Women’s Arts Association autumn exhibition

The Women’s Arts Association has had a very successful show of associate members’ work at Llanover Hall in Cardiff.  “How I see It …” fitted nicely with Llanover Hall’s educative functions by asking women makers to create an original work inspired by a woman artist.

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The opening, with readings by Toni-Ann La Crette, was enthusiastically attended, and groups from schools and of women had the opportunity to see the art but also see the women’s art that had been the inspiration – a good thing to demonstrate and take with them.

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On the left (from l to r), there is Rose Davies’ printed fabric piece inspired by Kathe Kollwitz, Dilys Jackson’s sculpture inspired by a Barbara Hepworth piece, Georgina Peach mobile inspired by Louis Bourgeois,  who painting also inspired Rebecca Croxford’s triptych, and Sue Roberts inspired by Marlene Dumas.  On the right, Bee Bennett’s landscape inspired by Joan Eardley, Dianne Setch’s digital image inspired by Ellen Gallagher, and Sarah Featherstone photography inspired by Madame Yevonde.

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More familiar as a mural and street artist Millimagic who signs herself Unity, Amelia Thomas worked on canvas inspired by Ruth Evans’ poem “Birth Plan”.  Jacqueline Alkema had shaved her hair last summer and used the experience in the light of Freda Kahlo’s self portrait, beside Kay Keogh’s portait inspired by Margaret Dumas.  (Jacqueline Alkema curated with Sarah Featherstone and Phillippa Brown.)

There were so many interesting works: at the Annual General Meeting, several artists explained their work.

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Aisling Tempany took us through the process of her inked piece inspired by abstract and religious work, including Mainee Jellet’s.  Anna Polya’s almost narrative work (not well -photographed) was an intelligent restyling and relocating of “Woman and Child in a Meadow” by Berthe Morisot.


Of course, I loved Shirley Anne Owen’s horses inspired by cave painters, who, she notes, were mostly women.

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My own painting on the ambiguity of walls was inspired by surrealist Dorothea Tanning.  Angela Kingston’s art inspired by various quotes hung beside Kathryn Jordan’s nasturiums inspired by Dora Carrington’s tulips.

I must also mention Dinah Guilfoyle (@dinahvagina) who didn’t hold back on her buttons of 50 women artists.  Mandy Lane’s amazing piece became more scary each time I saw it – inspired by Kiki Smith.


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Autumn leaves and winter sun

I’ve been enjoying the shades of autumn and now startling spots of colour against the wintry sun, which rises and arcs low.  Where I and my horse live near the Garth in Rhondda Cynon Taf, this allows me to experience the variety of light from behind the mountain, casting long shadows from hedges round the fields.

img_20161107_120357754Riding out from the farm, we often go down the Gedrys hill, eastwards.

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It’s quite a steep hill down and good work for a horse’s balance. Bo’s chestnut was matched by the beech leaves in November.

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From the bottom of the Gedrys, we sometimes go left under the railway bridge and along by the river Taf.  It is a good ride, marred too often by fly-tipping.

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Back at the farm, on a sunny day you can see over to Mynydd Meio and Egwysilan commons, and there are views north almost to Merthyr.


Of course, the low angles and light can be used creatively in photos.  I only take the bare record.  It’s fun though, strolling along the footpath on the old railway line near home on a damp December day.

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There is so much good to be had from simply being on a right of way or lane in the open air: great in the Welsh Valleys.  Not necessarily when it tips down though.


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Local Access Forums’ National Conference

Local Access Forums were established under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) to advise local authorities on improving public access and recreation in the countryside and urban open spaces.

Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC is in the process of forming a new LAF – they are appointed every 3 years.  I have forwarded the application form to possible interested people.  The LAF appoints people to cover represention of all interests, from horse-riders to walkers, farmers to landowners and commoners – all stakeholders in current jargon.

There are 22 LAFs in Wales, and they get together for an Annual Conference.  I went, along with our Chair Steve Carter and Rights of Way Officer Jason Bragg.  I drove up to Builth Wells, to the Royal Welsh showground, on a dry sunny day.  I left in good time and was in Builth with plenty of time to spare.


I parked just over the bridge and enjoyed the autumnal colours which had been wonderful most of the journey.  The woodland is tinged with browns to orange, full of promise of a really stunning leaf-change to come.


The river makes a good foreground.

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After a walk through the town, I carried on to the showground.  Our conference was in the top building, Hafod a Hendre.


The first presentation was from the Welsh Government’s Head of Landscape and Outdoor Recreation John Watkins, updating where the Welsh Government is heading on access.  The new Minister is keen on urban green spaces and green corridors.  Open Spaces Society has voiced concern that Wales is heading towards wiping off paths that are not currently in much use, and we heard cost-cutting phrases like “reducing the burden”, which make me nervous about policy-creep from England in times of budget cuts, even when accompanied by “widening  access free at the point of use”.

Next up was Jont Bulbeck from NRW (Natural Resources Wales) on the Outdoor Recreation Survey – the 2016 report on adult participation has been released.  Walking is most popular (83% in previous month), with most mentions of where? being to parks (16%), woods (15%) and roadside paths (13%), and in answer to why? for health & exercise (23%) or walking a dog (22%).  Disability, lack of time and bad weather put people off.  There were sections on expenditure (58% of outdoor recreation is done without spending anything ie free), and about health benefits.  A question was asked: does the survey capture benefits to mental health? Er, No.  Soft sighs and shuffling on seats indicated disapproval: LAFs know the evidence on this one.

Since forever, I’ve doodled in lectures and talks, but I seem to have lots of scribbles and only a couple of doodles.

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Before lunch, we had a farmer’s view from NFU-Cymru Rachel Lewis-Davies, raising the attractions to landowners of modernising, prioritising and rationalising the path network, LAFs and councils working in partnership with the landowners for whom the countryside is their factory floor.  They have been very engaged with the Green Paper. Indeed.


The afternoon sessions began with British Horse Society’s Jan Roche, who showed the BHS video for their “Dead Slow” campaign. As she said, horses can be very good in traffic and then spook at a bit of paper. (I love the carrier bag charge because we don’t get so many blown on roads or in hedges.)  The police don’t record horse accidents unless someone goes to hospital from the scene – BHS will do. BHS Mark Weston also spoke (noting the size of the horse economy in Wales), and there were excellent talks from the Ramblers, Cycling UK before the Chair John Morgan gave a rousing defence of the path network.

The decimation of funding at local authority level has hit access and prompts some new roles for LAFs in mitigating the effects.  There is a case for advising the Welsh Government not to implement the 2026 cut-off for applying for unclaimed routes – a panic will increase the back-log of claims.  Should we be extinguishing paths which are not used (and not maintained)?  These unused paths have no cost.  We do not know what network might be revived in the future: for example, the Active Travel Act could bring routes into use after many years without use.

It was time to go, through the showground and back down the A470.

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Coastal Path: a short walk at Laugharne

We walked a short bit of the Wales Coast Path to the west of Laugharne (Dylan Thomas country) recently, helping us to reflect on a sad visit to west Wales.

We set off from the castle along the coast, following Dylan’s Birthday Walk.  This rises up St John’s Hill – probably named after John Perrot to whom the castle and Lordship of Laugharne was granted by Elizabeth I in 1575.  Centuries later, Laugharne Corporation became responsible for the walk and its maintenance.


It is nice to find a walk of such antiquity as well as its poetic attachments. There are views of the Boathouse on the other side of the River Taf estuary and then the salt flats and what the novelist Hilda Vaughan evoked as the clogging, sucking sand.  In fact, the estuary and reclaimed salt marshes and their wildlife, and eccentric history of the town, pop into works of several poets and novelists.

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The path drops down to farmland at Salt Marsh Farm, and then for a while we were on a fast main road – at least the verges had been cut.  It was a relief to climb over a stile and use the path parallel, through fields with cattle of various degrees of low-level feistyness.  I was glad parts of the path were fenced from some stock.

We finished at Llanmiloe, a bit short of Pendine, where there was a bus due which took us back to Laugharne.  Mike happily marked off another short section of path on his map.

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Wonder in Prints & Drawing Study: Gwen John & Edna Clarke Hall

Women’s Arts Association members spent a happy hour in the National Museum of Wales with Beth McIntyre, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings, who had made a selection from Gwen John and Edna Clarke Hall.

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The museum has a superb collection of Gwen John’s drawing, 984 in all, and she is well-known as an artist.  Edna Clarke Hall (nee Waugh) was Beth’s suggestion and I don’t think any of us knew her, although she shared many of the same experiences and friends as Gwen John. As Beth talked, she traced the relationships and we passed round the mounted drawings, starting with early portraits of Gwen’s sister (by Gwen) and Augustus John (by Edna).

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They both attended the Slade School of Art in the 1890s, when the Slade’s reputation as a progressive force included offering women equal opportunities with men to rigorously learn art, based on excellence in drawing (and life-drawing).  Edna Clarke Hall epitomises the Slade style of cross-hatching and no smudging while Gwen John developed her own way.  Another of their friends was Ida Nettleship who became Augustus’ wife, and Dorelia McNeil.  These women were bright stars in their time, exhibited, walked across Europe on their own, but somehow have been lost to view.   These drawings are of Ida and Gwen by Edna.

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Edna CH married at 19, to her father’s collaborator in founding the NSPCC.  Her husband apparently supported her art, but also expected her to adopt the role of a traditional wife and her art became bounded by domesticity: she drew what was available, like her housemaid, or a barn (below).  Her watercolours included one of the suffragette, also an artist, Katie Gliddon, who was imprisoned in 1912 and she was involved in the movement.

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Gwen moved to Paris and had a domestic blip when she became Rodin’s lover.  She kept more independence, encouraged by her younger brother Augustus to earn, for example by modelling.  Her drawings of Rodin, and of nuns, are below.  Religion was important to her.

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Gwen J developed more interest in shapes, often by drawing the backs of people, for example in church.  Her fluid drawings of her adored cats were passed round.  She tended to draw on anything, poor quality paper or backs of things.  The drawings in this room are stored flat in their mounts, and removed only to be put in frames for exhibition.  It helps to preserve them.

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Gwen also used repetition, the same picture with minor changes, often taking things out.

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The two friends interacted, for example when Edna CH happened to be in the same area of France on holiday and painted Augustus painting his son.  Sadly, the drawings of Ida and Augustus’ children is captioned “when they were staying with us when his mother Ida died in Paris”.


Gwen J loved her garden roses and primroses.

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Edna CH lived until she was 100 in 1979.  She turned to poetry in her later life, and the last painting we were shown (below right) is almost surreal. Gwen’s beautiful drawings (eg below left) have finally been recognised, but the lives of these two great artists illustrate the difficulty that women – even when encouraged at college – have in gaining lasting recognition.  That struggle, even today, is the reason for Women’s Arts.

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We are lucky in Wales that our museums have been made free to visit, and on a Tuesday afternoon there were plenty of people dropping in, and lucky too that there is dedication to preserving and discovering women’s art: the museum is a treasure-house of good art.


Anyone can visit the Print and Drawings Study room, although there is a charge of £54 for up to 12 people.  Booking is necessary and usually a week’s notice is fine.  The link is https://museum.wales/curatorial/art/works-on-paper/

We agreed that it was a wonderful experience, and were very grateful to Shirley Anne Owen for making the booking, and to Beth McIntyre for her brilliant choices and explanation.

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Rose Davies at the Worker’s Gallery

Rose Davies is a Swansea-based artist, a prolific explorer of different ways of doing art and materials.  Her blog as Rosie Scribblah is fun and informative.  Like other artists in Women’s Arts Association, she has projects, and her latest, following the path of the boar hunt (y twrch trwyth) in the Mabinogion, has resulted in Yr Helfa / The Hunt, her solo exhibition in The Workers Gallery in Ynyshir.   I had been meaning to go to Ynyshir and the gallery for ages.

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Ynyshir, a few miles out of Porth, is all Valleys stone and greenery, and the Workers is a light space made of the former library by artists Gayle Rogers and Chris Williams.  There is no miners’ memorabilia here.  Instead, it is rampant creativity of original minds, an art library, and has excellent tea and cakes.  The blog https://scribblah.co.uk/2016/09/13/a-tidy-tea/ has fine photos of the cakes.

Rose was brought up with sagas and myths, and has been out in all weathers with prehistorian Dewi Bowen and filmmaker Melvyn Williams, tracking down the megaliths, the standing stones, across south Wales. Rose (below, back view) had chosen 30, in groups of six with a description of each stone’s place.

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Some of the groups work really well together and, for places I knew, she has subtley captured their character.  The Fabriano paper sheets were prepared, lots of them, with walnut ink, torn and stacked away, and then other media were added on site, after she selected one.  In March and April, they combatted fierce gales and cold on the wild mountains and commons. It is a monumental project indeed.

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Although the exhibition ended on 24th September, Rose’s work is available online through her site https://scribblah.co.uk/buy-scribblahs-original-art/  – and she will also welcome you, if your age is right, to sit as one of her 100 Baby Boomers (she has done 72 now). her sketchbooks were on show, with a video too.


There is always more to see at the Workers, including distinctive pieces by Gayle Rogers and Chris Williams’ dynamic wood sculptures, and other artists including Rosmarie O’Leary and Patricia Clifford.

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There is a wall of small originals at a small price and a good selection of cards from work exhibited.  They do classes too.

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An enjoyable visit, and it was good to chat to Rose from whose blog I have learned a lot.  In my experience, Ynyshir and the gallery are places people simply like.




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Wyndcliffe Court: sculpture garden

Wyndcliffe Court is to close its sculpture gardens after September 25th this year.  It was urgent to visit, and we were lucky with the weather; not so lucky with Mike’s navigation from Newport, where we picked up my Swindon friend Linda – she also blogs and has already written hers here.

If you follow the instructions on the website  it takes 20 minutes from Newport, but Mike’s scenic route via Usk added an hour.  We were hungry by the time we descended Devauden Road into St Arvans, and lunched scrummily at The Piercefield.

In the car park was this shooting brake with its wooden estate body, which was a big car of its day.  Next to it is a modern Mini, a small car for today.  Car obesity in action. Pondering such meaty matters, we drove off to nearby Wyndcliffe Court and paid our entry.

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There’s immediate wall plaques and sculptures outside the shop, and more as you go in, with labels showing the artist (and prices).  Christine Baxter and Alan Brown have added friends’ works into the gardens of the Grade II listed, arts-and-crafts style house.

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Who could not warm to these round rabbits? Or imagine baskets in this innovative stand?

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We wandered round for ages, coming across different kinds of works in flower beds, under trees, in woodland or simply occupying the structured space of neatly trimmed yew and topiary.

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I liked the various windflowers by Willa Ashworth. You could feel them vibrate when they sounded.

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Some of the animals were cute, some pottery and statues striking.

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It is a good mix of garden and sculpting, including blacksmithing. This cordon apple tree, and surrounding woods, add to the setting.

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I found these pots for forcing in a corner, and liked the ironwork on the gates.

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After tea on the terrace, it was home the car-choked but easy way past Chepstow racetrack.

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