elysium gallery’s 10th birthday | 28th October 2017

It’s elysium gallery’s 10th birthday and to celebrate, the gallery is holding an exhibition of work by Andrew Cooper, one of the first artists to exhibit at the gallery.

Founded in 2007 with the aim of providing studio and exhibition space for local artists as well as bringing exciting artists from the UK and beyond to Swansea, the gallery and studios have grown and developed over the years. Elysium now delivers two international art awards – BEEP (an international painting biennale) and ESPY (a biennial photography award) as well as providing studio space for over 100 artists.

Jonathan Powell, one of the gallery’s founding directors, said: “We have achieved a lot over the past decade, growing from a small roaming pop-up gallery into a self-sustaining organisation that plays an important part in Swansea’s ongoing regeneration and is now Wales’s largest artist studio provider.

“Pre-2007, although there was a large influx of students coming to study in Swansea, an area with a rich cultural history, there was really no reason for Swansea’s creative graduates from Swansea College of Art to stay here. There were few places to create and show work and to stay in the city. A big opportunity to support and build something for the cultural landscape of the city was being missed.

“We were one of the few elements of positive activity on Swansea High Street back in 2007 when the area had reached its nadir. It had been named one of the UK’s worst High Streets in the national press and had become a no-go area, a place to hurry through on the way to the train station. In 2008 when the city centre Xmas lights was turned on just one solitary light bulb had made it onto the corner of the street.

“In those early years before the regeneration project properly started we were attracting new audiences to the High Street by holding exhibitions featuring local and international artists plus street performance events reacting to the run-down state of the street. We were one of the few positive strands of energy on that street.

“The growth and regeneration of the High St and elysium gallery’s evolution have gone hand in hand over the years and we have grown together. It is the endless opportunities and potential of Swansea’s creative community has to offer and our passion for the city, which serves as our inspiration and drives us on.

“Many of our studio artists are recent Swansea college of Art graduates. Because of us they are now staying in Swansea post-graduation, setting up as working artists in the city and going onto setting up small businesses in the creative sector… and this community is growing.

“All of this started from a small bunch of ex-students with no funds and few resources who could see a huge potential in the Swansea arts scene through its student population which nobody seemed to be acting upon. The fact that we are still here 125 exhibitions and 10 years on, and thriving along with remerging High St, is something I am extremely proud of.”

Now elysium is gearing up for a raft of celebrations, including an open studios event on Saturday October 28. Its studios on Mansel Street will open from 12-3; its Orchard Street studios will open from 3-6, and a 10th birthday party will kick off at The Hat Stand on Walter Road at 8:30pm.

“The day is a great chance to see everyone’s studios – this is Wales’ largest arts community, and we have a huge range of artists based here, from painters to assemblage artists and from textile artists to sculptors,” said Powell.  “We’ll be providing refreshments and visitors will be able to chat with the artists and find out about their work.”

Powell is also looking forward to welcoming Andrew Cooper back to elysium gallery for his show, Everybody Knows this is Nowhere, which runs from October 28 to November 19.

“We chose Andrew as the artist for our 10th birthday exhibition firstly because he is such an amazing and important artist working in Wales, but also because he was an important figure in our early days. Andrew and the late great Kim Fielding ran an experimental art space at a former Victoria laundrette in Cardiff called tactileBOSCH that had an anarchic and exciting vibe to it. It proved to be an important breeding ground and inspiration for many of Wales’s contemporary artists and was a much-needed alternative to the usual white walled galleries. Although Andrew and Kim were busy successful artists in their own right, they were very generous in their time and support.

“Both Kim and Andrew exhibited with us with their show ‘Sub-Rosa’ in 2008 and it was a highlight event in our early years and the tactileBOSCH haphazard and free-flowing approach to arts events and exhibitions was something we definitely embraced when we began.

“For his latest exhibition at elysium gallery, Andrew will be drawing in different elements from his 30+ years artistic career to present a multi-media installation involving print, film, light and sculpture.”

To celebrate 10 years of vibrant arts events at elysium, Powell and his fellow directors Sarah Williams and Dan Staveley have drawn up a list of annual highlights from the gallery’s life so far. Here they are:

2007: Elysium’s first ever show – Folds by Rosemary Edwards

Memories from Rosemary Edwards

What did your show involve?

The inaugural exhibition, at Elysium Art Gallery in Swansea, Folds formed some of my original investigation of Deleuze’s idea of the Fold, the link between the physical and metaphysical, along with my interest in making work that questions ideas of permanence and time.

The making and wrapping of live dough meant that the work was ever changing, creating its own life cycle that was visible across the period of the show in the gallery.  Other than the video work shown, all the other work was made on site.  My practice includes making site-specific work, the energy and physicality is represented in the final piece.  We were lucky enough to get a review in the Guardian newspaper – the critic commenting ‘Edwards is a sculptor who uses deceptively simple forms to evoke the elusive complexities of experience.’

What are your standout memories of your show?

It was a great show and I was very proud to be the first person to exhibit for Elysium.  I worked on site making and installing the work for a week which was really beneficial.  It’s rare that you get the opportunity to work in a gallery space in advance.  Also interaction with students and public over the week was really good. Jon and Ann provided a lot of support and encouragement and this has obviously continued.

What did you most enjoy about showing at elysium?

I loved the whole thing.  The fact that it was my first Solo show, the interest shown, the publicity we had and the lovely opening too.  Swansea is very lucky!

What have you done in your artistic career since then?

I’ve continued to exhibit and make work since then.  I have moved to Bournemouth where I did an MA, continuing my interest in the metaphysical. My final piece ‘Scry’ winning the MAstars 2013.

I’m invovled locally with a group of artists and have curated our own exhibitions over the last few years.  Like many places there is a lack of gallery space for contemporary and experimental art in Bournemouth so we have come up with other ways of showing work outside the gallery. This has included Art Car Park, where we use our cars or vehicles to show work – bit like a pop up gallery.  We also have curated exhibitions in homes and studios called Inside Art, initiated by Six Project Space.  Take a look at my website for further information.

Jonathan Powell says:

Rose’s show really set the benchmark. It was the first main exhibition at the gallery on a High Street that was in dire straights at the time. It was like an alien ship had landed out of nowhere as hundreds of passers-by stopped to peer through the windows at this strange spectacle as these yeast filled dough sculptures slowly expanded, bursting out of their cloth casings and spreading across the gallery floor. It was all made on site so the gallery had a cloud of flour hanging in the air for months afterwards!

2007: Elysium’s first ever event – Framework by Mr & Mrs Clarke

A piece of performance art like no other, Framework was created by performance artists Mr & Mrs Clarke and really set out Elysium’s stall as a gallery that tests the boundaries of art.

Memories from Marega Palser of Mr & Mrs Clarke:

What are your standout memories of your event?

The looks of both joy and horror on people’s faces.

What did you most enjoy about showing at elysium?

One of the things that stood out for me was the inside /outside nature of the first elysium gallery, and its location. The passing trade is priceless and a performance in its own right.

Despite us having bags on our heads for our first performance I could hear everything, and became very aware of people inside the gallery watching both us and the people that would stop to watch outside. This two-way observation (with us just happening to be there in the middle) is brilliant – art for ALL!

What have you done in your artistic career since then?

LOADS!  Visit the website. We have made numerous shows that have toured both here and abroad and created work that has been site specific.  Our show Smash It Up was short listed for the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award in Edinburgh in 2015. We run community based projects, and by community, I mean the community of people that inhabit the High Street in Newport where we are based – a transitory community.

We have always maintained a strong link with elysium and Swansea, and we are very happy and proud to say we were a part of the first elysium happenin’.

Jonathan Powell says:

Our first event, it was so popular that so many people attended the event the Police turned up! For them, a large crowd of people gathering together on the High St usually meant trouble and they were completely dumb-struck when they entered the gallery to be faced with two artists in their underpants dancing with bags on their heads. A good start!

2008: Sub-Rosa by Andrew Cooper and Kim Fielding

Memories from Andrew Cooper

What did your exhibitions involve?

Ten years ago Kim and myself locked horns with Jonathan Powell and Ann Jordan (another one of  the elysium directors at the time), to develop ideas for an exhibition.

We decided on an installation that took over two floors of the gallery and required much appropriation/liberation of materials, gallery modification and willing volunteers. My memories of the elysium gallery and the exhibition were of total generosity of spirit and unshakeable commitment to the nurturing of cultural engagement both nationally and internationally, attributes they unselfishly extend as they continue to expand even in these times of austerity.

What have you done since?

Immediately after showing at Elysium I left for New York as I was invited to exhibit in the Kingston Sculpture Biennial, NY, involving 60 artists from all over the world. In 2008 I exhibited at One Naked Egg Gallery NY and was invited back to exhibit two years later to show at Donkey Gallery, NY.

A lot happens over ten years. Sadly, Kim, a unique character and influential artist/curator suddenly passed away in 2014, leaving a hole in many peoples lives.

I now have gallery representation, Wandelbar Arts International and as I continue to develop new projects I exhibit both nationally and internationally with shows at The Johns Hopkins School of Psychology, USA., IMOCA. Ireland, KAAPELI Gallery. Sweden and Rosalux Gallery, Berlin.

Jonathan Powell says:

A wonderful exhibition and a crazy opening night; Andrew was situated in the ground floor gallery space with his beautiful moving installation with hanging poppies surrounded by mirrors giving the illusion of an endless field of poppies. This juxtaposed with Kim Fielding’s seedy red-lit installation in the basement space with large projected films of fallen angels trapped in tar trying to free themselves. There were crates and small cages as seats that turned out to be housing ‘prisoners’ grabbing at unsuspecting passersby. Kim was a wonderful artist with a wicked sense of humor and is missed greatly.

2008: Real Estate by Jonathan Anderson and Alex Duncan

Memories from Jonathan Anderson (J) and Alex Duncan (A)

What did your event involve?

J: The exhibition was called ‘Real Estate’. It was a two-person show with Alexander Duncan. The show was essentially made up of a large ‘hill’ on wooden pallets.

A: the grassy hill filled the entire ground floor gallery space; in the basement space we showed separate, complimentary video works.

What are your standout memories of the show?

J: My memories of the exhibition are collecting the grass from various spots around Swansea like some kind of turf robbers then staying up until about 4am making the sculpture. On the opening night as I left my house I saw a UFO, which I assumed was the International Space Station but wasn’t. Then during the opening a young intoxicated woman burst into the gallery and ran up on the hill … we were just thankful it didn’t collapse, as it was a hollow sculpture. There were lots of ‘characters’ around the High Street at that time.

A: At the time Jonathan and I were not long out of Art College in Swansea, so the energy and excitement of being offered this space to bring something together was pretty amazing. Honestly though I remember the feeling of being out of my depth, of not having that much confidence but collaborating with Jonathan, we just went with our gut instincts. That and filling my car boot full of turf, dug up in the middle of the night from the industrial estate.

What did you most enjoy about showing at elysium?

J: We had our show not long after we left art school and we were just grateful to be given the opportunity to make our first proper show.  Jon [one of Elysium’s directors] and the other Elysium guys took us seriously and encouraged us to push our installation as far as possible.

A: Jon and Ann and all the team were really supportive, they gave us the confidence to really go for it. I think that sense of abandon has stayed with how I try to approach shows. It felt like they were at the core of Swansea’s art scene then and that they have kept pushing themselves on to a stronger position. Looking back, to have that local exposure and conversation with people feels invaluable.

What have you done in your artistic career since then?

J: In 2010 I was awarded the Richard and Rosemary Wakelin Prize and had my first solo show at Mission Gallery. Since then I have exhibited widely around the UK and had numerous solo shows.

A: I had my first solo show at the Mission Gallery in 2011, in the same year I moved to London where I went on to study for an MA in sculpture at the Royal College of Art.
I was selected to be part of the London Open in 2015 at the Whitechapel Gallery, and have had solo shows at MOSTYN (2012) and at Aldama Fabre Gallery in Bilbao, Spain (2017). I have been a bursary winner at the Royal British Society of Sculptors and was the recipient of the Richard and Rosemary Wakelin Prize in 2015.

I also co-direct and run the programming for a project space, ArtLacuna in Battersea.

Jonathan Powell says:

This was an installation that literally took on a life of its own at night. We would leave the lights on and the windows would soon begin to drip and steam up with condensation. It was then we realized that lots of little animals were still living in all the turf bought into the gallery … they seemed happy.

Both Jonathan and Alex have since gone onto great things as artists and we are so proud we were able to give them that first chance to show their work publically in an environment that allowed them to experiment and push their practices. Jonathan & Alex are symbolic of why elysium was set up – to offer that all important ‘first rung on the ladder’ for Swansea and Wales emerging artists.

2009: White Lies & Crocodile tears by John Abell

Memories from John Abell.

What did your event involve?

It was a show of monochrome woodcut prints, exploring life, love and the human condition. It was in the old High St space, the upstairs was full of smaller framed works, between a few centimetres and around four foot. The downstairs had a print installation of secular saints, my own icons, and much bigger six foot by six foot prints. There were around 80 works in the show I think.

What are your standout memories of your event?

The stress of getting the work to the gallery; it was my first solo show and I’d never moved that quantity of works before, glazed, it was stressful! And the opening, it was packed, and it was great for my confidence to work as an artist.

What did you most enjoy about showing at elysium?

Working and curating the show with Jon, with his help we produced what I still reckon was a handsome hang, and have been good friends since with all the Elysium family.

What have you done in your artistic career since then?

Been in various group shows throughout Wales, the UK, and Europe, had many solo shows in Wales and England, and have released books that are in museum collections around the world. Won a few awards too.

Jonathan Powell says:

John was an extraordinarily talented artist at a young age with no sense of direction. He couldn’t even get to Swansea from Cardiff without getting on the wrong train and ending up somewhere in North Wales! John though is everything an artist should be. Talent alone is not enough; an artist must put the hours and dedication in. John certainly does this and is now one of Wales’ most sought-after artists. His work is ambitious and striking whilst showing a talent for story-telling and a supreme confidence in his medium of print-making. We are proud that we were with John when he started out his journey as an artist and can’t wait to work with him again in the future.

2010: Bound within a Hidden Space by Gemma Copp

Memories from Gemma Copp:

What did your show involve?

I’ve been lucky to work with Elysium Gallery on a few occasions over the past few years.

I had my first solo show at Elysium in 2010. The show was entitled ‘Bound within a Hidden Space’, and consisted of two life sized split screens, projecting separate film images of my performance as well as an accompanying installation. The work showed the performance from two different perspectives working in synchronised motion – one with the artist lying under a cast iron bed, highlighting feelings of entrapment and pressure; whilst the other showed the artist active and focussed as she wraps a rope around the bed and drags the bed out of shot, highlighting a pro-active attempt at escaping the constraints that bind her.

What are you main memories of the show?

Working with Elysium Gallery was a wonderful experience and it led to many other great opportunities for me. Elysium has a great team of passionate and dedicated people who really care about the artist and work with them to understand their requirements and ideas, which means that they are able to help deliver the exhibition in the way the artist envisaged. They have a great technical team and their genuine interest in making an exhibition the best it can be means that they are happy to offer assistance and suggestions.
There is a great sense of community within the Swansea art scene, which is especially pleasing given the times we live in and galleries such as Elysium Gallery are at the forefront when it comes to generating this community feel.

What have you done in your artistic career since then?

Since 2010 I’ve had many wonderful opportunities, from showing work at the Mannheim Film Festival in Germany to being awarded a residency at the Glynn Vivian and in 2012 I was awarded Welsh Artist of the Year. I’ve shown work both locally and internationally, including in Russia, Greece, Bulgaria and last year at La Citadelle in Port Louis, Mauritius. I’ve most recently had the opportunity to show work at the Situation/Material/Ocean show at Mission Gallery. This was part of the Ephemeral Coast Project, which was curated by Celina Jeffery – curator, writer and associate professor of Art History and Theory at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Both this show and last year’s show in Mauritius were funded – by Arts Council of Wales and Wales Arts International.


Jonathan Powell says:

Gemma is another person who we worked with from her very first early steps as an artist. We showed her work in group shows whilst she was still a student and had no hesitation in awarding her, her first solo exhibition when she graduated in 2010. Although Gemma is primarily a performance, film and installation artist, she has the eye of a painter with her films showing a great consideration of light and contrast, just as an old master painter would do.  Early recollections working with Gemma were dragging kilo after kilo of rotten food up flights of stairs to pour into an old tin bath for Gemma to bathe in for a performance event with us.

2011: DISRUPTION by Mr & Mrs.Clark

What are your main memories of the event?

Measuring people’s health and happiness which involved lots of tying them to a chair, seeing if their aura was wonky (and righting it if it was off kilter), and giving them medical attention through the medium of varying performance styles … and usually a song was involved.

What are your main memories of the show?

I have only hazy memories. I do remember the whole DISRUPTION happenings offered a great alternative to the usual, humdrum way in which a High street is navigated and used.

Jonathan Powell says:

By the time we thought up DISRUPTION, the elysium gallery space was still moving from one building to another but the exhibitions were becoming more ambitious in their scale. Our gallery space at the time was quite small so it made sense to take the art outside to the public. We also felt that this approach would reach out to a wider audience. In November 2011 over 30 artists were sent out during the busiest shopping time of the week onto the busiest street in Swansea and for 2 hours the street was transformed into a display of performance, site-specific installations, song, dance and events simply designed to make that area of Swansea a better place to be. The results were remarkable as hundreds of members of the public began to participate in the positive chaos erupting around them. We had teams of ‘Monty Python-esque’ cleaning ladies frantically cleaning everything and anything that came their way on the street, teams of mischievous trouble-making clowns, a rave dancing Darth Vader called Darth Raver, Mass Dancing, music, protest, performances.

The amount of positive chaos and feedback this event generated was amazing, our mailing list subscriptions trebled, we were trending on Google, in the news. It was brilliant.

I think really this is the point of Elysium gallery, we try and bring artists and people together to try to make Swansea a better place to be and to help create the platform for a thriving community. By providing artists with a solid base to work from great results can be achieved for the bigger community.

2012: BEEP – Wales’ international contemporary painting prize

Memories from winner Hannah Downing (H) and judges Steph Goodger (S) and Neil Howells (N) – 2012

What did your event involve?

H: I applied through an open call asking for paintings on the utopian/dystopian theme Through Tomorrow’s Eyes. The painting that I entered (A View From Above xiii) was subsequently part of the shortlisted exhibition and was awarded the main prize.

What are your main memories of the show?

S: My standout memories are of the opening party and subsequently the talk Julian Rowe and I gave. There was overwhelming support for the exhibition, and great enthusiasm from everyone to engage with the work.  You feel when you show at Elysium that you are embraced by the artistic community of Swansea, who welcome you with open arms. I was really sad to leave that behind at the end.

N: My standout memory of the event is how we decided that the winner would be chosen on the night, which made it exciting – especially choosing the winner half an hour before the viewers could come in. Art is about power and fun, and I guess that was what we wanted to instill into the show.

H:  The exhibition was very well organised and put together by Elysium, and featured a broad variety of paintings from artists working nationally and internationally. I remember certain pieces of work that made a big impression on me – those works that stay in your mind’s eye for a very long time. I remember thinking how positive it was to have the opportunity to exhibit as part of a painting exhibition like this in Swansea, as opposed to a large city elsewhere.

On the opening night, I remember going to see the show and how different the space looked; having dropped the artwork off a week or two prior to the show at a huge dark empty space, it was interesting to see the same space transformed into an exhibition full of paintings in such a short amount of time. I was extremely surprised that my painting was awarded the main prize, it was something that I had not considered to be a possibility at all.

What did you most enjoy the show?

H: I had been aware of Elysium and its previous incarnations, having studied lived in Swansea as a student, but had not been part of anything that it had done before. It was enjoyable to have been part of an exhibition which that was not an isolated event but part of something larger. I enjoy going to subsequent BEEP exhibitions.

N: being asked to be a judge for this first exhibition of BEEP was very kind. I have only been a judge for artist of the year at St David’s so enjoyed the experience. The Elysium bunch are just great to work with. the experience of picking the artists involved was a pleasant afternoon. I would encourage anybody thinking of visiting the Elysium to do so.

What have you done since the show?

H: Since the BEEP exhibition, I have continued working as an artist and more recently have gone back to university to develop my research practice; I am currently doing a PhD.

Soon after BEEP in 2012, I was offered a residency at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, which gave me time to develop some new artistic ideas. My work was exhibited in several shows over subsequent years in England and Wales, including solo shows Panorama at The Last Gallery in Llangadog in 2013 and Site, Light and Survey at The National Botanic Gallery of Wales in 2015. In 2014 my work was shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2014 and in 2016 I completed a drawing commission for Museums Sheffield.

Two years ago I took the plunge to rent a studio for the first time, occupying one of Elysium’s Mansel Street studio spaces, where I currently base my art practice.

S: Since Cherry Time, at Elysium I have been in the John Moores Painting Prize;  Nine Painters, curated by Richard Davey (John Moores judge 2016) at Syson Gallery, Nottingham; Painting [Now] Studio One Gallery, London; The Arca Project: An Exhibition Inspired by the Work of WG Sebald , curated by Graeme Gilloch and Michael Hall, at PayneShurvell, Suffolk; and Les peuples figurants/History’s extras, solo exhibition at Cornerstone Gallery, Liverpool Hope University, for the Annual International conference, Restoring Peace: and Building post-conflict societies (The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Centre for War and Peace Studies).

N: I have recently had a solo show at the john martin gallery London and before that it was a solo show in Hamburg at the only art club gallery. I collaborate with fashion designer Jayne Pierson: we have made three collections that are shown at London fashion week. The clothes are used by musicians like Alicia Keys, Ellie Goulding, Lianne Lahavas and others. Recent work can be found on the British band All Saints during their latest tour and video. Also we have new paintings going out to a gallery in Cape Town, so crossed fingers there…

Jonathan Powell says:

BEEP grew from wanting to bring national and international artists and arts audiences to Swansea, plus Wales was one of the very few European Countries to not have a major contemporary painting prize. I wanted Wales to have its own regular ambitious celebration of painting, showing both national and International artists side by side. I wanted to bring in people and painters from outside of the country to the city, but also highlight what was happening here to a wider audience.

In 2012, we set up the first BEEP Painting Prize in the old derelict Littlewoods Catalogue shop on Swansea high Street, the first of a biennial celebration of painting, to support imaginative and vibrant practice in contemporary painting and to bring to Wales a taste of what was happening further afield. The theme was ‘Through Tomorrows eyes’ to reflect the early stages of the High Street’s regeneration that was just getting under way at the time, but also asking artists to respond to ideas of Dystopia and Utopia.

Over 400 people, many of them artists from outside of Wales and Britain, attended the opening night with a further 500 people filling the streets for the next day’s Disruption 2 performance event responding to the themes bought up in the paintings.

Since 2012 the BEEP exhibition has grown in size and stature and in 2018 will become a painting Biennale encompassing various venues and galleries around the city.

2013: What are they building down there? Elysium’s College Street opening, with performance art from Becky and Jason.

Memories from Jason:

What are your main memories of the show?

We’ve had a long relationship with Elysium which has spanned the course of our artistic careers. They have provided many of our first experiences as collaborative artists, including our first artist residency, first artist studio and first solo show. They also helped us as emerging artists to establish networks both locally and internationally, generously including us in an arts exchange program to Colorado. Elysium have always offered us opportunities to exhibit or perform with them in Swansea and across Wales, and we feel continuously supported by the community of artists they have helped establish in Swansea.

What have you done since the show?

Since our first solo show at Elysium we’ve gone on to show at Mission Gallery as part of the group show CIVIC, and our own solo show, Viscositecture. In 2016 we undertook a one-month residency in Venice during the architecture biennale, supported by Mission Gallery and Wales Arts International.

Jonathan Powell says:

‘What are they building down there? (WATBDT)’ heralded the opening of the new (and current) gallery space provided by our landlords Coastal Housing. For a year the in 2012/13 elysium existed as a series of pop-up offsite exhibitions and events whilst we transformed the sprawling former Barons nightclub basement bar into a new exhibition space and 13 artist studios. The new space finally offered us stability, a permanent home for the gallery space and sustainability.

For the whole year people were wondering what the new space would be like, so taking inspiration form a Tom Waits Song’ WATBDT transformed the gallery and studio spaces into a labyrinth of installations and performance each drawing form the buildings nightclub past.

Jason & Becky are another set of artists who we have supported from since they were art students who have decided to stay and work in Swansea rather than move away. This is due to the exciting cultural scene that is developing in the city and Swansea is now a big pull for Wales creatives to visit and stay and work.

2014: From Here and There: a collaboration with Colorado artists including work from Marius Lehene, Melissa Furness and Mary-Ann) Kokoska

Memories from Mary Ann Kokoska (M) and Melissa Furness (F)

What did your event involve?

M: I co- coordinated the Drawing Exchange exhibition with Jonathan Powell in 2014.

F: I travelled to Wales to attend the opening of the Elysium Gallery exhibition, as well as attending the joint exhibition at CSU. I hosted the Elysium artists for a day in the city of Denver. They participated in our BFA students’ critiques at the University of Colorado Denver, where I am an Associate Professor.

What are your standout memories of your event?

M: Our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park with the ‘gang of 10’ from Elysium. We saw breathtaking mountain views and ate bagels and cream cheese for lunch.

F:  I took the artists around to several museums and galleries in Denver. These included the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Robischon and David B. Smith Galleries as well as a space called RedLine, which is somewhat like Elysium here in Denver with a gallery space and artists’ studios and community events. We then headed back to the CU campus and did critiques with students and dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill in Denver. I suppose I found dinner to be quite amusing, as they served us all HUGE hamburgers with American flags poked into them. It was such a goofy American thing. Yes, we all eat too much here! But really, the whole day walking around and experiencing these places was fascinating.

What did you most enjoy about showing at Elysium?

M: Working with a fun, enthusiastic, and talented community of artists.

F: I would say that I enjoyed meeting everyone the most. The artists were all really great and welcoming, wonderful and smart to speak with and very personable and welcoming to me with it being my first time visiting Wales. I appreciated having the opportunity to look through the artist’s studios and also speak with them about research topics that are of particular interest to me regarding Wales and my creative work.

I asked many of them about their perceptions of Swansea Castle, which is not far from the gallery and their view of living amongst these historical ruins—the contrast of very old and contemporary daily life – to which they responded “oh, that’s just a bunch of old stones”… ha. It struck me, and was a contrast to what they later saw as I took them through Denver, which is all manicured and new. Our sense of history is not the same.

What have you done in your artistic career since then?

M: I have been promoted to full Professor, am also currently Head of the Drawing Area.

I have continued to exhibit my work and am a member of AIR Gallery in New York.

F: Since then, I was awarded tenure at the University of Colorado and am now the Area Head of Painting & Drawing and Illustration. I have continued to produce and exhibit my creative work and have reached out more into the international sphere with it, most notably participating the 2015 Biennial of the Americas with a 10-week residency exchange with Mexico City. I have taught art in Beijing, China and participated in Redgate Gallery Residency in Beijing and will be giving a talk this fall at the Denver Art Museum about my experiences and work related to China. I also participated in the Kochi-Muzri Biennial in Kerala, India, and have become a member of the Artnauts artist collective, which uses the visual arts as a tool for addressing global issues while connecting with artist from around the world. My work is to be featured in the upcoming West Edition of New American Paintings Magazing this Fall as well.

Jonathan Powell says:

From Here & There was a monumental effort where we set up a drawing exchange between UK & US artists which involved Colorado artists coming over to Swansea and exhibiting with us, then a group of Swansea artists travelling to Colorado to give talks and show work at the Clara Hatton gallery. This all culminated in a large exhibition of UK & US artists in Swansea featuring over 100 artists and 300 pieces of work all centered around drawing. We are hoping to do something similar in 2018/19 with China.

The chance to work with Mary-Ann and Colorado University was an amazing experience which has built longstanding links between Colorado & Swansea.

2015: Photography by Huw Alden Davies

Memories from Huw Alden Davies

What did your event involve?

I have worked with Elysium to launch two events in recent years, first in 2013 where I exhibited Seven Point Seven a series focused on the concept of the Nuclear family, and then again in 2015 when I launched my publication ‘Prince’ in a solo exhibition displaying the then entire collection of photographs and text.

Elysium and its organisers have been most supportive, accommodating, and fantastic to work with. Providing a great interchangeable space that was perfect for my work, and central to the city of swansea with a strong artist network. These guys along side Ffotogallery and the CCQ Team, have played a pivotal part in this stage of my career and my current project, providing a platform where I could reach out to new audiences while developing new relationships within the arts community.

What are your standout memories of your event?

Besides the meeting and regular interaction with a range of diverse artists who used the studios within the space, one of the most memorable aspects of the show was the reactions of the audience when they learnt that I was showing the work at the back of the main gallery. Just after launching Prince Street (a blog that acted as an extension to the publication), and having previously launched the publication during the Diffusion festival, it was my intention to work with Elysium to do something a little different with this event. Using the space in a way that echoed the ethos of Prince Street. Therefore we used the the corridors to the studios as an exhibition space, amongst the doorways that reflected community, and a street scene. It was perfect, back to basics and down to earth, and a complete contradiction to the traditional gallery space (reflecting the characteristics of its subject). We had done this strategically to coincide with the Espy Photography Award Exhibition showing next door in the main gallery. Its funny, some were confused by this decision, and one in particular referred to the work as “only good enough to be out the back” – brilliant.

What did you most enjoy about showing at Elysium?

There is an obviously strong artist community in Swansea and it is evident that Elysium have worked hard in developing a network that supports it, and when you work with these guys you feel a part of it. Like a family, and that can only inspire good things.

What have you done in your artistic career since then?

I have since had a number of exhibitions, with my most recent at Ffotogallery Cardiff and BildKultur Stuttgart.  My publication and website has been selected for archive by The National Library of Wales, and has since been on show in Brussels, Athens and Portugal. And I will soon be launching a Kickstarter for my next publication in August/September. During this time I have developed a number of professional relationships, one of which is a collaboration with Daniel Staveley (co-director of Elysium Gallery) on Photographic Initiative ‘iPigeon’, exploring traditional and contemporary photographic processes.

Jonathan Powell says:

Huw’s body of work offered a personal, unique and heartfelt window on the community of Tumble. They captured the humor and stresses of everyday life whilst presenting them in an almost David Lynch-type setting. Huw is a wonderful artist who is just the tip of the iceberg of talented photographers coming out of Wales right now – especially at Swansea College of Art which enjoys one of the UK’s most exciting photography courses.

2016: Mysterium Tremendum by Sean Vicary

What did your show involve?

I was exhibiting two animation pieces of work that hadn’t really been exhibited before – they’d had brief outings but this was a chance to show them for a longer period of time in a show. One was about drone operators and the omnipotent viewpoint they have; the other was a black and white piece that was very dark called Taxonomy. It was based around life of a 19th Century naturalist using repurposed engravings and illustrations.

What are your standout memories of your event?

The opening was on a Friday so what was really great was that people just came in off the street, some quite the worse for wear! Some were dancing in the space and it was really nice that it was puling people in and reaching such a broad audience. I also enjoyed doing the talk which was also very well attended and went on for 2.5 hours. I kept asking if I should stop but people told me to carry on! It was great – informal and relaxed, and everyone was interested.

What did you most enjoy about showing at Elysium?

Elysium is special because it’s an artist-led space, which made it really different from exhibiting in a mainstream gallery. It was a very relaxed atmosphere, with no barriers between artist and curator.  It’s really important to have a space where you feel supported: you can be yourself and the work can be itself.

What have you done in your artistic career since then?

I’ve had another solo show at Oriel Davies in Newtown, which built on some of what I did at Elysium, and I am one of the current Creative Wales award winners, which is all consuming and fantastic. I am looking at contemporary manifestations of genii loci – spirits of place – using animation. Elysium was an important show for me – it enabled me to see the dialogues between the pieces of work and was a good way to take stock of what I’d done and to see relationships and links that may not be apparent when busy making stuff. I’m showing at Oriel Mwldan in Cardigan at present.

Both the works I showed at Elysium are now online:




Ascension Ceiling


Jonathan Powell says:

We had shown some of Sean’s short films in various group Film festivals at the gallery in our early days, but his work at the 2014 Eisteddfod completely blew us away and we were so happy when he agreed to show his work with us. One of Wales’s most exciting artists today!


Credit – Jenny White from Channel Communications