd yn cael eu cynllunio, gan gynnwys prosiect tebyg gyda grŵp gwahanol, ac arbrawf gyda dau ddawnsiwr, y ddau yn creu coreograffi yw gilydd – eto, i gyd wedi’w datblygu a rennir drwy Zoom a fideo digidol. Dydyn ni ddim yn gwybod ble mae’r syniadau hyn yn arwain, ond rwy’n gyffrous iawn i gael gwybod.

Fel llawer o fobol – gan gynnwys, dwi’n gwybod, fy mhartneriad yn y prosiectau hyn, sy’n amal yn rheoli amrywiaeth o anawsterau a gwrthdyniadau – rwy’n aml yn canfod fod fy ffocws yn eu gyfaddawdu gan yr unigedd a phrofiad ehangach o gyfnod clo. Rwy’n ymwybodol iawn bod fy cynhyrchedd yn cael ei effeithio o dan yr amgylchiadau rydym yn byw drwy, ond fe’m hysbrydolwyd gan y gwaith yr ydym yn gwneud gyda’n gilydd, yn ogystal â’r gwaith parhaus Ballet Cymru ag eraill wrth iddynt addasu a bwrw ymlaen â’u rhaglenni. Rwy’n ddiolchgar iawn i bawb sydd yn cymryd rhan, ag i Gyngor Celfeddydau Cymru, drwy gefnogaeth Cronfa Loteri Genedlaethol sydd yn gwneud y gwaith hyn yn bosib.

Mae detholiad o lyniau o’r prosiectau hyn yn cael ei arddangos yn mis Mai/Mehefin 2021 yn Oriel Ffin y Parc, Conwy.

Am fwy o wybodaeth am weithgareddau parhaus Ballet Cymru, gweler eu gwefan yma.

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As Covid-19 restrictions continue to impact on many aspects of our lives, I’ve been very lucky to have been able to move my work with dancers from studio-based to remote collaborations. Access to the technology required to maintain my practice has been key to this, as has the involvement of so many great creative partners – including dancers I hadn’t previously expected to work with again, which has been a real silver lining to this experience.

Based in a number of locations – so far in Wales, England, Italy and Finland – my partners in these projects have been working in studio settings when available, though more often in gardens or spaces in their homes, from where in many cases they are also maintaining regular classes, teaching, or participating in other dance activities.

During initial experiments on Zoom, Ballet Cymru company dancers Joe, Izzy, Maria and Andrea worked in pairs to create poses in real time – static duets connected through gesture, and with cameras positioned in such a way as to enable me to create a kind of virtual shared space as I brought them together in pictures. These simple compositions drew on dancers’ past work together in the rehearsal studio, and were curiously moving for me to draw, recalling as they did past passages of choreography where they had shared a physical space, and in doing so underlining their current separation.

Developing that approach with former Ballet Cymru pre-professional dancers Reetta, Amy and Romy, we are exploring a new kind of collaboration, taken out of real time, in which the artists respond to each other’s choreography through video – beginning with a piece by Reetta, and creating a chain through the group which has now looped back to Reetta again.

The pictures I’m making are a mix of individual and group compositions, though the compositions remain fairly simple as I adjust to the new approach and explore how I might create the illusion of coherent shared spaces whilst responding to the dialogue between the dancers. Also, as I’m beginning to recognise, I think I’m drawn to these simple, linear arrangements of figures as a means of suggesting fluidity between poses, in part by finding echos among key angles and gestures, as may be seen on the dance floor.

Whilst this work is ongoing, further collaborations are also being planned, including a similar project with a different group, and an experiment with two dancers, each creating choreography for the other – again, all developed and shared through Zoom and digital video. We don’t know where these ideas will lead, but I am excited to find out.

Like many people – including, I know, my partners in these projects, who are often having to manage a range of difficulties and distractions – I frequently find my focus compromised by the isolation and wider experience of lockdown. I’m keenly aware that my productivity is being impacted by the circumstances we are currently living through, but am inspired by the work we are doing together, as well as by the continuing work of Ballet Cymru and others as they adapt and press forward with their programmes. I’m very grateful to all who are involved, and to Arts Council of Wales, whose support through the National Lottery Fund is making this work possible.

A selection of pictures from these projects will be exhibited in May/June 2021 at Ffin y Parc Gallery, Conwy.

For information about Ballet Cymru’s ongoing activities, please see their website here.

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Tips for young artists | Awgrymiadau i artistiaid ifanc

September 12th, 2020

Based on text prepared for Criw Celf’s summer school workshop (discussed in earlier post), I’ve written a few figure drawing tips for young artists.

The document is available in English and Welsh, and sets out (very briefly) a number of key considerations that I try to bear in mind as I work. Please feel free to download, share, etc. I hope they are useful.

Please find PDFs here.

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Criw Celf drawing workshop

August 13th, 2020

Under normal circumstances, at this time of year I would be preparing to deliver drawing/painting workshops for the South Wales arts organisation Criw Celf’s summer school programme. This year, as everything moves online, Criw Celf and everyone involved is doing things a bit differently.

Working with Ballet Cymru dancers Beth Meadway and Andrea Battaggia, we’ve created an online drawing workshop based on techniques I’ve developed with the company, enabling participants to draw the dancers remotely. Beth and Andrea recorded themselves performing two passages of dance – one classical and one contemporary – both performed very slowly, with pauses, and each filmed from three different angles. Playing the videos back, the artists will be able to pause the choreography wherever they wish, freezing the dancers in poses they would like to draw for as long at they need.

To demonstrate some of the techniques I use with regards to sketching out compositions, measuring proportion, developing tonality, and so on, I then had the curious experience of filming myself drawing three pictures from the footage, giving a commentary and explanations as I went along. One of these films will feature in the workshop, though time-lapse versions of all three can be seen on my social media pages – for example, on Instagram:

All are made with charcoal on sugar paper, and broadly present my approach with this kind of drawing (though perhaps in a slightly more deliberate, less spontaneous fashion, as I was thinking more consciously throughout the process in order to discuss it). I used to draw a good deal in museums, archeological sites, public squares and so on, and this exercise definitely took me back to the experience of being watched over my shoulder as I worked, jogging memories of sculpture and architecture I have studied, and long-ago conversations with passing onlookers.

The workshop will also include a PDF setting out drawing tips and discussing some of the key points I think about as I work, which I hope may be of use to participants.

Criw Celf’s Summer School begins on August 17th. It’s designed for ten to nineteen-year-olds, though is accessible to anyone who would like to take participate. There is no fee, though donations are welcome.

For details of our workshop – and the ten others in the programme – please see here

For further information about the work of Criw Celf, please see here

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