- Mixed Media,
Merched Chwarel is a collaboration between artists Marged Pendrell, Jwls Williams, Lisa Hudson and Lindsey Colbourne, whose work is connected to the quarries of North Wales where we each live and work. We started working together in 2016.
Our Research & Development phase (Jan - April 2017), was funded by Arts Council Wales. Taking it in turns to host a walk in a quarry, we experimented with individual and collaborative works in a variety of media, and held a number of events to share works in progress, at Amgueddfa Llechi Llanberis.
We are now working on creation of five curated, site-specific exhibitions of new works. To create these exhibitions, we are delighted to have been joined by curator, Jill Piercy. The exhibitions, between March and November 2019, will be held in Storiel, Bangor (including satellite cabinet ‘taster’ displays in 5 outreach locations), and in Amgueddfa Llechi Cymru, Castell Penrhyn and Llyfrgedd Blaenau Ffestiniog, Llechwedd Slate Caverns.
The exhibitions, and the individual and collaborative artistic development process from the end of March 2018, will comprise new art works in response to the question:
‘Who are we, the Merched Chwarel of the past, present and future?
How are our aesthetics, identity and connection to place, culture and language mediated by the quarries?’
Merched Chwarel is a collaboration between four artists and a curator
Marged Pendrell is an established artist living and working in Rhyd, near Penrhyndeudraeth:
Recent work for Ail-Ddyfeisio/Re-Take Re-Invent involved a process of walking around and within the slate quarries of Blaenau Ffestiniog. This began an enquiry into aspects of slate as a material, its geological origins and its history within the area. These concepts and narratives I am keen to explore further within the context of ‘Merched Chwarel.’
My work is both conceptual and intuitive and involves the process of walking and collecting. This has resulted in gallery or ‘site specific’ installations, with concepts explored in text and visuals within artist books and the more sculptural physical manipulation of materials.
Working collaboratively with a small group will challenge, extend and inform my solitary practice, as will a deeper exploration of the theme in different quarrying locations.
Jill Piercy is a curator, writer and consultant. She has for many years specialised in working with contemporary art and crafts in Wales:
I have curated exhibitions for many organistions and galleries in Wales, Europe and the USA. For six years, I was Arts and Crafts Officer for the National Eisteddfod of Wales, and most recently have worked as Exhibitions Curator at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on two occasions. I have been involved in researching many arts and craftspeople for publications and catalogue essays for galleries. For a number of years I worked on the biography (published 2013) of the artist and writer, Brenda Chamberlain, who came from Bangor and lived for nine years in Llanllechid near Bethesda.
Originally from Buckley in North East Wales, I am familiar with the industrial heritage of that area in the form of potteries, brickworks and coal mining. Many of the male members of my family were involved in the potteries and related industries but as yet I have not traced the involvement of the female side of the family. It intrigues me.
As curator, I am excited by the creative outcomes of Merched Chwarel's initial research. Their exploration into the female presence in industrial Wales resonates with me and my own background. Although the four artists work in very different ways, they do demonstrate a clearly defined shared vision of what they want to acheive.
I see my role as curator as helping the artists to bring their many and multi-layered ideas into a clearly focused and accessible series of exhibitions. I really look forward to the process of collaborating with the group to fulfil this aim
Jwls Williams is an industrial landscape painter who grew up on the side of a quarried mountain where three generations of her family had spent their working lives:
I am interested in the way industrial, social, cultural and geographical histories have shaped and left their mark on the landscape.
I often visited the quarry as a child with my Taid and my uncles and was fascinated with where they worked. I recently questioned why, as a female descendant of quarry workers this connection is so strong? As ‘merch y chwarel’ this project opens many doors and possibilities with the creative excitement of collaborating and sharing ideas with fellow artists.
My creative involvement with communities and schools is on-going. I am currently resident artist of the Snowdonia Slate Trail project which aims to increase awareness of our slate heritage and culture. From exploring the 85-mile trail I visually respond to the impact of this industry on the life, culture and landscape of the area.
Lindsey Colbourne lives and works in Nant Peris, Bwlch Llanberis:
My practice is based on collaborative and participatory inquiries into flow, activating spaces of encounter around a ‘site’, whether that site is a physical location, field of knowledge, conflict or cultural debate. Always based on a period of collaborative investigation, I use photography, film, sound, installation, drawing, printing and dialogue to create social events and spaces that encourage reflection and interaction.
Recent work includes ‘Digging Down’, and ‘A Curiously Collaborative Musem of Lost Found and Broken’, collaborative projects supported by National Theatre Wales. The projects built on the ‘trysor’ that I have been digging from the Victorian middens in my garden, linking the trysor to the quarry families who lived and worked here. The projects included a 3-day pop up supper in a barn in Nant Peris, combining archaeological dig, immersive scenography, performance and debate in a women-led Caban-style event that brought to life the lives of the forgotten women who had lived in Coed Gwydr. ‘The Curiously Collaborative Museum’ residency at Pontio and Storiel (with Marged Pendrell) involved people bringing in pieces and curating the museum themselves.
Recently I have developed an interactive practice around phyisical and online mapping, with my residency at Culture Action Llandudno (Ideas, People Places project). http://www.mapllandudno.org/
The debate and interest that these projects, and the R&D for Merched Chwarel which further explored attitudes to quarries, including the ‘romanticism of slate’, and the lack of ‘her’ story that I would like to use as a starting point for the next phase of Merched Chwarel. I anticipate exploring women’s identity with quarries and connection to place and each other in the deep now using film, sound and an interactive installation.
Lisa Hudson has lived in the shadow of Penrhyn Quarry since 1998:
In my work I use drawing, sculpture, intervention and situations as a way to investigate and understand my environments and the complex relationships between people, places and things.
I work with natural and found materials in order to make work that becomes a dialogue, allowing the material to lead me into a deeper investigation of myself and place.
My interest in the quarry has always been focused on the waste created by the slate quarrying industry, by men and machines burrowing into the mountain, and then creating broken mountains in its place. The rejected, discarded slate from the tips has been a recurrent material in my work.
Recently work includes Llif, a collaboration with Lindsey Colborne and Dr Jonathan Malarkey from Bangor University School of Ocean Sciences. Llif is a participatory, site specific exploration of the science and art of flow for Pontio Synthesis and National Eisteddfod 2017.
‘Merched Chwarel’ is an opportunity to collaborate with other women, to investigate our connection to, and impact this landscape